5 places to visit in Okinawa for a not-so-typical getaway in Japan

Bye-onara Singapore.

Michelle Chew | December 22, 2023, 05:15 PM

This article is part of our What's Good In The Hood series, which sees us bringing our audience to unfamiliar destinations.

Through this series, we explore places that might not be the expected, top holiday destinations for Singaporeans, or hidden gems at some of the most popular travel spots so we can all find out what’s good in the hood.

Find out more about the series on Mothership’s Instagram.

It’s the year-end period and you know what that means? Travelling.

If you’re thinking of travelling to Japan, a few things might have crossed your mind: Shibuya Crossing, Mount Fuji, or vast, white snowscapes, to name a few.

Relatable? Photo from Canva.

How about this? Photo from Canva.

Let’s be honest, Okinawa may not be the first place that pops up in your mind when thinking about a trip to Japan.

But after visiting Okinawa for three days, I think it deserves more credit for what it has to offer.

Here are five places that I’d recommend for anyone who’s visiting Okinawa for the first time.

1. Michi-No-Eki Itoman

Located in the southern part of the main island, Michi-No-Eki Itoman is famous for its farmers’ market, Umanchu Ichiba.

Known to be the largest in Okinawa, you can find fresh produce that comes directly from the farms of over 1,000 local farmers.

Photo from Okinawa Traveler.

That’s not all. There’s also a fish market, Itoman Fisheries Cooperative Association’s Fish Center, where you can indulge in a variety of seafood and dine in an al-fresco setting right outside the market.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

There’s even a cosy Japanese restaurant, located at the Itoman City Market, where you can enjoy a hearty set meal.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

If you’re lucky, you can even witness a live tuna-cutting presentation by the chef.

That’s some high-level deboning right there. Photo by Michelle Chew.

2. Ogimi Village

Visiting Ogimi Village, now widely known as the “village of longevity”, was another highlight of my trip.

On our way to the village, our tour guide shared that among the many secrets to longevity, one that the Okinawan people believed in, was having healthy diet habits.

We had lunch at the famed Emi no Mise, which translates to Emi’s restaurant.

The restaurant owner, Emiko Kinjo, came out to explain each dish in such meticulous detail that you could see the pride she had in her culinary efforts.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

In fact, she shared that most of the ingredients used in her dishes were from the gardens located opposite her shop, where she grows them herself.

Known for their Longevity Meal, the meal blew up in popularity after the Netflix documentary series, “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zone” was released.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

I had the Chojuzen set, which costs ¥3,200 (~S$30). With its vivid colours and fresh ingredients, this was truly a feast for both the eyes and stomach.

The restaurant now operates on a reservation-basis so remember to make one before heading down.

Emi no Mise

After a hearty lunch, we met with 86-year-old Kansei Arashiro who tends his garden with utmost care on a daily basis.

Think of it as his “9 to 5”, with plenty of joy and devotion in the mix.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

He even whipped out a photo album in classic show-and-tell style and shared about the art pieces that he creates using his crops.

One of Arashiro’s creations that caught my attention was the one whose inspiration stemmed from a mythical being of the island.

Uncanny. Photo by Michelle Chew.

Arashiro sent us off, but not without including a unique farewell greeting, – “bye-onara”, a witty combination of “bye bye” and “sayonara” that I now intend to use in my daily life.

As we continued to walk around the village, we were met with other elderly people who greeted us with bright and cheery smiles.

How endearing. Photo by Michelle Chew.

We then proceeded to play a game of Gateball with some of them in the village.

Just in case you were wondering about their skills, any form of doubt is unfounded.

Would you just look at that? Gif by Michelle Chew.

Ogimi Village

  • Address: Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

3. Senagajima Umikaiji Terrace

If there’s one thing Singaporeans enjoy, it’s sitting in a nice cafe with good food and good company.

In Okinawa, they make this experience even better by adding good views into the equation.

Whether you’re looking for a unique dining concept (think: eating in a hammock) or just yummy fluffy pancakes for desserts, here you have the luxury of sitting in any cafe and enjoying a horizon that goes on for days.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

If you enjoy peace and serenity, there’s even a quaint “observatory deck” where you can simply sit and enjoy the cool sea breeze.

Ah~ to be here again. Photo by Michelle Chew.

Senagajima Umikaiji Terrace

4. Cape Manzamo

Speaking of views for days, to be in Okinawa is to be surrounded by long stretches of waters.

If you enjoy basking in scenic views overseas, then you shouldn’t miss this spot – Cape Manzamo.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

There’s just something about watching waves crashing into rocks that is strangely therapeutic.

Gif by Michelle Chew.

There’s even a snack shop for you to fill your tummy with onigiris, desserts and brown sugar coffee.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

Cape Manzamo

5. Kazusan Tei Izakaya

With all my travels, there’s one thing that I hope to achieve, and that is to live and eat like locals do.

Which is why I’m not gate-keeping this place.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

Before entering, you will be able to hear the bustling sound of locals having a dinner party inside the restaurant.

After stepping into the restaurant, you will feel like you are being transported elsewhere.

Photo by Michelle Chew.

We were served a local Okinawan spread that felt like it was whipped up by an okasan (Japanese mother).

Photo by Michelle Chew.

Its presentation gave off major tze-char vibes.

Kazusan Tei Izakaya

Plenty to explore

I was lucky enough to be able to visit many other places while I was in Okinawa - Zuisen Awamori Distillery, Shurijo Castle, Busena Marine Park, Ryukyu Glass Village - just to name a few.

View from Kouri Ocean Tower. Photo by Michelle Chew.

Seeing my Instagram stories of these places prompted many friends and relatives to ask me more about my trip, which I very readily gave my stamp of approval:

Screenshot from Michelle Chew.

If this article has made you consider visiting Okinawa, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now hop onto a direct flight to Okinawa from Singapore on Jetstar.

With an average flight time of five hours, Jetstar is the only airline offering direct services between Singapore and the Japanese island.

Find out more about it here.

Cover photo courtesy of Michelle Chew.

The writer would like to say “arigatou” to Jetstar, Japan National Tourism Organization, and the Okinawa Prefectural Government for making this trip possible.