Picnic at Maeda Beach

Yesterday was glorious! I am still basking in the relaxation of FINALLY getting a beach day! I feel like the weather has been unseasonably cool for too long, and it's taken forever to warm up to swimming temperature. 

Anyway, after a day of rain on Saturday, Sunday turned out to be glorious! We decided to pack up a picnic and head to our favourite close-by beach, Maeda beach for a couple of hours!

When we arrived it was low tide, but this beach is still great for snorkelling at low tide, and it probably made it easier for us to get in as the water was warmer than at high tide. I feel like this beach is definitely getting more popular than a couple of years ago, but it's still a great beach to find yourself a shady spot to relax. 

We set up our stuff and snacked on some of my homemade faux tuna and cucumber sushi rolls and fruit. After a snack we got right in the water! I managed to get a really nice snorkel in, and was happy to see the clown fish still in their anemone I remember from last year. 

I think once you visit this beach, it's hard to go elsewhere. In my case, it's only 5-10mins drive from my house, and no matter the tide it's a great place! If you're looking for a new beach to visit, I recommend heading here. There's even a great pizza place (Pizzeria da Enzo) you can get a snack from before or after your beach visit.

You can find the pin for the beach here. Enjoy your visit!


The Entrance to Maeda beach. Is there a view more perfect than this?
Basically my favourite view

Maeda beach at low tide, with crystal waters great for snorkelling.
Explorer pup



Enjoying the shade

That water <3

Cave window

Well deserved shaved ice with fruit!
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Maeda beach in Onna, Okinawa is the perfect place where you can snorkel straight off the beach, as well as find plenty of shady spots to sit and enjoy the beach!

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

Last week when I took a leave day, originally my only plan was to visit Futenma Shrine, however, when I was on the way there, I saw the sign pointing to Nakagusuku Castle Ruins not far away, so I decided I might as well check it out while I was in the area.

I've been to a couple of castle ruins in Okinawa so far, Nakijin Castle Ruins to see the cherry blossoms last year, and Zakimi Castle ruins in Yomitan when I first moved here. I have to say, I think that Nakagusuku is my favourite (but hey, my memory might be getting rusty cause I visited the others so long ago).

Nakagusuku, to me, just represents everything Okinawa. The old, run down ruins, the view of the gorgeous blue ocean, and green, overgrown plants. It basically sums up Okinawa. Anyone disagree with me?

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the age of the castle is not known, however it is believed construction began in the 1400s. That's over 600 years old guys! Crazy!

Anyway, It was well signed and easy to find the ruins. There is a decent amount of parking out front, and when you walk in the entrance you need to pay 400yen per adult. There is a steep, flower lined hill before you make it to the ruins. Te ruins are actually quite extensive, and it was nice to wader around and feel like I was lost in time. Unfortunately it was quite gloomy when I was there, so there wasn't really the shining blue ocean view, but it was still really great. I think this place is definitely worth a visit if you're in Okinawa.

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins, Okinawa

Lush




You can walk around the wall and enjoy the view of the ocean


The view from the Nakagusuku Castle Ruins in Okinawa
Shame it wasn't a sunny day!

Apparently that's an abandoned, haunted hotel over there!

There's a well down there!

Mossy


The well




Make the most out of Golden week in Okinawa


Golden Week is coming! That glorious time of year in Japan where we get at least 5 days off work to relax and hopefully travel. Golden week is the perfect time to travel to Okinawa because it's warm enough to enjoy all the summer activities like going to the beach and snorkelling, but it's before the extreme heat and oppressive humidity take over the island!


So if you are planning to travel to Okinawa over Golden Week, here's what I recommend doing to make the most of your time!



Camping


Okinawa is a great place to go camping! There are numerous campsites throughout the island, if you want modern amenities such as showers and bathrooms, and most of these places you can also rent all the equipment you need such as a tent, sleeping mats and the all important BBQ! If you want to rough it a bit more and actually sleep on the beach and listen to the waves lapping on the sand overnight, you can even just set your tent up on any secluded beach, such as this one on Kouri Island!



Camping on Kouri Island
Camping on the beach

Visit the Kerama Islands

If you have time, and are looking for some of the clearest waters and best snorkelling in Okinawa, it's worth catching a ferry over to one of the Kerema Islands from Tomari Port in Naha. These can be visited in one day, or make the most of it by spending a night camping or staying in one of the many guesthouses on the Islands. The closest of the Islands, is Tokashiki, which has fast and slower ferries. You need to book your ferry tickets in advance by ringing Tomari port, especially during busy periods such as Golden Week! 



Aharen Beach, Tokashiki
Tokashiki Island

Hire a car!


The best, and really only way to get the most out of your visit to Okinawa is to hire a car. The public transportation on the island is slow and inefficient, and most sites are quite a distance from each other. With a rental car you can drive around the island to find the best and cutest cafes and most beautiful beaches, rather than being stuck in the one area.

Check out Shuri Castle


Shuri Castle is a World Heritage Site that was once the center of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The castle and grounds are gorgeous, and a great glimpse into life in the ancient Ryukyu kingdom. It is starkly different to the Castles on mainland Japan, with influences from Japan, China and Taiwan.


Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle

Find a Cafe with  View


Okinawa is full of adorable cafes, and if you're lucky on a beautiful day you can find some with amazing views! My favourite if you are up near Churaumi Aquarium, is the Hammock Cafe! You can enjoy your lunch while relaxing in a hammock overlooking the East China Sea. My other favourite is Cafe Doka Doka in Onna-son, which has another great view as well as selling Okinawan pottery made in their pottery studio downstairs. 


Hammock Cafe okinawa
Hammock Cafe


Cafe Doka Doka Okinawa
Cafe Doka Doka

Wander along Kokusai-Dori


Kokusai-Dori is the main tourist spot in Naha city. It's a great place to try Okinawan food, as well as buy souvenirs. There are numerous alleyways coming off the street, so you can easily spend the day wandering, shopping and getting lost.


Kokusai Dori Naha
Kokusai Dori in Naha

Do you have plans to visit Okinawa in Golden Week? Let me know if you want any other tips!

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Golden week in Okinawa is a great time to visit! The weather is warm and the water is lovely and it is just before the extreme summer heat and humidity arrives! Make the most of your holiday with tips in this post!


Futenma Shrine - Okinawa

Recently, i've been feeling super restless and in desperate need of a holiday. Island fever is a real thing, I tell you! Anyway we don't really have any holidays planned and all the national holidays so far this year seem to have fallen on weekends, so I finally took matters into my own hands and took a leave day to get out of my rut and go on some solo adventures!

The main place I wanted to go to was Futenma Shrine. If you've travelled in mainland Japan, you would know there are temples and shrines EVERYWHERE! This is not the case in Okinawa. Last year I finally visited my first shrine in Okinawa, when we stopped in at Naminoue Shrine when we were in Naha, and after seeing some photos a friend took of Futenma shrine, I knew I needed to make the trip to see it.

The Futenma Shrine is one of the major shinto shrines in Okinawa and it is definitely worth a visit. The thing I really loved about it is how, even though it is a traditional shinto shrine, it definitely looks quite "Okinawan" to me, with the terracotta coloured roof tiles, and the Okinawan trees surrounding it. 

You should enter the shrine through the Torii gate at the front, and after walking up the stairs, go to the "purification fountain" to wash your hands. If you are unsure what to do, there is a pictorial instruction you can follow. Once you have washed your hands, you can walk up to the main hall and pray if you wish. I've heard 5 is a sucky number, so 5 and 50 yen pieces are good to use. Be sure to be quiet though, as this is a place of worship, and you should respect people there who may be meditating, praying etc.

There is a little shop selling ema boards (you can write your wish on), fortunes and other charms if you wish to purchase these. Stupidly I didn't do my research before visiting, because I didn't know there were caves attached to this temple that you can enter. You simply need at ask the people at the temple, who will take you in to see them. I'll be sure to do this next time!

To make the most of your visit, there is actually a buddhist temple, Jingu-ji next door. It's also quite pretty and worth looking around.

Entrance to Futenma Shrine
Entrance to the Shrine











You can tie your bad fortune to this

Wooden ema you can write your wishes on



Futenma Shrine is located in Futenma, Ginowan, and easy to get to from the Kitanakagusuku exit of the Okinawa Expressway. You can find a map and more information here

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Futenma Shrine is one of the most important shinto shrines in Okinawa. It's lovely teracotta colours make it look very Okinawan and different to what you would usually see on the mainland Japan

Life lately - March

I feel like i've really dropped the ball on blogging these last few months. I've not been feeling inspired and we've had a heap of other stressors going on that we have been dealing with. To top it off, it feels like it's taking FOREVER to warm up this year, and I am so ready to get back in the water and make the most of the warm weather!!! Some days it feels like the weather is starting to warm, then we get another cold snap and the wind, which makes it feel even more miserable!

Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom around here! in late January I had a big work win. I got some amazing trainers over rom Australia to do some team building training, which I think really improved the morale in my office. It felt like a huge success.

Also, even though we didn't manage to make it to any of the major cherry blossom sites in Okinawa last month, I did find a nice bunch of them in Ishikawa, just a short drive from our house on a beautiful blue-skied day, which also made me happy. Speaking of cherry blossoms, Starbucks had their limited edition Sakura latte, which was so good with soy milk! McDonalds also had a sakura flavoured McFlurry, which was also delicious. It was the first McFlurry I have had in about 20 years! Haha.

I'm trying to decide what to do the next few months. Island fever has hit again and I need some sort of a holiday. We're thinking of either braving another camping adventure (but maybe to one of the Kerama Islands this time), or a night down in Naha, or up on Sesoko Island. The hard thing about the island options is that we want to make sure the weather is beautiful and we can go swimming, which makes organising anything in advance kind of difficult. Any suggestions welcome!

What are everyone else's summer plans? Or winter, if you are one of my southern hemisphere readers?

Okinawa cherry blossoms in Ishikawa
Beautiful Okinawa cherry blossoms


Sakura McFlurry from McDonalds Japan
Trying the sakura flavoured seasonal items!
Sakura latte from Starbucks Japan
Sakura latte from Starbucks


Kite flying on Nakadomari beach
Kite flying on the beach


Nakadomari beach
Windy and cold Okinawa, still in March!