Recommend March 2014 - (Page 44)
Okinawa is a tropical,
to visit is to love it
Old Japanese poets, in their penchant for imagery, wrote that if
Japan is a pearl necklace, then Okinawa is its pendant. That may
be a stretch, but it's not far-fetched to say that it's beautiful, tropical,
friendly and blessed with exceptional weather, which is the main
reason the Japanese rank it as the most popular destination within
their country. Indeed, Japanese nationals ﬂock here to enjoy pristine
beaches and warm sun, giving Okinawa the reputation of a
Japanese Hawaii. And although the number of Westerners has
shown an uptick in recent years, that number pales when stacked
against the more popular Japanese mainland destinations.
Nevertheless, Okinawa is a destination with tremendous appeal
and enough activities to make it worth offering to those interested
in visiting. Its unique culture and food, along with its arts and crafts,
history, world-class diving and top-notch resorts are making
Okinawa one of the more desirable Asian destinations.
In fact, the opening of a new airport plus the expansion of Naha
airport with a second runway is already showing positive results
towards tourism ofﬁcials' long-range, ambitious goal of attracting 10
million visitors a year.
Kazuya Oshiro, coordinator, Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB), says that one of the more appealing facets
of Okinawa is the friendliness of its people. "Westerners at ﬁrst ﬁnd
it disconcerting to realize the people here treat you as a friend," he
says. "[Visitors often think Okinawans] are shy because of their
English language skills. However, that won't matter when visitors
learn the old Okinawa saying that once you meet someone, you
become brothers or sisters. After a trip here, the friendliness of its
people is one of the great memories you will take from Okinawa."
Last June, the Okinawa Prefectural Government announced that
tourism increased 36 percent from the previous year. But while
foreign tourist arrivals rose almost 27 percent to 382,500 in 2013,
U.S. visitors made up only about 3 percent of that number.
Oshiro adds that OCVB, in its efforts to lure U.S. tourists, has
"formed a strong partnership with the Japan National Tourism
Organization (JNTO) to promote Okinawa on an equal footing with
Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and other extremely popular destinations. We
have also found, and are now working with, potential U.S. travel
entities like travel agents, advertising ﬁrms and more."
Naha, Okinawa's capital, is a vibrant, electric and sparkling city
that astounds those with preconceived ideas of it being merely a
U.S. military R&R destination. It's far from that.
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Modern conveniences are everywhere, and a delightful monorail
mirrors its devotion to the future. Its proximity to popular spots that
attract visitors make it a perfect destination to discover the wonders
of the island; in itself, Naha has plenty to offer those willing to
remain in a large city.
The city is full of noteworthy sites like the ancient Shurijo Castle,
the last remnant of a Ryukyuan Kingdom that lorded over the
islands before being annexed by Japan in the 17th century; Kokusai
Street, known as The Miracle Mile, full of restaurants and shops; the
Fukushuen Garden, a delightful green spot that blends Chinese and
Japanese cultures; and Tsuboya, an esplanade lined with ceramic
shops offering one-of-a-kind masterpieces where, oddly enough,
one ﬁnds a brewery specializing in Awamori, the potent and ﬂavorful
Okinawa liquor that makes sake taste like tap water.
No mention of Okinawa is complete, however, without highlighting the delicious dishes from modest restaurants in Ogimi Village,
about 30 minutes from Naha, where, incidentally, centenarians are
the norm not the exception-ﬁve times as many Okinawans, in fact,
Street scene in Macau.
live to be 100 years or older than their Japanese compatriots, so tell
clients to eat up.
In terms of accommodations, the Loisir Spa Tower Hotel will
not disappoint. The plush, 12-ﬂoor property, conveniently situated
near the airport, has 89 rooms ($190 per night dbl) that range from
deluxe rooms to ultra-plush suites with Western-style furniture. The
Loisir somehow manages to maintain exquisite Japanese touches
with modern amenities and is hailed as one of Okinawa's most
romantic hotels with a full-service spa fed by natural hot springs and
relaxing treatments designed for couples. Guests are sure to enjoy
the hotel's proximity to the Naminoue Shrine, the Tsushima-maru
Memorial Museum and the Makishi Public Market, three of Naha's
more popular attractions.
The Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa (from $141 dbl) is a 344room, 17-suite secluded property in the central section of the island
overlooking the East China Sea. Its rooms facing Nago Bay are
known for the spectacular sunrises, while the resort's second wing
boasts equally stupendous sunset views.
Those who prefer even more remote but exceedingly exotic
accommodations will ﬁnd the Shigira Bayside Suite Allamanda,
with its 86 deluxe suites with private pools, to be one of Okinawa's
highlights when it comes to luxury properties (from $190 per night
dbl). The resort is on Miyakojima, about 180 miles from Okinawa
2/20/14 8:51 AM
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recommend March 2014
Hotel Desk: ME by Melia
Tour Talk: MLT Vacations
The All-Inclusive Rundown
Iberostar's Rose Hall Resorts, Jamaica
RIU Palace Mexico
What's New in Cancun & Riviera Maya
Great Britain Travel Planner
Cosmopolitan South Africa
Riveting Rhode Island
Okinawa: To Visit is to Love It
Un-Cruise Adventures' S.S. Legacy
Recommend March 2014