Recommend March 2014 - (Page 44)

asia Okinawa is a tropical, sun-kissed destination. SERGIO ORTIZ OKINAWA to visit is to love it sergio ortiz 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. 44 march 2014 44-45 AP Okinawa.indd 44 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

Editor's Notes
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
Turkish Delights
Cosmopolitan South Africa
Riveting Rhode Island
Okinawa: To Visit is to Love It
Un-Cruise Adventures' S.S. Legacy

Recommend March 2014