Have you ever wanted to visit Japan?  Why visit just Japan when you can take a trip to the “Florida of Japan”? 

My name is Shannon Smith and I met my wife, Kaori, an Okinawan-Japanese native, many years ago when I was in the Air Force stationed in Okinawa.  I lived there for 4 years and have visited many times since. 

If you have ever been to Okinawa, I would ask that you please share your experience in the comments below.  If you haven’t been to Okinawa, you are missing out on a truly unique and wonderful experience.

I called Okinawa the “Florida of Japan” because it shares a similar climate similar to Florida, which many Americans are familiar with.  They both have a sub-tropical temperature, palm trees and beaches.  Oh boy, does Okinawa have some fantastic beaches! 

Why is Okinawa such a terrific place to visit?  There are many reasons why but here are just a few:

1.       Beaches and scenery.  Okinawa boasts some truly beautiful and scenic beaches that are first rate.  There are wonderful vistas overlooking the ocean.  The clouds are low and you feel like you can touch them.  The sunshine is bright and feels….well, happy!

2.       Fantastic hotels.  There is an amazing array of stunning hotels in Okinawa.  Japanese are famous for their professionalism, friendliness, modern conveniences and cleanliness.  You can be sure that any stay at a Japanese hotel will be a pleasant experience.

3.       People.  The Okinawan people are very warm, friendly, fun and generally like Americans.

4.       English.  Unlike mainland Japan, a good number of Okinawans speak a little bit of English and love to practice what they know with those who do speak English.  Many of the major highway signs are also in English.

5.       Safety.  This is a big, major plus. Japan and Okinawa are incredibly safe places.  The crime rate is extremely low.  Compare this to going to Miami or other tropical islands.  The chances of being robbed or having your wallet taken or experiencing some other crime in Okinawa (from Okinawans) is very, very low relatively speaking.  When you come to Okinawa you sign a breath of relief and can really relax.  Imagine all this- beaches, beer, castles and safety too.

6.       Okinawa has a very rich history and many celebrations through the year.  It is very interesting to watch the traditional dancers in their colorful kimonos, listen to the san-shin (like a banjo) players.

7.       Beer.  If you like beer, you are in good company in Okinawa.  Okinawa has my favorite beer in the world, called Orion.  It is brewed locally in northern Okinawa.  It has a very smooth, light taste.  Most important, it tastes clean and fresh; unlike a lot of American or even Japanese mainland beers.  There are many, many bars in Okinawa.  Many of these are quiet “holes in the wall” in which regular customers come to unwind as they sing karaoke.  They usually enjoy American company so that they can practice their English.  Don’t be surprised if a local buys you a drink; it happens quite often to me!  Again, they are usually very safe environments relative to bars in other parts of the world (that is the ones away from the bases where Americans frequent!)

8.       Castles.  There are several castles with a style unique to Okinawa that are very much worth exploring.   Shuri castle is one highlight that no one should miss. 

So if you ever wanted to visit Japan, I highly recommend that you stop by Okinawa and get the best of both worlds- Japan and a tropical island experience.