Table of Contents

Introduction to Okinawa

This is your Ultimate Okinawa Travel Guide. Okinawa is a vibrant island prefecture of Japan nestled in the azure waters of the East China Sea. The “Hawaii of Japan” boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. Our family (On our mom’s side) is from this part of the world. We had the pleasure of living here for 9+ years. With a lineage steeped in the Ryukyu Kingdom, Okinawa’s unique cultural identity has changed dramatically over centuries. The Okinawan culture blends indigenous traditions with influences from China, Southeast Asia, and Japan. This enchanting destination is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Shuri Castle, representing the heart of Ryukyuan history and the Yanbaru forest up north representing the unique natural landscape of this part of the world. Okinawa’s world-famous longevity (It boasts more centenarians than any other part of the world)  is often attributed to its healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet, highlighted by iconic dishes like Goya Champuru and Rafute. Visitors to Okinawa are captivated by its stunning landscapes, diving and cuisine. The warm hospitality and resilient spirit of its people is another amazing aspect of this island making it a captivating destination for those seeking a harmonious blend of history, culture, and culinary delights.


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Map of Okinawa

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Top things to do in Okinawa


Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu



Okinawa is one of the best locations in the world if you are a SCUBA diver.


Attend Festivals

Cherry Blossom Festivals, Art Festivals, Tug O' War Festival, Dragon Boat Racing Festival,


Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium


Eat and Drink Where the Locals Eat and Drink


Take a Road Trip


Go to the Beach


Visit the Okinawa War Memorial and WWII sites around the island


Experience Okinawa Culture and Craft


Shopping...of course

Local foods to eat



This famous dish has noodles that are made from wheat flour and features a flavorful soup made from pork ribs and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). While there are many varieties of Okinawa soba, the most popular is "soki soba". This dish is topped with sweet-and-spicy spare ribs (soki) for a hearty meal.



Jushi (rice stew) is a popular feature of Okinawa soba sets. Ingredients include pork belly, carrots, hijiki (dark seaweed), and shiitake mushrooms, which are steamed with the rice using pork juices and a konbu (kelp) broth reduction. Depending on the way it is prepared, it is also called "boroborojushi", "kufajushi", and other names. This staple dish appears in a wide variety of contexts, from celebratory events to home cooking.



Goya (bitter melon) is the representative Okinawan vegetable. "Goya" is the Okinawan name, but it is referred to as "nigauri" in standard Japanese. Full of vitamin C, this highly nutritious vegetable is eaten to ward off fatigue in the summer. The unique bitterness is hard to get used to at first, but as you continue eating, you will inevitably become hooked, and eventually, the flavor will only serve to increase your appetite! Goya chanpuru is a popular dish that uses goya. This Okinawan home cooking recipe consists of goya stir-fried with firm shimadofu and spam.



Umibudo (sea grapes) is a kind of seaweed that grows in warm waters. Okinawa is the number one producer of umibudo in all of Japan. Umibudo's unique row upon row of small green beads has led to it also being referred to as "green caviar".



Gurukun (fusilier fish), or "takasago" in standard Japanese, is an indispensable food item in Okinawan home cooking. A notable feature of this fish is that while in the ocean, it has a bluish-green color reminiscent of the waters around Okinawa, but it takes on a beautiful reddish hue once brought on land. It is so prevalent in Okinawa that it was even chosen as the prefectural fish! While tasty as sashimi or stewed, the most common way of preparing gurukun there is deep-frying. The white fish is light and has a mild scent, making it perfect for frying. Gurukun spoils quickly, so it is rarely prepared as sashimi, although the fish's unique aroma makes it extremely tasty when eaten this way. Freshly-caught gurukun is everywhere in Okinawa, so be sure to give it a try.



Rafute is pork belly stewed Okinawan-style with a soy sauce base and tare. This traditional dish was greatly valued in the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom as a way of preserving food. What separates rafute from normal stewed pork is the inclusion of awamori. Awamori has a much higher alcohol content compared to sake (a type of Japanese alcohol) and makes the meat very tender. Rafute is stewed with brown sugar and soy sauce for a sweet-and-spicy flavor, and the skin has a sublime, melt-in-your-mouth softness. The flavor is rich and deep, and the thorough stewing process reduces any excess pork fat, resulting in a surprisingly healthy creation. Rafute is offered when entertaining guests and is a must for special occasions.


Agu Pork

Agu pork is native to Okinawa. The Agu pig's small size and low numbers make it highly valuable, and its characteristically well-marbled meat melts in your mouth. The fat is sweet and contains three times the amount of glutamic acid, the source of umami (Japanese savory taste), of regular pork. Furthermore, the fat consists almost exclusively of collagen, so it is quite healthy. This meat also contains amino acids, good for recovering from fatigue. There are many ways to enjoy this meat, such as shabu-shabu (sliced meat parboiled with vegetables), perfect for savoring the flavors of the meat itself, or the traditional dish [Minudaru], which features tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) covered in sesame sauce and then steamed.


Taco Rice

Taco Rice is said to have been invented in Okinawa in the 1980s by a Japanese restaurant owner wanting to cater to the taste of the American soldiers visiting his restaurant. Observing the fact that many of them seemed to love tacos, he put a Japanese twist on this dish, which is quick and easy to make. The base ingredients are ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes served on rice. The ground beef is seasoned with typical taco meat spices, making it reminiscent of the Tex-Mex dish.


Sata Andagi - Okinawan Doughnut

Sata Andagi is often refered to as the Okinawan doughnut. They are small, dense and crunchy deep-fried cake balls. Their texture and flavor is reminiscent of old fashioned doughnuts. Black sugar, or molasses, is the star ingredient in Sata Andagi. It gives it a sweet and smoky flavor. The most common Sata Adangi are plain, but they do also come in typical Okinawan flavors such as purple sweet potato.


Chinsuko - Okinawa's Most Popular Souvenir

Chinsuko are a famous souvenir to bring home from Okinawa. They are oval-shaped cookies made with wheat flour, sugar, and lard. In flavor, chinsuko are reminiscent of shortbread cookies, but are much more fragile and melt on your tongue as soon as you bite into them. Chinsuko are often found in plain, black sugar and sea salt flavors. Salt cookies are generally common in Okinawa. The sea salt really brings out the flavor and cuts through the sweetness.


Shikuwasa - The Refreshing Taste of Okinawa

The shikuwasa is a small green citrus fruit native to Okinawa and Taiwan. Its flavor profile is somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit, and it is mainly used to flavor dishes in a similar way to lemon and lime. Shikuwasa is a flavor strongly associated with Okinawa, and shikuwasa-flavored items include everything from drinks to ice cream to salad dressing.

History of Okinawa


Things to do

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This can be where we provide some context from the history and culture relating to the UNESCO sites

Provide more information that we have gathered and can just provide some cool information and fun facts that we want to talk about the history and UNESCO sites. 


People probably most care about itinerary and things to do first so I would have that posted here. If you want to post multiple options like 1-2 days, 3-5 days, 5-9 days and 14 plus days that might be helpful or we can just do a generic 7 day itinerary initially. We would want to share what we have done or things that are recommended but didn’t have time to do ourselves. whatever we want really.


Might be useful to give our opinion of what we liked, didn’t like, what we would do differently. Maybe we can provide how much we spent or just whatever we want to say as final thoughts. 

Mitchell: Welcome to the Adventure Theory Podcast

Brendan: Today we will be talking about the “Hawaii of Japan” Okinawa.

Mitchell: We have lived in Japan for 5 years and our parents lived in Okinawa for almost 10 years.

Brendan: we have a few insights, recommendations and ideas that might help your next trip to Okinawa

Mitchell: it’s truly an underappreciated gem of a vacation spot, let’s get this started.

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