Welcome to the first post of the series Pros and Cons of Living in Okinawa, Japan! I am lover of list making and I thought it would be fun to create a series where I break down some of the good and not-so-good things about Okinawa, from my perspective as an Expat, with anyone soon-to-be moving to Okinawa. Enjoy!
Okinawa-Prefecture, also known as the Ryukyu Islands are the southest part of Japan and with their white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, no wonder they were nicknamed “Japan’s Hawaii” by the japanese. No matter where you go on island eventually you will find yourself driving by a breathtaking beach. Most beaches are secluded and empty.What a paradise, huh? My favorite city, Nago, has the most beautiful beach i’ve ever been to (shown above).
Apparently we can’t escape tropical storms. Back in Puerto Rico we had hurricanes every year from June 1st-Nov 30th during “hurricane season”, well here in Okinawa we have typhoons, basically the same thing the only thing different is their location. We’re pretty accustomed to hurricanes compared to most americans but they still sucks. On our first weekend here while we were staying at our lodging we experienced our first typhoon and over the next two months we experienced two more typhoons. By the way, Okinawa is that small green pin.
Okinawans are all about celebrating the beauty of nature. I’ve blogged about the Sunflower Festival, the Azalea Festival and the Lily Festival, but believe it or not there are more!! Like the Cherry Blossom Festival, the International Orchid Show, the Okinawa World Flower Festival and there’s even a private Hydrangea Garden that’s now opened to the public. These festivals are always filled with food stands, music, ice cream and of course beautiful flowers.
There are also several flower fields that bloom all over Okinawa and get tons of visitors, like the Cosmo field in Kin Town, the Iris field in Kijoka and the Sunflower field in Yomitan. I plan on visiting them all before we leave!
It is obvious that the japanese language isn’t an easy language to learn, mostly because it involves characters instead of letters and they have 4 writing systems which make everything even more confusing. Yes, you can learn key words like “Hello” and “Thank You”, but here in Japan if you haven’t studied the language you can’t expect to understand street signs, building signs, menus, etc.
I can’t say you won’t understand everything because they have added some english translations to street signs which makes driving a lot easier, but you rely on street numbers because that’s all you can read, numbers. On menus they have added pictures in order to make ordering easier for us Americans, which is pretty thoughtful and useful. You also rely on symbols to understand most signs, like the one pictured. When i first got here i found it so weird to drive around and not be able to read most of the signs, but you get used to little things like these.
Okinawans are pretty serious farmers and in Uruma (the city we live in) you will see small crops fitted wherever there is dirt. It may be in between houses, right by the main roads, or in their backyards. Farmers markets have all sorts of fruits and veggies, as well as meats and fresh rice. All grown right here in Okinawa and you can’t beat the prices! Join the Farmer’s Market’s of Okinawa Facebook group to learn more!
Yes, sometimes it’s easier to buy the imported produce at the Commisary but trust me when I say that doing 2 or 3 trips when grocery shopping is worth it when you can get the freshest produce! You can also try local grocery stores like the Aeon, San A (the one with the yellow sign and 3 red A’s), Max Valu or Union; I’d stay away from Kanehide (because their produce comes from China).
While most Okinawans greet us with big smiles and hellos, there are a few that are not happy with our presence here. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has been the controversial base responsible all of these protests, because they have a crash-test program here where they crash their MV-22 Ospreys in order to practice their orientation crashing. I definitely don’t blame them for protesting against planes crashing in their precious island. Other bases that get a lot of protests are Camp Shwab and Camp Gonsalves. In 2012 there were a lot of protests against Osprey Deployments and Military Bases in general. Read More, here, here.
This liquid sugar is the best thing ever created. Whenever you get iced tea or iced coffee instead of having to pour lots of packs of sugar on your drink you pour this small container full of liquid and you have a perfectly sweet iced drink. This is probably one of the things i’m going to miss when we leave Japan.
The Yen is Japan’s currency. They have￥10,000,￥5,000 and￥1,000 bills. But most of the currency is in coins, there are ￥500, ￥100, ￥50, ￥10, ￥5, ￥1. It takes a while to get used to the fact that two these coins equal $5 and $1, and that they’re actual money, not just pocket change like US coins. It also takes time to get used to having so many coins, most people carry coin purses with them because you always have more coins than bills.
*Please keep in mind that all of these pros and cons are formed simply from my experiences and perspective as an American living abroad*
Do you currently live in Okinawa? Did you live in Okinawa at some point in your life? If so, are there any pros and cons you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below! Interested in more Pros and Cons of Living in Okinawa? Read the rest of the series!