Things To Do In Okinawa, Japan: Holiday Edition
The most wonderful time of the year is getting closer and closer. (YAY!) The weather started cooling down here around mid October and I literally haven’t been able to shut up about it, mostly because I missed the amazing cold weather last year.
Anyways… the holiday season is always hard when you live overseas, but as long as you have your own little family and/or some friends you can make the best of it! There are several ways to embrace the festive spirit and help you celebrate the holidays while abroad, try hosting a dinner, travel somewhere new, share your holiday traditions with your new friends/co-workers and of course celebrate like the locals do.
This year I wanted to compile a list of fun “christmasy” things to do in Okinawa, to get you in the holiday spirit, as well as experience some special Japanese celebrations! Enjoy and feel free to let me know of any other holiday activities!
Southeast Botanical Gardens Illumination
Dates: November 23, 2017 – February 18, 2018
Hours: 5:00pm – 10:00pm (Last admission 9:00pm )
Admission Fee: Adults – ¥1,800
High School students – ¥1,000
Elementary and Junior High School students – ¥500
Children under 6 – Free
*December 22 – 25 the price increases to ¥2,000
Location: Southeast Botanical Gardens
Address: 2146 Chibana, Okinawa-shi, Okinawa 904-2143
Itoman Peaceful Illumination
Dates: December 16, 2017 – January 3, 2018
Hours: 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Admission Fee: Advanced Tickets – ¥300
Same Day Tickets – ¥400 (Dec. 10-16)
Same Day Tickets – ¥500 (Dec. 17 – Jan. 3)
Junior High School and under – Free
Location: Uchina Farm
Address: 1018, Mabuni, Itoman-shi, Okinawa 901-0333
American Village Christmas Illumination
Dates: No official dates, but the lights are already up!
Admission Fee: Free
Location: Mihama American Village
Address: Mihama, Nakagami-gun, Chatan-cho, Okinawa 904-0115
Don’t miss the blogpost: Christmas Wonderland at Mihama Americal Village
“Stardust Fantasia” at Kanucha Resort
Dates: November 1st, 2017 – February 28th, 2018
Hours: 6:00pm – 11:00pm (Last admission 10:30pm)
Admission Fee: Advanced Tickets – ¥1,000
Advanced group Tickets – ¥3,000
Same Day Tickets – ¥1,500
Children under 12 – Free
Location: Kanucha Resort
Address: 156-2 Abu, Nago-city, Okinawa 905-2263
“Christmas Fantasy” at Okinawa Zoo & Museum
Dates: December 22-29, 2017
Hours: 4:30pm – 9:30pm
Admission Fee: Advance Tickets – ¥1,800 (Adult) / ¥1,000 (4 yr old – junior high school)
Same Day Tickets – ¥2,200 (Adult) / ¥1,200 (4 yr old – junior high school)
Children under 3 – Free
Location: Okinawa Zoo & Museum
Address: 5-7-1, Goya,
Ryukyu Lantern Festival at Murasaki Mura
Dates: December 2, 2017 – February 25, 2018
Hours: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Admission Fee: Adults – ¥600
Junior + High School Students – ¥500
Elementary School Students – ¥400
Location: Murasaki Mura
Address: 1020-1 Takashiho, Yomitan Village, Okinawa 904-0323
*Starts at dusk
Don’t miss the blogpost: Murasaki Mura Ryukyu Lantern Festival
Skate at Southern Hills Ice Rink
If you’re missing the idea of a white christmas or are looking for something to do indoors, be sure to check out the only ice rink in Okinawa! Don’t forget to bring a warm sweater/jacket and some gloves!
Hours: Monday – Friday / 11:00 – 8:00
Saturday – Sunday / 10:00 – 9:00
Admission Fee: Adult – ¥1,700 (rental included)
Address: 460-1 Miyahira, Haebaru, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture 901-1104
Payment: Yen only
Dreaming Angel (Christmas Restaurant)
This is a special restaurant that only opens for a few weeks a year, during the holiday season. According to this OkinawaHai article, the owner Yoko goes all out decorating her home for Christmas and over 10 years ago her neighbors asked her to open up her home to the public. She serves several meal options that “ranged from ¥1,250 – ¥1,450 and included a salad, bread and your choice of drink”. Santa also makes a stop by the Dreaming Angel on a few special ‘reservation only’ days.
Dates: December 1-29, 2016 (waiting to find dates for 2017)
Hours: 4:00pm – 10:00pm
Dates of Santa’s visit: 13th-15th, 20th-22nd
*Must make reservation for Santa dates! Call Yoko, 098-982-5610.
Address: 2 Chome-11-29 Ishikawa Agariyamamotomachi, Uruma-shi, Okinawa-ken 904-1101
Payment: Yen only
Eat a traditional Christmas Cake
“The dessert is a type of sponge cake, covered with snow-white whipped cream and topped with perfectly shaped, ruby red strawberries. It’s a beloved December-time treat – and not just because it’s delicious. In fact, Christmas cake is now a symbol of commercialism and prosperity, its story intertwined with Japan’s rise from ruins after its defeat in World War II”. Read more on NPR! You can also try baking your own, check out this video.
Location: Any Japanese bakery!
KFC on Christmas Day
Have you heard of this crazy Japanese tradition? If not, read this Smithsonian article and check out this Buzzfeed article. It all started with a 1974 commercial and the rest is history!! We still haven’t partaken in this awesome Japanese experience, but we’re hoping to do it this year! If you decide to eat fried chicken on Christmas day, don’t forget to take a picture with Coronel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus!
Location: your closest KFC
Dates: December 22-25, 2016
Christmas 2017 Menu
First sunrise of the New Year
“In Japan, sunrise on New Year’s Day is believed to have special supernatural powers, and praying to the first sunrise of the year has become a popular practice since the Meiji era (1868–1912)” (source). There are a lot of popular places to experience the first sunrise of the year, like some of the castle ruins and any beach on the east coast of Okinawa. We saw the first sunrise of 2015 at the Nakagusuku Castle Ruins, because it’s perched on a high mountain in the middle of Okinawa and it has an amazing view of both coasts. This year we went to see it at the Katsuren Castle Ruins in Uruma.
*Tip: Be sure to check the time of the sunrise, arrive early and dress in warm clothes! We almost froze to death!!
Don’t miss my post: 2018 First Sunrise + Shuri Castle Festival
Shrine Visit for New Years
The most important Japanese tradition of the holiday season is Hatsumoude, the first Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple visit of the year; it can be either on New Years Day or during the first few days of the year. Wishes of good fortune, health and happiness for the New Year are made. The most popular shrines in Okinawa are the Futenma Shrine and the Naminoue Shrine in Naha. If you plan on visiting this coming New Years, please note that there will be long lines, but the experience is totally worth it!
Shurijo Castle Park New Year’s Banquet
A re-enactment of the traditional New Year ceremony originally held early in the morning on New Year’s Day. Activities include the performances of court and other Ryukyu dancers. Free Awamori (Okinawan liquor) offered to celebrate the New Year.
Dates: January 1-3, 2017
(the ceremony only happens on the 1st and 2nd, but there are still activities on the 3rd)
Hours: 8:30am – 5:00 pm
Admission Fees: Adult – ¥820
High School Students – ¥620
Children – ¥310
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I wanted to add another activity to the list, it’s not really Christmas related, but it does happen in December!
Uruma Sparkling Festival // The Feast of the Dragon God
My friend Hannah visited and blogged about it, so check it out! I’m hoping to visit this December!
Dates: December 9 – 10, 2017
Hours: 4:30 doors open / 6:30 curtain opens
Admission Fee: Advanced Tickets (Convenient Store) – ¥2,500 Adult / ¥1,000 per child
Same Day Tickets – ¥3,000 Adult / ¥1,500 High School Student / Free Preschool
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add your suggestions to my list!
Happy Oki Holidays everyone!!
Be sure you check out my 101 Things To Do In Okinawa, Japan list!