Humpbacks & Hammerheads Are Here – February 2014 Dive Report

Hammerhead SharkFebruary brings the giants of the Pacific into Okinawan waters. Humpback whale season is in full swing with mothers and calves frolicking in the waters of the Keramas and surrounding islands of Okinawa. These gentle giants will be gracing our waters for the next two months as the mothers come to the Keramas’ warm waters to give birth and have the calves fatten up before heading back to cooler waters north of mainland Japan and beyond.

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Posted 1 year, 6 months ago at 4:44 pm.

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Ha Ha Ha Cupcakes

Ha Ha Ha Cupcakes SignPretty cupcakes in a petite shop. But how do they taste? Read on!

Okinawa’s commercial landscape is dotted with neighborhood bakeries and patisseries, offering an array of beautifully decorated pastries for different tastes. So a business focusing only on cupcakes is a novelty, and a risk. Is there enough selection to appease those who like super-sweet, and those who prefer the subtlety of Okinawan donuts?

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 2:53 pm.

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Top 5 Naha Shopping Spots

Top 5 Naha Shopping Spots Article‘Tis the season for gift giving, holiday parties, and thankfully, cooler temperatures. It’s also the perfect time to take a day trip and explore the island. Why not do some sight seeing and cross off a few names from your holiday shopping list?

We’ve selected the top spots for a shopping excursion in downtown Naha–all within walking distance of each other. So throw on your most comfortable walking shoes, and bring a camera, yen, and your shopaholic friends, because there’s lots to see and buy in this unique urban landscape.

It’s easy to get to these Naha shopping hot spots. Just take 58 south and follow the signs for Kokusai–you can turn on Route 42 and park at an underground paid parking garage. Upstairs is Kokusai Street (Route 39) on the left and Palette Kumoji across the street. Our list follows the route we took when we went exploring–we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Ryubo Department Store1. PALETTE KUMOJI

If you only have time for one shopping center near Kokusai, Palette Kumoji, with a Ryubo department store, is it, with a variety of cute, modern gift ideas. As you walk in, the smell of melted chocolate and freshly baked pastries wafts through the 1st floor. Check out impeccably decorated confectionaries here–in Okinawan and Japanese culture, they’re customary to give when invited to someone’s house party.

In the upstairs levels, lots of shops offer unique gifts, many at reasonable prices. Snatch up a leather handbag for less than ¥4000, or get that girly girl in your life a bright, kawaii cosmetic pouch from AMA boutique. Don’t miss the 7th floor, filled with booths of Okinawan arts and crafts, kimono, and artisans at work.

Tourist Souvenir Shop on Kokusai Street Naha2. KOKUSAI DORI

Kokusai Dori, literally “International Street,” is Okinawa’s most famous boulevard, and unlike any other in the world. The street’s 1.6 kilometers are filled with vibrantly colored shops,  restaurants, bars, and crowds of people. This is the place to find shisa figurines, treats made with pineapple and ben-imo, Okinawa’s purple potato, plus island and surf wear, t-shirts for your dog, and lots, lots more. Be sure to have your camera ready–there are photo ops everywhere you turn.

Mitsukoshi Mall Naha3. MITSUKOSHI MALL

Find Mitsukoshi Mall about halfway down Kokusai. It’s smaller than Ryubo, but there are designer goods on the 1st floor, like Gucci sunglasses, Coach purses, and Shiseido products. Most floors offer clothing styled for women, not juniors. Worth checking out: the home goods and kimono displays on the 6th floor, and  bingata and woven fabric, Ryukyu glass, jewelry, and other Okinawan crafts on the 7th floor.

Heiwa Dori4. HEIWA DORI

On the southeast side of Kokusai Dori, just across from Mitsukoshi, there are three large, covered shopping alleys, or “arcades.” Heiwa Dori, literally “Peace Street,” is the largest and most interesting of the three. Expect to see lots of traditional Okinawan souvenirs, like habu sake, awamori, Ryukyu glass, and even gift packs of Orion beer. There are also clothes, glass figurines, precious stones and jewelry, and lots more. We scored a pretty bracelet made from howlite and a bead of blue Okinawan sea glass.   

And, don’t miss out on trying the unique Yukisio salt ice cream shop, near the entrance of Heiwadori. Choose a cup or cone of vanilla soft serve, then sprinkle one of six flavored salts, including black sesame, wasabi, chili pepper, and green tea. Pitchers of water are available, but you might want to keep your water bottle handy.

Tsuboya District5. TSUBOYA DISTRICT

As you browse along Heiwadori, be sure to keep to the left of the alleyway, and soon you’ll come out to a road that leads directly to the Tsuboya Pottery District. Even if you’re not in the market for ceramics, you don’t want to miss Tsuboya. With its traditional tile roof houses, cobble stone roads, and displays of glazed earthenware, this is a great place to take pictures, or just stroll around, taking in the charming scenery. It’s hard to believe this quiet neighborhood is just a short walk from modern, bustling Kokusai.

Before you go, check out the locations of all the shopping areas on our Naha Shopping Google Map here or scan the QR Code below:

Naha Shopping Spots QR Code

Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 2:03 pm.

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New Naha Airport International Terminal Open

International Departures NahaIf you've used the International terminal in Naha before you'll be breating a big sigh of relief that the new terminal is now open and you no longer have to tolerate the cramped conditions of the previous shed.

The new terminal is located to the right of the old one a bit further away from the domestic terminal than previously. Currently the plan is to demolish the old terminal then link them together which will make transfers much easier (and drier).

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 9:53 pm.


This Week on Oki: March 8-15

Cherry blossom season may be over, but there are still plenty of flower festivals on Okinawa to enjoy. Don’t miss the azaleas in bloom in Higashi Village. The Higashi Azalea Festival runs Mar 1-23 from 9 am to 6 pm at Higashi Azalea Park. Entrance is ¥300, but be sure to bring extra for food and other expenses.

Speaking of flowers, don’t miss the Nago Chrysantemum Doll Exhibition. It’s happening at Neo Park, adjacent to the Churaumi Aquarium, through March 31, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is ¥730.

What are your planning to do on Okinawa this week?

Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 2:32 pm.

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Derby Girls

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a part of derby? Actually, you do.

Okinawa roller derby photoThere’s a saying in the roller derby world: “Give your wife her life back. Let her join roller derby.” Roller derby, an all-women, full-contact sport on roller skates, has claimed the hearts of many females, in Okinawa and around the world. Go to a match, called a “bout”, and you’ll see why: these girls are gutsy. They whip down the track, careen around corners, push each other to get their jammer (the girl with the star on her helmet) through the pack to score points, while blocking the other team. It’s intense, strategic, but fun, too. They have funny-yet-fierce derby names like “Tashya-Over,” “The Lexicutioner,” and “Knocka Hoedown.” And, bouts often have a theme, like “Skeletons vs. Zombies,” where teammates, coaches, and even the audience dress up in related costumes, tutus, and makeup. It’s no wonder so many have caught the derby bug.

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 11:30 am.

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Marugame Seimen Udon Restaurant

Udon SignThese udon are the newest to appear on Highway 58. With their generous seating, tasty noodles and tempura, and great value, we think they’ll last a while.

It’d be hard to find noodles thicker than udon–any larger, and you’d have a hard time fitting them in your mouth! Udon noodles are made of wheat, like ramen, but are about the diameter of pencils. At Marugame Seimen, a chain restaurant with ties to Japanese prefecture Sanuki (famous for udon), they’re also soft and doughy, with a nice chew.

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 11:32 am.

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Ramen Kameya

Kameya Tomato RamenTomato ramen and sushi distinguish this restaurant from typical ramen shops–but how does it measure up?

Spend enough time going out to eat in Okinawa, and you’ll start to notice how fiercely local restaurants compete for customers’ patronage. This is true especially of ramen shops. Because their menu offerings are mostly limited to noodles, they must get creative with seasonal ingredients and novel flavors.

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 2:00 pm.

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In The Mood for Noodles

In the Mood for Noodles ArticleSecond in popularity only to white rice, Japanese noodles are versatile enough to take on other ingredients’ flavors, and to stand out as a main course. But what’s the difference between ramen and udon? Soba and yakisoba? We break down five different, delicious noodle dishes, and where to find them on island.

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 6:31 pm.

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YOHO Okinawa!

YOHO-ho! And a bottle of honey–Local shop offers sweet selections.

Okinawa Yoho Honey BottlesHumans’ use of honey for medicinal reasons dates back thousands of years. Egyptians used it to dress wounds and embalm bodies. Today, there are lots of claims that honey can do much more, from preventing diseases to being a “better” sugar for diabetics (it’s not—it packs more calories and carbs and has the same effect as table sugar).

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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 1:55 pm.

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