I have officially been in Okinawa one week!! Hooray! So far I have experienced quite a bit of culture shock. Regardless, I absolutely ADORE Japan and don’t really see myself growing tired of it here. Here’s some of the things I noticed immediately. I’m sure the list will grow exponentially the longer I’m here so be sure to stay tuned.
I also wanted to add that I wrote this list immediately after snorkeling in the most pristine reef that is legitimately less than a 30 second walk from my house. #OkiLife is amazing.
- The People: Oh my goodness, the Okinawans are the most peaceful and kind people I have ever met in my entire life. They are so helpful and really love the Americans stationed here at Kadena. I heard that they hated us before coming here and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The vast majority of Okinawans are helpful and very kind. Their culture is probably my favorite culture I have ever encountered on all my travels. Okinawans are EXTREMELY hard working and well-behaved. I don’t know if I had some sort of accidental pre-judgements of Asians, but I was slightly surprised by how diverse they were. I should have known that (obviously) but there are so many different types of people, just like Americans.
- The food: So far, every single meal I have had has been the best meal of my life. I don’t understand how the Okinawans do it, but every single thing I put into my mouth is the best. Ramen, soba, rice, sushi, fish, gyoza, hamburgers, fried chicken, ice cream, coffee… you name it- it tastes FAR better in Okinawa. Also, Green Tea Kit Kats are surprisingly good tasting. Hi-Chews are also part of my daily diet now!
- The temperature: I never expected to live in a place that is hot all 24 hours of the day. Yes, this includes the middle of the night. If you go camping (like I did), prepare to sweat your balls off in the tent. It’s very humid all the time as well. I absolutely LOVE weather like this thanks to being from the great state North Carolina. A lot of people find it difficult to adjust to this. I ended up getting a hammock to sleep in while camping (It must be paired with a mosquito net) to alleviate some of the heat.
- The weather: Surprisingly, the past week I was in Oki, it has rained far more than it would in a typical week in England. When it wasn’t rainy, it was mostly cloudy. I think there have maybe been 2-3 days it was mostly sunny. It’s pretty bipolar here too. It could rain all day and clear up right before sunset for the most beautiful display of a sunset you’ve ever seen. I love it!
- Essential creams + sprays: Bug spray and sunscreen are absolute essentials here. I got eaten alive the first weekend here and it’s miserable. I still have bites and bumps a week later. Luckily I used enough sunscreen to not get burned. The bugs are EVERYWHERE though. No amount of bug spray is enough.
- The cities: This was one of the more surprising aspects of life in Japan. It’s slightly overwhelming how many ‘things’ are fighting for your attention. Everything, from buildings to traffic, is on top of everything and there is very little space. It stressed me out a little bit at first but I’ve gotten a lot more used to it. That’s the only down side to living here.
- The Danger: Driving isn’t very dangerous here like it was in England; you’re limited to driving 40 kph unless otherwise posted (~25 mph) but that doesn’t mean there is no danger on the island. There are many things that could injure or kill you, especially in the ocean. It’s a tropical island, so it boasts poisonous land Habu (snakes), as well as deadly aquatic ones. There are Box jellyfish, Lionfish, Crown of Thorns Starfish, sea urchins, among dozens of other things. You have to be super careful!
- Vending Machines: VENDING MACHINES ARE EVERYWHERE AND IT IS AMAZING. I don’t know why nowhere else has adopted this but there are literally vending machines all over the place. This includes random spots next to trees on the side of the road. They even have canned WARM GREEN TEA. It’s kept at the perfect drinkable temperature. There are probably 30 options, including my favorite Cafe al Leit Boss (iced) Coffee. It’s delicious!
- Family Mart/Lawson’s: These are cool little convenience stores, minus gas pumps, that have tons of things like electronics and foods! They have ready to eat (cheap) meals of sushi, chicken skewers, dumplings, and much more. They have tons of drink options with hilarious English captions on them. My personal favorite was a drink called Match. Its slogan was ‘Let’s Vitamin!’ These places are the perfect stops as you drive all over the island.
- The Water: Okinawa Island is surrounded by reefs. You could drive around and pull over randomly and be at a world class diving/snorkeling spot no matter where you went! This is one of the coolest things I have encountered so far. I can literally go diving right behind my house any day of the week. Living on a tropical island is my personal version of Heaven!