When travel to Japan resumes, why not take the family on a slow travel adventure to Okinawa? Having developed a unique history through trade and exchange with China and South-East Asian countries, Okinawa is rich in culture. It is also blessed with abundant nature, from the clear blue sea to the lush forests.
Discovering and experiencing different histories, cultures and priceless nature is a great learning opportunity and will surely inspire your children to grow and bring a smile to their faces. There’s no doubt it’s a trip that will help build many wonderful family memories!
Experience Okinawa’s History and Culture While Enriching Your Knowledge and Senses
If you want to learn about the history and culture of Okinawa, we recommend a museum trip. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Okimyu’, the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum is one of Okinawa prefecture’s most popular cultural complexes, operating doubly as an art museum and a history museum. The design of the building reflects the form of an Okinawan castle (gusuku), and the history museum boasts 10,490 items, while the art museum is home to 4,800 items (according to the data in 2017), making it a fun place to explore the culture, nature, and art of Okinawa while also enriching your senses and furthering your knowledge.
The museum’s permanent exhibition introduces the history and culture nurtured in Okinawa’s unique climate and topography through valuable exhibits and videos. The museum collection exhibits modern and contemporary artworks by artists from Japan and other Asian countries, with a focus on those with a deep connection to Okinawa. What’s more, the museum holds temporary and special exhibitions, which means that every time you visit, there is a new exhibit to enjoy!
The museum cafe is the perfect place to take a short break between the exhibits. You can enjoy an original dish or drink made using Okinawan ingredients or try their limited edition menu created in collaboration with one of the temporary exhibitions. Visitors with children are free to use the children’s area there. The museum shop is also a great place to find souvenirs. The shop offers a wide range of limited edition items, including Okinawan handicrafts, model craft kits for parents and children, and original goods that can only be bought there.
The Only Place in Japan! A Coral Dyeing Experience That Brings You Happiness and Joy
If you want to have a unique experience, why not try dyeing with coral? Dyeing with coral is a valuable experience enjoyed by both children and adults alike that can only be found at SHURI RYUSEN. Choose from various options including T-shirts, tote bags and furoshiki (wrapping cloths) before dyeing them in your favorite colors.
Here we make use of fossilized coral. The cloth is placed on top of the coral and the dye is applied using a tool. It’s a simple process, but it’s a lot of fun and will have you hooked in no time!
In Okinawa, coral has long been believed to bring happiness. You can make a beautiful Okinawan souvenir when you combine your personality and these beautiful patterns found in nature. You can take your work home with you on the day that you make it.
Also, there are many places you can go to get a feel for the history and culture of Okinawa in the Shuri region, where SHURI RYUSEN is located. Shurijo Castle (5 minutes walk from SHURI RYUSEN), registered as a World Heritage Site, was the seat of politics and diplomacy in the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1429 for 450 years. Unfortunately, the main hall (Seiden) and the surroundings burnt down by accidental fire in 2019, however, the rebuilding process can be viewed. The elaborate castle walls, gates, and other remaining areas can still be enjoyed to feel the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Learn Karate In The Land of its Origin! A Program for Karate Beginners
With over 130 million practitioners worldwide, karate, originating in Okinawa, is one of Japan’s most popular martial arts. It was made an official sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where the gold medal won by an Okinawan athlete was a huge talking point. Karate is a self-defense technique, but it is also a way of developing physical and mental strength and improving oneself through practice. The words “start with a bow and end with a bow” and “there is no first move in karate” show the importance of peace-loving and respectful behavior and prove that the essence of karate is not only techniques and skills but also about character building.
The Karate Experience Program is a beginner’s program introducing the charm and essence of karate from different angles. You can learn about karate and have fun while doing so. You can rent a karate uniform (rental fee required), so it’s easy to participate without having to prepare any equipment in advance. The spirituality and civility of karate that you will encounter through this experience will be something you will treasure for the rest of your life.
In addition to the dojo (the karate training hall), the Okinawa Karate Kaikan also has an exhibition facility, a restaurant and a shop. It is a great place for both karate enthusiasts and tourists, so please feel free to visit. It’s about 14 minutes from Naha Airport by car but is also accessible via monorail, however you will also need to transfer to a bus.
Explore the Stunning Underwater World of Tropical Fish and Coral without Having to Dive into the Sea!
If you want to feel the rich nature of Okinawa to the fullest, we recommend marine activities in the beautiful sea. Don’t worry if you’re not a good swimmer! The Busena Marine Park, located in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa, is home to one of the clearest and most beautiful parts of ocean surrounding the main island. And you can easily explore the sea without having to change your clothes! It’s a great place to enjoy the emerald green sea, whatever the season, even on rainy days.
One of the main attractions of the Busena Marine Park is the “Underwater Observatory Tower”, the only underwater observatory on the main island of Okinawa, where visitors can walk right into the sea. Descend the spiral staircase and peer through the 24 windows for a 360° view of the stunning sea landscape. You’re sure to be mesmerized by the colorful fish swimming so close by!
Then there is the “glass-bottom boat,” which you can enjoy on the sea. Ride the whale-shaped boat and experience a 20-minute underwater tour. The floor of the boat is made of glass, so you can relax and watch all the different shapes of coral and colorful fish.
The Busena Marine Park is currently running the “Flying Pikachu Project,” which started on July 1st, 2021, and will be operating until March 2024. The glass-bottom boats feature images of the Pokémon “Wailord.” And, passengers will be given original Pokémon stickers on a first-come, first-served basis (until they run out). Pokémon are waiting for you at Busena Marine Park!
360 Degree View! Feel the Abundance of Nature, Kayaking Through the Mangrove
The lush forests of Okinawa are home to a number of clear rivers, where even small children can experience kayaking in the gentle currents. The rivers of Okinawa are lush with mangroves and vegetation. A mangrove is a forest of plants that thrives in an area where the seawater and freshwater are merged by the tides. The mangroves are a unique environment where you will encounter a wide variety of plants and animals, making this an exciting and satisfying activity for both adults and children.
The Gesashi River in the northern part of Okinawa’s main island is a great location with lush mangroves! It has good access to the Churaumi Aquarium, a popular tourist attraction, and to Kouri Island, a recommended driving spot where you can see the beautiful sea from the bridge.
At the beginning of the tour, your guide will give you a detailed lecture on how to paddle and ride the kayak and they will be with you throughout the tour. English speaking guides are available.
There is a two-hour course consisting of just a peaceful and relaxing mangrove tour, or a three-hour course where you can go out to sea after the mangrove tour and actively enjoy Okinawa’s beautiful sea. We are sure that you will have a wonderful memory of the beautiful scenery that only Okinawa can offer.
Enjoy Slow Travel in Okinawa – A Trip for All the Family
Okinawa is the perfect destination for family holidays and slower-paced travel. Experiencing and learning about different histories, cultures and nature will help you to develop a respect for the world’s precious cultures and nature.
When travel to Japan resumes again, Okinawa is a great place for parents and children to learn and have fun together!
VISIT OKINAWA JAPAN | Official Okinawa Travel Guide
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SLOW TRAVEL OKINAWA – Family Adventure Time: Exciting and relaxing, nature and culture experiences