Are you feeling down? The stress of work and debts getting too much for you? What you need is a break. The heat of the sun beating down on you. Crystal clear waters to bathe in, golden beaches to relax on. Plenty of culture and history for the inquisitive, stunning seas for the restful and gorgeous weather for everyone. What you need is paradise. What you need is Okinawa.
Take your average fellow, Mr Poncho from Hokkaido. He’s a cheery sort, with a healthy dose of cynicism and sarcasm to help him cope with life’s inconveniences. But lately he’s been going through a rough patch. Winter is still coming, thanks to Sean Bean, and Mr poncho can’t remember the last time he saw colour outside with so much snow everywhere and he’s tired of feeling cold. He recently lost his job thanks to company politics and now he’s not sure how long he can stay in Japan. His funds are dwindling without regular income and not being able to pay rent is now a real risk. On top of it all, with the old company gone he’ll need a new guarantor for his apartment or he’ll be evicted at the end of the month regardless. But Mr Poncho is a very lucky man. He already booked his flight to Okinawa before he knew he was losing his job. So instead of spending his time at home job hunting and trudging through the snow off to boring old interviews and a secure future, he’s spending a week in paradise! A whole week without internet, plenty of delicious food from expensive restaurants and lots of places to go visit. He’s meeting up with an old university friend, Ms Kara, and together they’ll be going on lots of adventures.
When you pack your bags, you have to remember the weather. Shorts, sandals, swimming costume for the beach. Loose comfortable clothing to lie down in and let the cool breeze wash over you. But Mr Poncho is foolish kind of guy, and Ms Kara laughs when she sees him come out of the station after a long flight in a thick sheepskin jacket and thermal gear. It was snowing when he got on the flight, and it’ll probably be snowing when he gets back though. But it made the walk to the hotel more than a little stuffy. Not to mention more than a little bizarre, rubbing shoulders with Japanese people in flip flops and open Hawaiian shirts, who looked on at him with concern.
What did Mr Poncho and Ms Kara plan to do during their long stay?
Both visitors were very tired after their flights and sorely needed a relaxed evening. Quiet dinner and a gentle walk through town, get a feel for the place. The most excitement you need after a long exhausting journey, is trying out some new exotic food. The pair of them stopped by a place off the main high street, coaxed by the promise of a live show during dinner. Sure enough, after they half collapsed onto their cushions, the curtains drew back to reveal the stage. Perhaps Mr Poncho could at last distract himself from the worries at home. A delicious new dish on the table, the company of a good friend and now live music and supposedly authentic traditional dance. The dance begins to the unusual string of the instruments and although bizarre its not altogether unpleasant. But it slowly picks up the pace. The waiters in the room start to copy the dance, waving their arms left and right, bouncing on their toes to the music. They start to pull people from their tables and food to join the dancers on stage until a small crowd of awkward waving hands is forming. the waiters draw closer and Mr Poncho is now very interested in chewing his food slowly and Ms Kara suddenly has lots of messages to check on her iPhone. But both of them are grabbed anyway and they’re thrown into the crowd, wondering what on earth they are doing there.
Okinawa has limited public transport but fret not! You can hire a car and that’s precisely what Mr Poncho and Ms Kara did. There’s a famous aquarium at the head of the island, home to whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, along with turtles, dolphins, manta rays and above all the greatest creature held behind glass; sea cows. Glorious sea cows. It can’t be missed. The car ride up is estimated to be roughly an hour and a half long, but for these two tourists it’ll take at least another hour. Ms Kara, you see, is a stamp collector. Mr Poncho can say that they stopped regularly to catch the amazing views, to take endless photos and to pick up food. But none of that is worthwhile compared to stamps and pokemon-go.
The aquarium is a wonder to behold. From great whites to alien-like jelly fish, there seems to be every kind of fish bottled away. And the bottles are a little too big for corks. The whale shark tank takes up the entire room, towering stories up packed with smaller fish that hide in packs beneath the shadow of the sea monsters swimming with them. Sheer size and frightening strength of these beasts inside the tank, looking through the glass at the smaller cuter faces of two tourists arguing whether or not to enable flash on their cameras. As Mr Poncho would tell you, the aquarium is not for the faint-hearted. To this day his nightmares often involve enormous man-eating sea monsters. And debt.
Why stay on the main island when there are so many others to explore? Mr Poncho and Ms Kara understood that, and sought out a nearby one, accessible by ferry. The island was beautiful, reminding Mr Poncho of Skull Island from King Kong (because Mr Poncho sees the world in relation to films. It’s a manageable condition with drugs and constant moral support). But similar to Skull Island, it was covered in native creatures fully capable of ending your life. Signs were everywhere warning against walking off the footpaths, lest you fall prey to the dreaded habu snake (although not too dreaded because its used in the traditional home-brewed alcohol! Whisky with essence of poisonous snake. A perfect souvenir or gift to bring home to the kids).
Upon the beach are millions of creamy sea shells, blanketing the sand in shimmering colours. They were just as brilliant in the light up close, after they ripped Mr Poncho’s feet to shreds on their sharp points. Nothing can be more relaxing than lying on the sand in your swimming costume, the sea edging toward your bleeding feet, and regularly glancing over your shoulder to check that a snake didn’t slither out the bushes behind you. But wait to you see the town. All 12 buildings of it! You could cut the atmosphere with a knife; the simple architecture, the lonely supermarket and the one restaurant seemingly devoid of electricity. By far the most convenient town you could imagine; no matter where you stand, it’ll take less than five minutes to get anywhere in town.
Mr Poncho suggested lunch at the local bar, that served food on a second floor with a wonderful view of the sea thanks to the long balcony. Being such a nice secluded place, there’s few other customers to disturb you but you won’t be lonely! The bar hosts multiple cats. Mr Poncho considered these cats, who jumped up to sit beside him or weaved between his legs while he ate. He wondered why anyone believed it was a good idea to bring a cat, a pet famous for wandering about by itself, to an island containing wild poisonous snakes.
No visit is complete without some culture and history, so Mr Poncho and Ms Kara went to visit the peace memorial on the southern tip of Okinawa’s main island. Within its walls are the tales of local Okinawans and their plight during the war, and subsequent American occupation. Their hardships, their pains, their losses. Beyond those walls are the gravestones; thousands of names of those who perished needlessly during the war. Once again, a very uplifting and fascinating experience to help relax. Okinawa always has tourists in mind though, so once you leave the memorial, the first thing you’ll encounter will be an ice cream stand; the perfect way to stop and reflect on everything you’ve heard and seen. Mr Poncho thoroughly recommends the coconut ice cream. It’s to die for.
They evening went on with a hunt for ‘tacos rice’; a local dish famous for its blend of Okinawan, American and Mexican cuisine. With so many influences crashing together, just imagine how tasty it’ll be! It can’t go wrong. Before retiring for the night, a quest for souvenirs is always the imperative of the tourist. Ms Kara, continuing her theme of collecting (insert mental illness here), was determined to find Pikachu socks with the name ‘Okinawa’ sewn in front, to add to her growing stock pile of travelling pokemon socks. As for Mr Poncho, he alas was unable to afford the many Hawaiian shirts on offer, due to his own financial situation as well as the fact that every shirt was priced with arabic sheiks in mind.
The trip was one they’d never forget; Mr poncho especially, whose return flight was delayed, causing him to miss his desperately needed interview. He can forever look back fondly, on the island adventure that he so dearly needed. Just imagine how stressed he might have been, had he not gone at all.
So book your flight now, and experience a slice of paradise yourself. It might be what you want in a holiday, but it’s certainly what you need.