TRAVEL

Travel


Airlines
We use major airlines such as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Lufthansa, and British Airways, with major departure points being New York, Los Angeles, and London. We fly to Tokyo Narita airport, and then on to Naha International Airport, Okinawa. Total flight time is approx. 14 hrs. Total journey time is around 17 hours. Tickets can be issued from any other airport with a price adjustment where necessary. Baggage allowance from the US is generally two bags weighing no more than 50 lbs. each. Be careful! If one is 49lbs, and the other 51lbs, you will be charged for excess baggage on the heavier one!

Travel Documents
Citizens of the United States and most European countries do not require visas to visit Japan at this time. If in doubt, please check with your nearest Japanese Embassy. If you plan to hire a car you will need an International Driving License, and one of the languages it is printed in must be Japanese. In Japan cars drive on the “other” side of the road like the U.K. In other words, the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car.

Travel within the capital city of Naha is easy using the Yui Rail overhead monorail system that runs from Shuri to Naha Airport. The system is very convenient, relatively inexpensive, and trains are frequent during rush hours. Taxis are everywhere and cost around ¥500 for most short inner-city journeys. Okinawans do not consider tipping taxi drivers, or anyone else for that matter, necessary or desirable!

Travel/Medical Insurance
We require that you have medical/travel insurance that covers full medical treatment and emergency repatriation in the case of illness, and that you provide us with proof of the same. Your credit card company may provide this free of charge if you check with them, and many commercial insurers offer low cost travel plans. Contact us if you need further information.

Okinawa
Is a tropical island two and one half hours south of mainland Japan by jetliner, and halfway between Kyushu and Taiwan in the East China Sea. The Okinawans are ethnically and culturally diverse from the mainland Japanese, have a somewhat different diet, and their own religion. The original Okinawan language (Uchinaguchi) can still be heard in outlying districts, and is making a comeback. There is a daily radio news broadcast entirely in Okinawan. 

The Okinawans…
…are noted for their friendliness, kindness, and hospitality; social qualities they view as important parts of their unique island culture. In their dialect, this spirit of friendship and cooperation which makes even the largest task easy to accomplish by a group of friends or neighbors is called, “Yui-maru.”

Currency
The Japanese ¥en, currently worth around $1=¥110. Many smaller stores, restaurants, and businesses do not accept credit cards, so in our experience it's best (and cheapest) to order Japanese currency through your own bank before leaving home. As all major expenses are included in the package price, you will need only enough money for meals, local travel, and entertainment. A debit card (with PIN number) will allow you to easily draw money from ATM machines at the Central Post Office, shopping centers, airports, etc.

Sight-seeing
Okinawa is a beautiful tropical island surrounded by magnificent  beaches and some of the best scuba diving in the world. Places to visit include: Shuri Castle, Shikina-En garden, Peace Prayer Park, Sefa-Utaki, The Ryukyu Village and Aboretum, Tsuboya Pottery Village, etc. 

Shopping
Kokusai Dori (International Street) is the “main street” of Naha, and is packed with small stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and izakaya, (the bar/restaurants that are the Okinawan equivalent of the English Pub). A place to stroll, to meet friends, and to shop for souvenirs. The RyuBo and Mitsukoshi department stores are also located on Kokusai Dori, as is the Makishi Market. Monorail stations Makishi-Asahibashi serve this area. Our hotel, the Makishi Station Hotel, is on Kokusai Dori, close to the Makishi Monorail station. Sophisticated shoppers may want to head for Naha’s new Shinto Shin shopping district, close to Omoromachi monorail station and the new Okinawa Museum (definitely worth a visit). The San Ei Department store complex there houses a supermarket, cinema, food court, restaurants, (Western & Japanese) and a mass of small independent vendors offering a wide range of goods and services.

Accommodation…
…is included in the package price, and takes the form of a small, centrally located “business” class hotels or self-contained apartments, depending on the size and nature of the group. So, for example, in October 2012 we stayed in a small hotel close to Makishi Station, and in April in the Refine apartment building, a few hundred yards away and close to Asato Monorail Station. We always stay close to Kokusai Dori (International Street) which is the “Main Street” of the capital city of Naha, and the center of the entertainment district. We also try to be within a few minutes walk of a monorail station so we can get to the Budokan every morning for training within 20 minutes (fifteen minutes by monorail, plus a ten minute walk though Onoyama Park).

Food
Restaurants are everywhere and offer a huge selection from traditional Okinawan, to sophisticated European. Personal favorites include “Sam’s by the Sea” in Oroku, and the Sakuraya Coffee Shop in Shinto Shin. Okinawan delicacies include mimiga-pickled pigs ears, and goya, bitter gourd. The local brew is awamori; given a choice ask for “Shinsen” from the Uehara distillery. Don't drink the awamori with the snake submerged in the bottle because I have never seen the Okinawans drink it!!

If you are really not “into” the whole Okinawan experience as far as food is concerned, don’t worry. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, and a host of other American fast-foods outlets are everywhere. For a change try “Mosburger,” the Japanese equivalent of McDonalds, or “Italian Tomato,” an inexpensive yet delicious spaghetti restaurant chain.


Manza Beach and the East China Sea at dusk.


Fukushu En. A Chinese garden built on the site of Kume Village where tradition says the “Thirty-six” Chinese families who introduced Chinese culture (including Chinese Boxing) into Okinawa lived.


Peace Prayer Park, Southern Okinawa. Dedicated to all victims of war, and those who died in the Battle of Okinawa in particular.

The karate dojo of Murasaki Village.

The throne room of Shuri Castle
 
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