After all that underwater activity, my time in the Yaeyama islands ended and I headed for Naha.
The flight between Ishigaki island and Naha city is very short, so after arriving in Naha at around noon time I had about half a day to explore the city.
One of the main attractions in Naha is Shuri Castle, which is where I spent most of my day. The castle is located within a park, about a 15 minute walk from the monorail station. It was a really hot day, and I entered the park from one of the exits furthest away from the castle so it was quite a trek to see the main attraction.
To enter the castle, you have to pay 820 yen. I was a bit reluctant to pay but I had a good time. When you enter the castle, everybody has to take their shoes off. They have this HUGE box full of plastic bags, and they hand one out to everyone at the entrance, and then they collect the bags from you at the end to re-use.
For most of the castle tour, you can’t take photos, but they have certain areas where you can. There are lots of videos and other interactive things for you to do instead of taking photos.
The original Shuri castle was built in the 1400s and it served as a palace in the Ryukyu Kingdom.
It was destroyed several times, and was heavily bombed in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. I think I read on a sign that it has been rebuilt six times since it was originally built, and the current Shuri castle is a reconstruction from 1992.
I hadn’t had lunch at this point, so I wandered outside the park area and stopped by a nearby restaurant to eat something.
A local delicacy of Okinawa is Umi Budo, or otherwise known as Sea Grapes. It is a type of seaweed and it is often eaten with a bit of sauce on top. Since I had come all this way to Okinawa I made it a priority to find a restaurant serving this, and luckily this place had some.
Similar to caviar/fish roe, these green bubbles burst in your mouth when you bite them and they taste like the ocean. Quite refreshing!
Given that I only had one full day left before heading back to Tokyo, I stopped by the main shopping street in Naha (Kokusai Dori) to buy some gifts. It is literally jam-packed full of souvenir shops, with a few conbinis and restaurants wedged in between. When I arrived at the station closest to Kokusai Dori there was a parade going through, so I watched a few street performances.
Unfortunately, this is when my camera really decided to pack it in and so there are no more photos 😦
So that concludes my “first” day in Naha.
The following day I actually didn’t stay in Naha, but instead I went to Zamami Island. Zamami island is part of the Kerama Islands, and I had heard that the beaches on this island are top-notch for snorkelling, so I decided to spend my last day in Okinawa doing just that.
A 1hr 30 min ferry ride from Naha port, this island has one of the prettiest beaches I’ve been to. I went to the most famous beach on Zamami Island, called Furuzamami Beach, where I rented some snorkelling gear for 1000 yen and I was in the water for so long that my fingers were super duper wrinkly when I headed back to Naha!
I have to say that the sea life here was better than when I went snorkelling/scuba diving near Ishigaki Island. The conditions were perfect for snorkelling as the water was a lot calmer, since the snorkelling area is just by the beach.
My last meal in Okinawa was at this restaurant that is run by old ladies, where I had Goya Chanpuru – an Okinawa stir fry dish. Goya (bitter melon) is a popular vegetable here and I’ve been making an effort to try and like it, but I can’t get over how bitter it tastes. Luckily, these old ladies know how to cook it and it didn’t taste as bad when it was cooked with tofu and spam.
That’s it for my adventures in Okinawa! If I had the money, I would love to go back and explore the many other islands. The food here is so good, and I want to go snorkelling again!
Thank you for reading!