We have recently returned from our trip to Okinawa, Japan. Experiencing Okinawa in 4 days was so amazing that I want to go back soon. There is just so much more to see and do. Although the primary reason for this trip was to attend our daughter’s graduation from leadership school, we were able to experience a little of what Okinawa has to offer.
Experiencing Okinawa Day 1
We arrived at the Naha International Airport at 1:10 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. Our daughter and her boyfriend were there to greet us. Once we exited the airport we were met with nice cool breezes and sunshine. We got into the car and were on our way to experiencing Okinawa day 1.
The drive there was already an experience for us because Okinawans drive on the left side of the road and the driver sits on the right side of the car. That was definitely a first for us. The cars there are a great deal smaller than American cars and with good reason. The back roads are quite narrow and only 2 lanes. Plus, people are allowed to park along the sides of these narrow roads! There were many times when it looked like our car was going to hit the other cars but our daughter is well-versed in the way the locals drive in Okinawa. On the way to our daughter’s house there was just so much to see and the two things that stood out was the amazing view of the ocean on the drive and a giant ferris wheel. From the airport to Chatan where our daughter lives is about 30 minutes, probably longer with traffic.
Upon entering the Chatan district there were so many buildings and houses built so closely together. What looked like a simple residential area is actually a mix of family homes and businesses or homes that have been transformed into quaint family businesses. So, it is very likely that if you live in a home or apartment in Okinawa there could be a little coffee shop or tire shop or restaurant just a few houses down. It is quite delightful actually.
We finally get to our daughter’s house which is a 2-story home. The first floor has been recently vacated by her landlord probably for renovations while she lives on the second floor. It is a surprisingly spacious 2 bedroom 1 bathroom complete with air conditioning, appliances, and washer and dryer. She also has a patio and a roof top balcony. It is close to Kadena Air Force Base where our daughter is stationed. Her home is also just a 5-minute walk to the sea wall and you can hear the sound of the ocean when you go to the roof top.
The first thing on our agenda was to attend our daughter’s graduation from leadership school. So, almost immediately after arriving to the house we prepared to get ready to go to the air base where the function was to take place.
Since the event began at 6 and we were to be there by 5, we were on a time crunch to get all dressed up and ready to go. We actually made good time and arrived at the Kadena AFB visitor’s center to get our passes but then things went a little awry. We left our passports at home and they are the only form of acceptable identification to obtain visitor passes. Mind you that it was the end of the work day and traffic in and out of base was just insane. So, we stayed at the visitor’s center while our daughter’s boyfriend dropped her off to the event so that she wouldn’t be late. Then, he drove back to the house to pick up our passports to bring them to the visitor’s center so that he could sponsor us onto the base. Lesson learned…always have your passports ready.
Well, we made it right on time to the graduation and needless to say, the graduation was wonderful! Once again, we were very proud parents. Ironically, our first meal in Okinawa was an American dinner. We had a choice of teriyaki chicken or prime rib served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
We got home after the ceremony and hung out on the patio just catching up with our daughter and enjoying the moment. We also arranged our schedule for the next 3 days. Originally, we had planned to attend the Naha Festival which includes the world’s largest tug-of-war but because we arrived a day later than we were supposed to our plans changed. The plan then was to do grocery shopping on Friday for the BBQ we were having on Saturday. Sunday was to go do something fun. Monday was just to have morning coffee before we leave that afternoon.
Experiencing Okinawa Day 2
We woke up early Friday morning to start experiencing Okinawa day 2. Before anything, we had to have our morning coffee. Our daughter took us to American Village which is a “large, American-themed outdoor mall featuring shops, restaurants, a cinema & a ferris wheel”. American Village is right along the sea wall and it has gorgeous views of the ocean. We had coffee at Zhyvago Coffee Works and their coffee was absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend going there. They also serve pastries and sandwiches.
After coffee, we went to do our grocery shopping. We were looking to buy some choice meats for BBQ among other items. So, I asked our daughter to take us to a local market to see what types of meat they had before checking at the base commissary. She obliged my request and she took us to Mega Don Quijote.
This store has EVERYTHING you could possibly need and much, much more. Don Quijote is known as the ”Palace of Amazing Prices”. It is Japan’s biggest discount store. The Mega Donki, as it is known by locals, is twice the size with twice as many products. This store is so overwhelming we had to return another day to see things that we missed on the first trip there.
With all the excitement we had at Mega Donki, we were ready to have lunch. So, we decided to go to Coco’s Ichibanya. Coco’s is a Japanese curry restaurant very popular with Americans and with very good reason. If you haven’t tried Japanese curry, then put it on your bucket list. It is absolutely delicious!
Experiencing Okinawa Day 3
Our whole day of experiencing Okinawa day 3 was just hanging out at home. Well, to start our day we walked to a nearby coffee shop called Coffee Casa. It is a charming, family owned and operated little coffee shop with excellent coffees and caramel macchiato. For such a quaint little coffee shop there is quite some traffic in and out of the place.
We walked back home to start preparing for the BBQ later in the day. It was an absolutely perfect day for a cook out. My daughter invited some of her friends from work and we had a beautiful time together.
It was a magnificent Saturday spent in Okinawa just making memories.
Experiencing Okinawa Day 4
Our last full day and we continued experiencing Okinawa day 4. My husband and I woke up early in hopes of surprising our daughter and her boyfriend with some coffee from Coffee Casa. It was that good we had to have coffee from there again. Plus, it was walking distance from the house. When we got there though, we noticed a sign that said they don’t do take out coffee until 2PM which we thought was odd. So unfortunately, we went back home empty-handed, By the time we got back from the coffee shop, my daughter and her boyfriend were awake and we told them what had happened. It turned out just fine anyway, because they had planned to take us to try another coffee shop for coffee and breakfast.
The coffee shop was called Vongo and Anchor, located in American Village. The place has such an interesting interior design with a vintage bike theme. I believe that they even have bikes for rent to go around American Village. It was such a cool and hip place. We all ordered food with our coffee. The guys had sandwiches while the ladies had the breakfast platters. Everything was absolutely delicious. We also realized that it was a sister coffee shop of Zhyvago Coffee Works that we had tried on our first morning in Okinawa.
During breakfast, we had decided to check out this place called Neo Park which is basically a botanical park and zoo. I stumbled upon Neo Park while researching things to do in Okinawa. I knew that my daughter would enjoy Neo Park especially because there is a giant tortoise that people actually ride on. My daughter had never even heard of it and so I was happy about that, because it was something we could all experience together in Okinawa for the first time .
The drive from Chatan to Neo Park in Nago took about an hour drive. The day was nice and sunny and actually a little humid, definitely a great day for a stroll through a park. We arrived at just about 12 noon and the line at the entrance was just fine considering it was a Sunday and the children of Okinawa had just started their fall break plus it was a 3-day weekend. Admission to the park is around $6 for adults and $3 for children 4-18 years old. You can also purchase admission+train ride tickets for about $10 for adults and $5-$7 for children. Bags of bird food may also be purchased for something like $1-$2 per bag. We had such a wonderful time and it was a wonderful experience that I will be doing a separate post on Neo Park.
After about 2 hours at the park, we had contemplated to also check out the Pineapple Park which was also in the vicinity but we opted not to because we were pretty much spent already. So, we headed back home to Chatan. When we got there we took a little recovery nap so that we can go on our next adventure.
Since it was our last full day in Okinawa, we wanted to get some gifts and snacks for the people back home. Our daughter took us to Aeon Shopping Center where we visited a dollar store called Daiso. It was your typical dollar store that has almost everything you can think of. We were able to find a few items there. However, they only accept Yen for payment. We also checked out a novelty store next door to Daiso and there was so much to see. We didn’t buy anything there but it was worth the experience. On the way out of the shopping center we stopped by Mister Donut to grab a few donuts for later.
It was time for dinner. The kids wanted to treat us for our last dinner in Okinawa. We decided that we all wanted burgers and fries. So, they took us to a place called Jetta Burgers which was also conveniently found in American Village. It was a very cool place and the burgers and fries were amazing. What was even more pleasantly amazing were the onion rings. Personally, they were the best onion rings that I ever had. I would highly recommend this place to all who visit American Village and are burger enthusiasts.
After dinner, the kids wanted to stop by Sega World. I haven’t been inside an arcade for many years and well, Sega World is just mind-blowing! I have never seen so many “CLAW” game machines or as they are known there “Prize Games”. You can try your hand at winning things from expensive high-tech gadgets to candies and food items. The other most mesmerizing thing that I saw were these young kids playing these music and video games. You can’t help but stand around and watch them play because they are all zoned out with these games. Our daughter convinced me to try out this Japanese taiko drum game which I have to admit was super fun. I was so glad that I did it, too! We stayed there for about what felt like 45 minutes.
It was getting late but we still needed to buy a few more gifts and snacks. So, back to Mega Donki it was. I could spend hours upon hours in that store. Words could not express how much stuff there is to see there! Anyhow, we managed to complete our gift shopping and perhaps a little more. Mega Donki was my favorite store experience while in Okinawa, at least on this trip,
It was now time to head home and start packing.
We had our last morning coffee and breakfast time in Okinawa at Coffee Casa. There was so many people out and about
so early in the morning because it was an American holiday. Since we figured that the traffic would be a little more hectic, we decided to leave for the airport around 10AM, It was a good thing we did because it took us more than an hour to get there and our flight was leaving at 1:10PM. Now it was time to say “Sayonara” to our daughter who was the most gracious of hostesses in the world. It was amazing experiencing Okinawa for 4 days. Sayonara! We will be back soon.
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