On Okinawa I found mild winds, cherry blossoms but also a terrible WW2 history. I spent a few days in the main city of Naha and went sightseeing on the island.
This article is part of a diary based travelogue from a six month journey in 1985 to several countries in East and South East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Saturday 26.1.1985, Naha
We arrived in Naha on the island of Okinawa in the morning and I soon found my way to the best place to stay in town.
- NAHA Youth Hostel seemed like a good alternative, and was as well.
I spent the morning walking around in Naha, the biggest town and provincial capital of Okinawa. Naha is modern and has quite a few interesting shopping arcades selling all kinds of merchandise.
Okinawa, situated midway between mainland Japan and Taiwan is a small island with subtropical climate. It was still too early in the year, but in summertime the place is some kind of paradise. Something I will return to below.
During the Second World War (WW2) the island – being in a strategic location – experienced a huge battle when the Americans progressing in the Pacific War landed on the beaches. The Japanese, fighting for the first time on their home soil, put up a fierce resistance – and lost.
After the war the Americans built several large bases here and occupied the island until 1972, but kept the bases. Despite this Naha does not seem particularly Americanised, I feel, at least not more than the rest of Japan.
Sunday 27.1.1985, Naha
The Sunday was spent hitchhiking and bussing around the southern bend of Okinawa. It was quite easy to get a lift here too. A minor problem is that the knowledge of English is not good, and my map is of the same quality. But I did eventually get to the places I wanted.
The southern coast has numerous monuments and other stuff in memory of the war horrors. It was especially on this part of the island of Okinawa that the heaviest fighting took place under the allied invasion.
The museum with accounts of what happened and in particular the first hand reports of the civilian population, is really worth spending time in.
Monday 28.1.1985, Naha
Today I had planned to go on a two day trip up the island with a moped, but then I got a flight ticket to Taipei, Taiwan tomorrow already. I had to limit my trip to a day, but it turned out to be a fine day.
My route went north on the western side, up to Nago approximately on the middle of Okinawa, then cutting straight across and south to Naha along the eastern shoreline.
The scenery was great; long, beautiful sandy beaches and coral islets “decorated” with palm trees. The west to east crossing passed a few hills with dense forest, jungle-like actually. In the town of Nago, the second largest on Okinawa, I witnessed cherry trees in flowers – the famous symbol of Japan. Unfortunately it was too early in the year to fully enjoy this pretty scenery. The temperature was mild, but still kind of winter. Besides I had some wind and light rain.
In my hostel I had met an elderly Australian who combined his vacation on Okinawa with working as an English teacher. We stayed in the same room and had several pleasant conversations.
In any case, I now prepared myself to leave Japan, fairly satisfied after almost three weeks. I had seen what I wanted to this time and had the opinion that neither time nor money allowed me to stay any longer. The country, the scenery, the people, the culture are so fascinating that I would like to return some other time.
My letter home telling the story of my last few days in Japan, and the next part of the trip, Taiwan, was sent from Hong Kong and is posted in that entry.
The introduction to this journey to East and South East Asia
Previous chapter: Hitchhiking on Shikoku and a long sea journey from Kobe
Next chapter: Taiwan: A snake market, immense treasures and an oversized hotel in the capital of Taipei.