After leaving Fukuoka, Mrs. Selfish and I boarded a Japan Airlines flight to Naha, Okinawa, Japan’s southern most prefecture. Okinawa is often called the Hawaii of Japan, and for good reason. The weather is warm and tropical, and the traditions and food are completely different from mainland Japan.
Up until the late 1800’s, Okinawa was known as the Ryūkyū Kingdom, and was a tributary of both China and Japan. As such, Okinawa has its own unique blend of Japanese and Chinese traditions and food that make it distinct from mainland Japan. Okinawan architecture is unique, and beautiful.
They also have a huge American military presence, which further adds to the flavor of Okinawa. Wandering across this small island, you’ll notice an American influence on all sorts of foods – from Okinawan ice cream, to taco dogs and taco rice.
Driving Around Okinawa
The main island of Okinawa is quite small, so Mrs. Selfish and I rented a car for our 5 day adventure in Okinawa. While I’ve driven on the left side of the road before (notably in Ireland and Australia), and in non-English countries, this was the first time I’d driven on the left side of the road in a non-English country.
Fortunately, the internet provided some helpful tips. For the most part driving is pretty simple. Our car came with a built-in GPS that spoke English. Unfortunately the instructions were in Japanese, but we figured out how to use it after a few tries. The biggest help was the “navigate-by-phone-number” setting, which was invaluable.
One other Okinawan oddity is the crazy number of centenarians the island has – roughly 34 for every 100,000 people. It might not seem like a lot, but apparently the people of Okinawa hold the record for having the highest concentration of people over 100 years old. Which is probably why they have bumper stickers to indicate older drivers.
Left: new drivers, Right: old drivers – BEWARE OF BOTH.
After grabbing our rental car, Mrs. Selfish headed straight to our hotel in Naha city center, the Doubletree Naha.
Check-in and Room
After dropping off our car at the Doubletree Naha’s parking lot (500 yen per day), we headed over to the hotel itself.
Check-in was fast and easy – the hotel staff’s English ranged from decent, to native-speaker, which was a bit of a surprise. The concierge thanked Mrs. Selfish for her gold status, and presented her with coupons for breakfast and free drinks for the bar. We also collected our free cookies, which is my favorite perk of the Doubletree brand.
From there we headed up to our room on the 14th floor, which was nice, if a little basic – but at roughly ~9,600 yen a night, I wasn’t complaining.
The room was nice, clean, and above all cheap. The bathroom was also well maintained, though a little small.
One of the reasons we had selected the hotel was due to the coin-operated laundry. At roughly $4 per load, the Doubletree Naha was a bargain – especially since the washing machines automatically dispense soap.
Though Mrs. Selfish and I never collected our free drink, we did take advantage of the breakfast buffet every morning. Basically a continental breakfast with an omelet station, breakfast at the Doubletree Naha is Western style and filling.
Wandering around Downtown Naha
The Doubletree Naha is only a short walk away from downtown Naha – an area packed with tourist shops and strange Japanese stores. We even caught a live performance of Jingle Bells, which was hilariously Japanese.
The stores themselves range from chintzy to trashy, but are all in pretty good fun. One of the large Okinawa traditions are Shisas, a pair of stone dog/lion spirits.
While similar in appearance to Chinese fu dogs, the Shisa are a Okinawa-only talismans used to ward off spirits. The left Shisa traditionally keeps its mouth closed to keep in the good spirits, while the right one keeps its mouth open to ward off the bad spirits.
Either way they are cute, and you can buy them everywhere.
Join us tomorrow when Mrs. Selfish will go over things to do in Naha.