Culture Dining Travel

Discover Japan’s tropical islands with Okinawa’s virtual vacations

Experience the tropical paradise that is Okinawa from your sofa with these virtual tours, soba recipes and more

If you thought Japan was all neon lights and robot cafes, think again. It also boasts one of the most unique destinations in East Asia – Japan’s southernmost prefecture: the tropical islands of Okinawa.

With its unique combination of culture, year-round Hawaii-like climate, and stunning natural scenery, beautifully beachy Okinawa provides a luxurious respite to the bustle of the country’s biggest cities. Just a three hour flight from Tokyo, the crystal blue waters and golden sands of the islands make an ideal two-centre addition to any Japanese trip. 

You can visit Okinawa’s incredible beaches online / Credit: OCVB

While the world remains in lockdown, travellers can experience the prefecture from the comfort of their own home – for pure armchair escapism, future travel planning, homeschool material, or even simple dinner inspiration. 

From virtually canoeing through mangroves and trekking to jungle waterfalls to learning the history of karate’s birthplace and how to make the best Okinawa Soba noodles, there’s plenty to get excited about here for when we can travel again… 

Explore land and sea from your sofa 

Take a virtual tour around Okinawa’s lush landscapes / Credit: OCVB

Explore the natural beauty of Okinawa’s 160 islands with Nuchigusui Walk and BeOkinawa. Travellers can take a digital trek through the jungle landscapes of the Yambaru National Park to spot cascading waterfalls, board a canoe and navigate meandering mangroves, stroll through a traditional Okinawan village and peek inside its buildings, take in a picturesque sunset from the idyllic beaches of Kume Island and stargaze into the night from one of the prefecture’s many dark sky sites – all without needing to leave the sofa. 

Experience Okinawa’s virtual tours, here.

Treat yourself to an Okinawa cinema night 

Adventures in Okinawa is available to stream for free, now / Credit: OCVB

There’s no better way to set the scene for future trips than with cinema. Stock up on Japanese snacks and immerse yourself in Okinawa culture with Adventures of Paradise: Tales from Okinawa – a 2019 collection of Japanese short films inspired by the islands that are free to stream now with Film Doo. The five authentic tales follow a series of characters all seeking a fresh adventure and new beginnings.

Each film has English subtitles and can be found here.

Transport your taste buds

Create your own Okinawa Soba at home / Credit: OCVB

Okinawa has a taste: and that taste is authentic Okinawa Soba, a delicious thick noodle unlike other soba in Japan and often served in flavoursome soups and broths. Believed to be created almost 500 years ago, Okinawa Soba is held in such high regard in the region that it even has its own official day every year – the Okinawa Soba Day (it’s on 17th October – mark your calendar). The enviable diet of the residents of Okinawa is also one of the reasons it has been crowned one of the world’s “blue zones” – it’s one of only five places in the world where people are healthiest and live longest.

Learn how to recreate the special Okinawa noodle recipe at home with this step-by-step guide.

Discover the birthplace of Karate

Okinawa is the birthplace of karate / Credit: OCVB

Martial arts fans can bring the dojo into their own homes with this collection of karate videos from the Okinawa Karate International Tournament, whilst learning the history of the sport from Visit Okinawa – which is equally fun whether you’re an original 1984 Karate Kid fan, or an activity-starved kid stuck indoors during the lockdown. Okinawa is the birthplace of the sport and it is still widely practiced today across the prefecture.

Learn more here, and karate chop along with these videos.

For more information, visit: www.visitokinawa.jp

Bex April May is an experienced entertainment, travel and lifestyle journalist based in London, writing for The Guardian, Metro, Cosmopolitan, MTV, Shortlist and more. Follow her adventures on Twitter @bexlectric and on Instagram @bexaprilmay

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