Okinawa Information

The information on this page is a basic guide about accommodation, sightseeing and martial arts training in Okinawa.
It is primarily information for martial artists planning to visit Okinawa for martial arts training, as well as non-Japanese speaking tourists.
Anyone finding the information presented useful is free to participate and to use the information and support services provided.
Most of the content on this web site is based on my own personal experiences as a non-Japanese speaking martial artist visiting and training in Okinawa.

Arrival and Departure Information

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The Naha International Airport is relative small compared to the Domestic Airport.
It usually takes only minutes to go through immigration and customs.
Try to have your accommodation and dojo details handy, preferable in Japanese as the immigration officer may not speak much English.
Also make sure to discard any prohibited food items and plant materials, Okinawa is very strict about disease and insect control.
It is also recommend to get a few Okinawa brochures with maps in English at the Information desk prior to going through passport control, as some of them are available only at the airport.
See Sightseeing for more information about brochures, maps and information material.
Once you have passed immigration and customs make your way to the exit and catch a Taxi, Bus or Monorail to Naha.
See Transport for more information about transport in Okinawa.
If you are planning to catch the Monorail or visit the Domestic Airport turn to the right once you exit the International Airport. It is about a 3 to 5 minute walk to both of them.
If you are travelling on your own it is much cheaper to take the Monorail than a Taxi, and it stops right at Asato station where the Apartments mention on this site are.
The Domestic Airport is much larger and has many shops and eating places. It is certainly worth a visit prior to your departure, as the International Airport duty free shopping is very limited and in fact only has one shop in the entry hall and another in the departure lounge.

Accommodation in Okinawa

One of the most difficult aspects of travelling to Okinawa for Karate training or holiday is finding affordable and comfortable accommodation that is close to a dojo.
There are apartments close to the Higaonna(IOGKF) dojo and right next to the Jundokan dojo and also the centre of Naha (Kokusai Dori street) available for rent through a local housing company.
Without speaking Japanese or a local contact it is virtually impossible to rent apartments in Okinawa from overseas, therefore we recommend, for all those wishing to travel to Okinawa, to contact Glenn McIlvride who will happily organize your accommodation for you.
Glenn can also help you to organize car hire and assist in case of emergencies.
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The pictures and links will show you what you will be getting. For more information or to book simply e-mail Glenn directly and he will take care of it for you. There are several  types of apartments available for example the Refine,Imperial, Excel Court, Luxor and others.
Also see the Visitors Supports section for more information

Okinawa Visitor Support Services

Glenn McIlvride Glenn McIlvride, originally from New Zealand, has been living in Okinawa for the past 20 years.
Over the past 20 years he has seen many overseas visitors come and go and heard numerous tales of how difficult it is to arrange things here, both before coming and while here in Okinawa.
To help make it easier for non-Japanese speaking visitors to Okinawa (in particular, martial artists) he has been working together with a number of resident businesses, including car hire, and accommodation facilities, to help make visitors Okinawa experience a more comfortable, infinitely less stressful event.
He speaks, read, and writes Japanese fluently and can assist on any arrangements when you are planning your trip to Okinawa.
Please feel free to contact him about accommodations or for information on Okinawa before you travel.

Contact Details:

Glenn McIlvride
Mobile: +81 90-1947-7775
Skype:  glenn_kiwilink

Meals/Food

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Naha has an abundance of eating places every few building blocks apart, serving typical Okinawa cuisine at reasonable prices ranging from around 500 to 1500 Yen, as a basic rule there is no need to spend much more than around 650 to 850 Yen for a meal.
In general none of the restaurant staff does speak any English but most eating places have menus with pictures of meals for you to choose from.
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From my perspective eating out is getting a bit boring after while since the menu is almost the same at every eating place.
Recommend to try out the prepared meals available at every supermarket and department stores, there is a great variety available at very affordable prices ranging from 200 to max. 600 Yen for a fairly large serving.
There are some typical cooked meals available at supermarket ranging from 350 to 550 Yen.
If you are renting an apartment then off course cooking some of your own meals is another option, specially breakfast is better to cook yourself, as the local breakfast usually consists of a few balls of rice with some pickled ginger etc and a bowl of miso soup.
You will also find some fantastic bakeries around Naha in particular at every department store and  supermarkets. Many of them are of high standard with a wide range of selection of breads, cakes and savory's like you find in many western countries.

Sport and Soft Drinks

Some of the sports drinks available in supermarkets to replenish lost salts and minerals during the hot sweat session.
Sports and soft drinks are also available at vending machines on every street corner at around a third of Australian soft drink prices

Shopping

Shureido Shureido Martial Arts, Kobodo, Do-Gi's......

Shopping Centre's

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Sightseeing in Okinawa

Brochures and Maps

After you arrive at the airport and prior to going through immigration take the time to pick up some brochures from the information desk in the entry hall.
The first 3 brochures from the left can be picked up there, however I found that the first two from the left were not available this time in March 2007 and I could not find them at the Tourist bureau either.
All brochures mentioned are in English.
The Naha map at the end (right) can be picked up from the Tourist Bureau in Naha located not far from the Mutsumibashi Dori Market, the Okinawa Magazine is also available there.
The magazines recommended below will be of great help to you, they contain maps, tourist locations with relevant bus numbers, Monorail and bus route information.
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Once you are equipped with some Maps and Brochures you find that most tourist attractions around Naha can be easily reached on foot.
For example to see the Shikanean Royal Gardens it takes just as long to walk from the Shuri station as it does from the Asato stations in town next to the Refine Apartments, there is no need to catch the Monorail to Shuri from Asato.

Transport in Okinawa

On this page you will find some basic "how to" information on the most common transport options in Okinawa.

By Foot

Many of sites around Naha are sometimes better visited on foot, this way you get to know the various parts of the town much quicker and experience more of the local life style.

Travelling by Monorail

The Monorail is a convenient and relative cheap way to get around within Naha.
It will take you from the Airport to the centre of Naha (Kokusai Dori) all the way to Shuri, with several stops close to sightseeing venues along the way. It also stops at Asato about 50 meters to the Refine and Imperial Apartments.
Purchasing a ticket is relative easy, however the ticket machine has a Japanese display only.
To purchase a ticket:
  • have a look at the stations listed above the ticket machines and remember the Kanji characters relating to your station (left picture)
  • touch the equivalent character on the touch screen (centre picture)
  • make sure that station displayed on the next screen is correct (right picture) and enter the requested amount, either coins or paper money and click the blue button. The machine will give to the correct change and the ticket.
  • Once you have purchased a ticket, feed it through the ticket validation machine on entry and also at exit of the departure station. Therefore keep hold of the ticket until departure, the machine will then swallow it for good.
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    At every Monorail station you'll find a map of the local area surrounding the station in Japanese and English, opposite the ticket validation entrance .
    The maps are very easy to read, maybe take a picture if you have digital camera with you and store/view it on your laptop computer for future reference.

    Travelling by Bus

    If you need to travel to places away fro the Monorail it is best to catch a bus. There are many different bus lines and routes, therefore it is not always easy to figure out which one to take.
    The best way to approach this is to check it out first by studying the Brochures and Maps mentioned on the Sightseeing Page, most sightseeing places in these brochures have also the bus numbers listed to get there.
    As a rule it may be better to walk to the Naha Bus Terminal (left picture) and catch the appropriate bus from there until you are more familiar with the bus routes. This may avoid having to wait at a bus station for an hour before realizing it is the wrong one.
    Once you arrive at the bus terminal you may not find anyone speaking English, so you may have to point to maps/brochures etc to demonstrate your desired destination. There is also a display board (econd picture below) that displays the various terminal locations where the buses depart, be aware that there about four different departure locations within the terminal complex. The third picture below shows one of the terminal areas for buses to Okinawa World and other South-East, South-West bound buses.
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    The picture to the left was taken from the entrance of the Refine Apartments and shows the Asato bus station and behind the Asato Monorail Station.

    Purchasing a Bus Ticket

    When getting on a bus:
  • pull a ticket (centre picture below) from the green ticket machine (left picture below)
  • now sit down and wait until you get to your destination, during that time you may check the Zone display (picture below) to see what the current cost is, as the bus crosses another zone the price changes accordingly. During that time you can also get some change from the grey payment machine and prepare to have the correct bus fare ready when reaching the destination.
  • Once you have reached the destination or shortly prior to, compare your ticket number (centre picture below) with the equivalent number on the Zone display above the ticket machine (right picture below), the amount below the Zone number (2 in the example) below is the price you have to pay. Just throw the ticket and correct amount into the gray payment collection machine (left picture below) and exit. If you are travelling with a partner it is advised that you pay separately to avoid confusion and possible having to pay again.
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    Travelling by Taxi

    Taxis are not very expensive and a good option if you are more of you.
    For example we (2 of us) travelled from Gibon Monorail Station to Nishihara and it did not cost any more than travelling by bus, in addition we would have never found the place we were looking for, we found this out when we took the bus back and paid about 1100 Yen for the two of us. I would say if you are more than 2 take a Taxi if you can't walk it.
    Recommend also that you have the destination written down, preferable in Japanese as not all Taxi driver speak English.

    Car Hire

    Car hire is a good way to go if you want to see more of Okinawa in particular the North-East like Nago, Cape Hedo, etc.
    We hired a small car for the day to see most of Okinawa and it cost around 5000 Yen for the day including all insurances and zero excess.
    Have to mention though, that it may be better to pay a bit extra for the next model up to get additional legroom and slightly stronger engine.
    To hire a car:
    • You will require an international drives license.
    • Be aware that they are driving on the left side of the road in Okinawa.
    • Be aware that the speed limit is rarely higher than 40 to 50 km/hour even on the Highway.
    • You may need assistance from an Japanese speaking person to arrange the vehicle and with the paperwork, which is all in Japanese just to be sure what you are signing. Refer to Visitors Support Services for more information.
    • Make sure to return the car with a full tank and in time
    • The car will usually be delivered to your doorstep or as agreed. You can agree where to return the car to, if you are renting an Apartment usually in the basement close to apartments staff/security.