I went last night to a presentation from the Okinawa Tourism Board. Granted, it was really plastic-y, like the kind of presentation you’d expect from Tourism Board people, the kind of presentation you expect from people trying to sell you something, advertising how nice their beach resorts are, like they’re trying to sell you on a cruise or ski getaway or a timeshare. But, of course, I needed no convincing, and I should hope that the same goes for the rest of the audience (which was something like 99% ethnic Okinawan).
Now, I don’t exactly have the money to be going on a vacation, but this presentation sure got me revved up to go on one. And I certainly would not be staying at any stupid beach resorts. I love Okinawa for its culture, not for the beaches and nonsense which I can get elsewhere (e.g. here, in Hawaii).
I especially appreciated that the materials they handed out included lots of information about the outer islands. I’ve of course known for a while that I’d love to visit some of these places – Yonaguni, Hateruma (southernmost point in Japan), Taketomi (known for its traditional culture experience), Ishigaki, Iriomote, etc. – but I never really took the time to look too deeply into what each of these islands had to offer. Now, thanks to these pamphlets, I have a bit of a better idea.
So, I thought I might share some of my thoughts with you all. Not many people know very much about Okinawa – even amongst Japan Studies people – and, I’m sure, people know even less about the other islands. So, in my next post, I’ll provide a quick rundown of some of the cool things I’d love to go see/do in the Ryukyus, which will hopefully prove entertaining, interesting, and/or informative.
In the meantime, I found out about a great special deal that seems to be a major savings off of regular fares. I just popped over to Kayak, Orbitz, and a couple other sites, and found fares from Haneda (Tokyo) to Naha (Okinawa) in the range of US$540.
But, apparently, there’s this thing called the “Welcome to Japan Fare” that’s only 13,000 yen, or 10,000 yen if you fly JAL or a oneworld partner to Japan. To be clear, that means you’re paying normal full price (or whatever kind of deal you can find) to get to Japan, and then from there, you’re paying something around $125-160 for the flight to Okinawa from the Japanese “mainland.”
Okinawa’s obviously the best “bang for your buck” destination, in terms of sheer distance from Tokyo, but it seems like this same special deal is valid for domestic travel between any of 30 Japanese cities. No need to go to Okinawa at all.
Then, you pay 9000 yen for a “Okinawa Island Pass” to go from Okinawa to Kumejima, Miyakojima, or Ishigaki-jima; and then another 9000 yen to go from one of those islands to another one, or from Ishigaki to Yonaguni.
So, in short, you can pay $540 on a discount deals site like Travelocity just to go from Tokyo to Okinawa, or you can pay 28,000 yen ($350 at the current exchange rate) to go from Tokyo to Okinawa, to Miyako, and then to Yonaguni, spending time on each of those islands in between, spending a relative pittance (I would assume) to take ferries to other smaller islands that don’t have airports, spend time there, in between…
Sounds like a pretty damn good deal to me. Now we just need to find a way to afford the airfare to get to Japan to begin with…
All photos my own, from my one brief trip to Naha in 2008; I have yet to visit anywhere else on Okinawa Island, or other islands in the prefecture, but I sure would love to.