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Somewhere way south of Japan lies Okinawa, which is not just a prefecture, but a collection of islands that are scattered across the ocean. Thanks to its balmy weather and soft sandy beaches (coupled with its awesome reputation for its cuisine), Okinawa has, until recently, been a destination for tourists from other parts of Japan.
Follow Me Japan has a flash sale going for their direct chartered flight to Okinawa (9 Sep – 13 Sep 2014), with 5D4N package going at just S$790 per person. Booking closes pretty soon.
As a chain of islands, Okinawa has plenty of attractions depending on which island you are on.
The main island, also known as Okinawa, is home to Naha, a bustling city with several interesting food markets and Kokusai Street, which is similar to Orchard Road. Not too far from town is the historic red-tiled Shuri Castle, the entrance gate of which is imprinted on the ¥2,000 note.
Another popular island is tiny Taketomi, which is a village that’s preserved much of its ancient architecture. Clay-tiled roofs and stone walls here are often decorated with shisa – cute little statues of stone lion guardians. In fact, shisa are very prominent all throughout Okinawa – all you have to do is look up at rooftops.
Food, Glorious Food
You’ve probably heard that Okinawa is famous for its centenarian residents, most of whom credit local food – from goya (bittergourd) to awamori (rice liquor) – as their secret to longevity.
“Champuru” is a common dish that can be found at many restaurants around Okinawa, and is basically a variety of food that’s mixed and fried (usually with egg and tofu). The slightly bitter goya champuru is a perennial favourite, which is packed with vitamin C and antioxidants.
Rafute (stewed pork) is another iconic dish, which is stewed for hours until it falls off the bone. More pork is used to make another famous local dish: sokisoba, which is a thick wheat noodle dish topped with boneless ribs. Another popular noodle dish is somen champuru – basically fried noodles with tuna flakes.
Thanks to American influence, fusion dishes like taco rice (rice with Mexican taco topping) is unique to Okinawa.
You’ll notice that at most restaurants, there is a little bowl of dried brown sugar at the table – it’s not for your drinks, as it’s eaten as a sort of after dinner mint by the locals. Made from sugar cane, this brown sugar – or kokutou – is one of the islands’ main produce, and can be bought from any local souvenir shop.
Another popular product is the awamori, or distilled rice liquor. There are several local distilleries spread across the Okinawa islands, and you can often drop by for a visit (and perhaps a tasting).
If you have a sweet tooth, you can always drop by one of the many dessert shops that sell prepackaged goodies. A must-try are sweets made from local purple sweet potato.
WIN A TRIP TO OKINAWA
If you think you can cook, then join our CAMPUS COOKOUT contest. Submit a photo of your culinary creation, and if you make it to our Kitchen Challenge round, you’ll stand a chance to WIN a 5D4N trip to Okinawa! Applications close 22 August.