It’s been almost three years since we left Okinawa and I still miss it. It’s weird how that island gets in your senses and in your soul. It felt like home to me, more than any other place the military has moved us. I know not everyone is in agreement with me on their love for the island, but those that get….really get it. It’s hard to accurately explain why we love Oki so much, but these are a few of those things.
It sounds stupid, right? You’ve never experienced the greatness of the convience store until you’ve frequented what I consider the holy trinity – Family Mart, Lawson’s, and Coco’s. Stop at any of them and find a great snack. They all have delicious, fresh food and a lot of it is pretty good for you! You could buy lunch there everyday and be eating great. We had a Coco’s right down the street from our house and they had a bakery. Best bread and pastries ever. We used to walk down all the time for snacks. I still jokingly ask my son if he’ll run down to Coco’s and get snacks.
The Best Customer Service
Japanese people are polite in everything they do. This also leads to great customer service. I don’t recall ever having a bad experience and there were many occasions where we had a dozen women at a table trying to order dinner. Admittedly, the language barrier would sometimes pose problems, but they were always so nice about it, even though I was in their country not speaking their language. Then there was that one time I was at a home store and they gave me a free beer when I checked out. Not sure what that was about, but free beer!
I have never felt so safe as I did in Okinawa. Half the time, I never locked my car doors. We would send our 7 year old down the street to the convenience store and he had to cross a relatively busy 2 lane road. I used to walk/run at night and never worried for my safety. It was normal to see little kids, like three years old, walking down the street. The crime rate is so low. We live in a pretty safe place now, but it still doesn’t compare.
There is nothing like a good Okinawa festival, at least in my opinion. Festivals for everything from beer, to flowers, to giant tug of wars, to dancing, to celebrating their dead. That and yakitori. With little kids, that was our go to festival food.
Speaking of yakitori, you can’t go wrong with the food. The only thing I pretty much knew about Japanese food when we moved to Okinawa was sushi. I liked sushi, but I had no idea what all was out there. Little things like grabbing onigiri from Family Mart, a quick dinner at the 100 yen Sushi Go Round, or going out for a huge dinner and trying things based on the pictures (it always worked out good), the food always surprised and delighted me.
Tell me I’m wrong. I liked to find more secluded beaches (my favorite is on Hamahiga), but even popular ones like Araha and Torii are just as pretty.
How many times did you go to the 100 Yen Store and buy stuff you didn’t need, just because it was cute, like dishes. Or go to the Bunny Store and buy new clothes for your kids that they surely didn’t need, just because they were too cute to resist. I know I did. I still do it anytime I go to a Daiso store in the states. I went to one a couple weeks ago in Dallas and spent $50. They only thing I can tell you for sure that I bought was bread. My husband was really excited when I came home with it.
They are everywhere! Seriously. I read there is something like one vending machine for every 23 people in Japan. In mainland Japan they also sell just about everything, but Okinawa stuck to drinks mostly, including beer. They also still sold cigarettes out of vending machines. They always came along at the best times too. Biking around IE Island and I’m starting to get thirsty and what do I see? A vending machine coming to my rescue.
The Okinawans are some of the most genuinely nice people. At the PX once, my daughter managed to fall out of the cart. She was maybe 2 (if you know my daughter, you know how easy it is to imagine this happening). Two ladies came running over and sat with me while we made sure she was ok and she and I both cried. We all sat there, in the middle of the aisle, for a good five minutes. One rainy morning, a lady rear ended me. No big deal, we were going downhill and it was literally a tap. When the MP’s and the translator showed up, he told me how sorry she was and that she promised to be more careful. The poor woman looked so upset I just wanted to hug her. I wasn’t upset. It was an accident and neither one of our cars or us was hurt. Could you imagine someone telling you, after they hit you, that they promised to drive more carefully? Then there was that time a lady at Family Mart said I looked like Katy Petty. Obviously I don’t, but that made my week! I can think of so many other examples, but they really are in a class all their own.