A Japan trip: Okinawa and Shikoku, Day 3

I wake up early since I have to go to the airport to fly to Okinawa. I told the owner the night before I would be leaving early, before their breakfast time, so they prepared it before hand and left it in the table for me, which is a nice detail. Breakfast itself is not that good, just the typical american style but nothing special.

I take the skyliner direction Narita, which takes about 1 hour from Akabane station, with a stop at Nippori. The skyliner is a train that requires reservation, so I’m forced to pay two times: first for the distance (Nippori -> Narita) and another time for a reservation of the seat. This is the normal system that trains use in Japan and it’s actually useful when there are non-reserved seats in a train: allows people to board trains that are already fully booked. Fortunately there are seats available for this train and this specific time but if not I would’ve had to wait till the next one or maybe take another train altogether. Kind of risky if you are on-the-go as I do!

I arrive the airport around 1h and 30 min before departure. I see that my airline is weighting and measuring people’s bags for cabin clearance. As I now my backpack weighs a little more than 7kg, I decide not to let them check as I’m sure Japanese strictness will force me to check-in my small (but heavy!) backpack. The company is Vanilla Air, which is a low cost with direct lines to Okinawa, Ishigaki and some other parts of Japan; a child company of ANA. Even though it’s low cost, the service is quite good, not as annoying as Ryanair, for example. We have some delay due to airport congestion, so we end up taking off 1 hour later than expected.

As I arrive to the airport there is an OTS representative waiting for me. OTS is the car rental company I’ll be using during this trip in Okinawa. They pick me up right after leaving the plane and take me in their bus to their central offices. They gave me a Toyota Corolla Axio hybrid. I have never driven in the left side so they give me some rough instructions. The girl at the counter is the typical American-Japanese, which speaks very good English and has personality traits of both cultures.

There is even a crashed vehicle right when you enter the facility to give you a warning that you have to be careful! First 10 minutes driving I thought I was gonna crash any time, but after that you get the handle of it and you start feeling comfortable.

Yuinchi Nanjo

My hotel is up in a hill in the Nanjo area, so it’s about 40 min from the Naha airport. I have chosen not to change hotels or travel to other islands as I want to deeply explore just Okinawa. I will visit the rest of them another time.

Getting to the hotel took longer than expect, so I don’t have much time to start exploring the island. I go to a shopping mall to buy some essentials and get some cash. Getting cash in Japan can be complicated as there are not much ATMs that will take international cards. In Okinawa you just have a couple brands, normally located in Japan Post offices, Family Marts of big shopping malls like Aeon. I go to an izakaya to have some dinner. This one is quite funny: is a mix between Italian and American styles. They are surprised to see a foreigner since this is Haebaru (南風原町), a small town of 37000, not very touristy. As I walk in some stores I notice they are full of Halloween motives. This festivity is big in Japan!

Haebaru Halloween

Before wrapping up the day, I decide to visit the hotel Onsen. This onsen is adjacent to the hotel and form parts of the same resort. It’s actually quite good and I have unlimited access as part of my booking. The water is brownish and very salted (about 80%) but contains also all kinds of minerals, acids, calcium and the like. It’s completely untreated and the temperature is about 45º. There are also other typical pools like the cold one, a normal sento at 40º degrees and a 90º sauna. I would say this is one of the best onsen I’ve ever been.