Siobhan, one of our staff in Okinawa kindly wrote the below article on free time in the resort area.
The area that the hotel is situated in is admittedly quite remote. Itoman is a quiet fishing city south of Naha and is not really famed as a tourist spot. However despite my first month living here being quite slow, my life in Itoman has become fun and I always have something to do for my days off (and sometimes even not on my days off!) The resort provided us with free bicycles from the first day of our contract, which have become absolutely necessary for getting around here. Personally my favourite things to do in Okinawa are go to the beach, go for a drink and hang out with friends, and all of these things are close by and easy to do. As a typical girl, I also love shopping and eating out with friends, so about a fifteen minute cycle away from the apartments is Ashibinaa Outlet Mall and Tomi-tom Mall. Ashibinaa has a bit more brand-orientated and expensive clothes shops but also has some good restaurants, a Starbucks and is generally good for a walk around. Right next to Ashibinaa is Tomi-tom, a more Japanese style mall with a food court, game centre, Daiso and some cheaper clothes shops. At the Daiso, you can buy absolutely anything you will ever need, ever, for 100yen, so be sure to visit in your first few days there. Also, if my muscles are sore from a hard day at work I like to head to the Yamada Denki next door and take advantage of the free massage chairs!
Another good thing about this area is the beautiful Toyosaki beach close by. In Okinawa people are incredibly friendly and generous and many days have been spent at the beach making new friends, having a barbeque and practising Japanese. It can be scary at first to just start talking to people you don’t know but it is always worth it and you can experience so many different things that you might not get to otherwise.
If you fancy a quieter day near the dorm there is a McDonalds (which is good for studying in), a family restaurant, a Tsutaya and other similar types of stores. There are also quite a few supermarkets and discount grocery stores, so if you enjoy cooking it’s not hard to find the things you need from there. Beside the hotel there is also a farmers market which is fantastic for cheaper fruits and vegetables, with more variety.
With regards to nightlife, there are no clubs in walking distance but there are plenty of bars, izakaya’s and karaoke in Itoman – the former being quite expensive and the latter being the cheapest option.
Going to bars is great fun because there is often free pool or darts and for me it is the best way to make friends and practise Japanese, thanks to the casual and relaxed atmosphere. Izakaya’s are great to go to with a group of friends and especially as the food is really good – they specialise in Okinawan food, and the proprietors have been known to break out the sanshin if asked!
Karaoke is the quintessential Japanese leisure activity and there is a very cheap karaoke directly opposite the staff dormitory. Whilst in an Okinawa travel, it is crucial that you learn the Orion beer song, not just because it is sung at every single Okinawan karaoke gathering, you can also impress/amuse your mainland friends with your newfound fluency in Okinawa-ben.
Living in Itoman has been very different to other places I have lived, especially not having a car or motorbike to travel further afield in, but having to go and find things to do has opened up so many new experiences for me and I’ve made some great friends. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone at times, but with an open mind and a sense of humour there is absolutely no reason to be bored in Okinawa!
Article written by Siobhan Grennan. September 2013.