Anni’s Okinawa Survival Guide
By: Sensei Anni Moynihan – IOGKF International
FOREWORD BY EDITOR: When I was staying in Okinawa for the first time, I felt lost in some ways within the rules of Okinawan Culture. I was fortunate enough to have access to this guide and take it with me on all of my trips. Although written some years ago, for me it remains the most useful guide of its type for visiting Okinawa...
GENERAL SURVIVAL ETIQUETTE
Please don’t forget to take your shoes off.
Don’t leave your shoes lying in the entrance way. Put them in the stands provided.
If you have to leave then in the entrance way make sure they are placed neatly and
Try not to step on the ground when you take your shoes off.
Don’t sit down on the entrance way to tie up your shoes.
When in the dojo don’t sit with your legs out in front of you or pointing at another
Also, when in a dojo (formally) you must have your legs covered. No shorts or dresses.
This is true of both Zen dojo and Karate dojo.
Don’t put your chopsticks upright in your food.
Don’t spear your food with your chopsticks or pull dishes towards you.
Don’t pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks.
When in polite company you should reverse your chopsticks to take food from the
dish. (i.e.use the side your mouth has not).
Many Students when they come to train also like to experience Zazen.
The Kozenji International Zen Temple in Shuri can offer you the chance.
The name of the Roshi at this temple is Sakiyama Sogen Roshi, and training is strict.
Please note doing Zazen is a personal choice. It is not a requirement.
An introduction is necessary (and polite) so you should consult with Higaonna Sensei or another Zen student before going.
If you have bad knees please note that the initiation session requires you to sit 30
Minutes outside the dojo in Seiza. (Knees tucked under you). The rest of the session is spent in either the half or full lotus position (as shown above).
Zen sessions are Monday - Saturday every morning 6-7am. Sunday sessions are 2
hours and start at 10am.
What to wear:
If you do a Zazen session, just wearing a Dogi is fine but please DON’T wear your
belt. Plain, dark colour clothing with no monograms/patterns is also OK. Shorts are
unacceptable. As with the Karate dojo, no watches, socks or cell phones in the dojo.
How to do?
Proper explanation of how to sit correctly in Zazen and instruction in breathing will
be given by a senior at the temple.
A brief explanation is that you sit in either half or full lotus position (cross legged
with one foot or both on the opposite thigh) on a cushion with your back straight.
With eyes half closed (never fully) fix your gaze about a meter in front of you. Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose. Breathing should not be forced. Concentrate on the exhalation breath. Hands are in the Zazen position in your lap, left on top of right.
Zen etiquette is rather complex, but basically if you are sitting in Zazen you should
not move or shuffle about. There is no talking during Zazen, but you are allowed to cough or sneeze.
Zen Temple Location:
Kozenji is in Shuri, near the castle and not far from the main gate the ‘Shurei no
mon’. If you take a taxi to here and then walk through the tunnel you will see a sign
on the right for ‘Zen Meditation centre’. Turn down this path and the temple is just
down a little way on the left.
The only transport option at 5.30 am is either walking, bicycle or a taxi. From Higaonna Dojo a taxi takes less than 10 minutes and costs around ¥700.
Walking is free and takes 40 to 50 mins, biking about 25 mins. It is advisable to take an extra T-shirt if walking/biking and a towel.
HOSPITAL / DOCTOR
Largely doctors in Japan speak only rudimentary English, but you should be able to
get your point across.
Emergency hospital: Naha city: (098) 877-1199
Adventist Medical center: Doctors here speak English (098) 946-2833
Okinawa central hospital: (1-2-6 Yogi District) (098) 854 5511
119. The word help is ‘Tasu kete kudasai’.
Ambulance is ‘Kyu Kyu Sha’
POLICE: Naha city police station 098 836 0110
Banks are closed weekends and National holidays. Banking hours are Mon- Friday
10am to 3.30pm.
You can exchange travellers cheques and foreign currency at most main branches,
including the post office.
MONEY MACHINES ( ATMs)
Beware! ATM machines in Japan are only open Monday to Friday 10.am – 7pm, and
on weekends 10am - 5pm. They are not open 24 hours.
Post office ATM’s offer a guide in English and accept most major credit cards.
The post office is open Monday to Friday 10am – 5pm. Main branches only are open
until 12noon on a Saturday. They are closed Sundays and public holidays.
A mark that looks like a T with an extra stroke is the symbol for a post office.
Generally it costs 50¥ to send a postcard and 80¥ to send a letter. For
International rates just hand your letter to the staff at the counter and they will let
Stamps can be brought from vending machines outside the post office.
For information in English phone Naha City post office: 098 853-3390 or 098 853
If your hotel (minshiku) doesn’t have a laundry service there is sure to be a
Laundromat nestled away somewhere nearby.
You will need to use 100 yen coins and bring your own laundry detergent. It
generally costs ¥300 to wash and ¥100 every 10 mins of dryer time.
Not that you need to use a dryer in summer. Beware though, thefts do occur, so it
pays to keep an eye on your things.
Telephones in Japan are colour coded.
A green phone takes either coins or a phone card and is used for making domestic
A gray Telephone can be used for domestic or International calls. Cards or coins can
be used and there is a guide in English on the telephone display.
Pre paid calling cards are available at convenience stores, (lawsons , family mart, hot spar etc.) or you can make collect calls or use your own credit calling service. The country code for Japan is ‘81’ (+98 for Okinawa).
Clothing and shoe sizes will differ. When trying on clothes remember to leave your
shoes outside the changing room. Don’t despair when you keep being pointed towards the large fitting section.
Some places to shop in Naha:
Martial artists clothing and accessory mecca. It is on Sogenji dori just down from the
stone gates of Sogen temple. Just ask the Taxi to take you to Sogenji. If you walk,
head to the very north end of Kokusai dori and take the road that turns left. This is
Sogenji Dori. (You will be at an intersection just past the stone Lions that guard either end of Kokusai dori. Across the road is the ‘san A’ supermarket. Go left.)
Just keep walking down Sogenji dori (about 10 minutes) till you come to the Stone
gates and the shop is on the left.
New outlet mall offers discount brand name merchandise, such as Armani, etc. The
easiest way to get there is to take the monorail to the airport station and a taxi from
there. There is no bus service.
Slightly older mall, opposite the Hyper Hotel. Has a good food court and you can buy
wide variety of boxed lunches at the supermarket inside.
Not too far from the Budokan. Take the monorail and get off at Oroku station.
Kokusai Dori and Heiwa Dori market:
Best places for souvenir shopping. Better discounts can be found further to the back
of the market. The 100¥ shop is always fun. Try the goya or squid ink ice-cream for a challenge or shiquasar juice freshly squeezed for refreshment.
In middle of Kokusai Dori opposite the entrance to the markets. Good example of a
Japanese department store in the upper price range. Good quality items at a price
but they always come nicely wrapped! (Wrapping and labels often being more
important than the item in Japan.)
Shinto shin/Naha main place:
New shopping mall with a wide variety of shops and a cinema complex. To get there
either take a taxi or take the monorail to ‘Omoromachi station’ and walk about 5mins
Huge thing also in Shin to shin. Directly linked to the Monorail and ‘Omoromachi
Station’. Also carries all the name brands such as Chanel, Amarni, Dior cosmetics
etc. Note that nothing in these shops is likely to be cheap.
Another big Japanese department store at the South end of Kokusai Dori. Linked
to the Kencho Mae station.
Famous RyuKyu pottery. Located at the back of the Heiwa Dori markets, (not far
from the Higaonna Dojo in fact) Tsuboya pottery museum is also here.
THINGS TO BUY:
Stenciled Okinawan fabric, usually in bright colors such as orange and yellow. You
can buy some nice Yukata (a kind of summer robe/kimono) in the markets made from bingata at reasonable prices. (1500¥ upwards). Handkerchiefs, etc and bags are also popular.
Okinawan guardian lion dogs. Male has an open mouth(shouting happiness) and the female a closed mouth (catching the happiness).
Traditional 3 stringed Okinawan instrument, made from snakeskin.
25,000¥upwards (you may find one cheaper.)
Famous type of Okinawan pottery.
Unique Okinawan process, expensive but lovely. Many shops on Kokusai dori sell this.
Okinawa food products often contain pork. Pork is the main dish of Okinawan people
and bits of it turn up in lots of things - even broth.
If you are a vegetarian or non pork eater try saying ‘Niku nashi’. (“No meat”) or ‘buta
niku nashi’ (“No pork please.”)
Be aware that though you may have avoided the beef/pork dishes they may bring
dishes with fish in then anyway. Vegetarians in Japan need good communication skills and patience.
You will have to convince your waiter/waitress that you really don’t want
meat/pork/chicken/fish/shrimp/horse/whale/dolphin at all.
Soba: thin buckwheat noodles.
Udon: a thicker wheat noodle.
Tempura: various food deep fried in batter.
Yakitori: grilled chicken.
Sashimi: raw fish.
Sushi: raw fish on rice.
Miso soup: soybean paste soup.
Sukiyaki: beef and vegetables in soy sauce.
Tofu: soybean curd.
Tonkatsu: fried pork cutlet.
Champuru is the Okinawan word for ‘mixture’. There are many kinds of Champuru
foods in Okinawa. Usually contain vegetables, tofu and spam (canned pork that is
still very popular since the war).
Somen champuru is made from thin noodles (somen) with tuna.
Goya Champuru contains Goya : A bitter melon, green like a cucumber with warts &
High in vitamins.
Okinawa Soba/naha soba/ soki soba: Soba noodle in pork broth soup, with pieces of pork.
Ude tofu: A boiled tofu dish.
Mimi gwa: Thinly sliced pigs ears in a peanut sauce.
Mozoku: Seaweed dish. Quite refreshing and healthy.
Taco rice: Okinawan version of a taco except made with rice. Strangely it does taste
like a Taco.
Tebichi: Broiled pig’s feet
Orien beer: THE Okinawan brew (in my opinion)!
Helios: another Okinawan beer, not as popular as orien. I will let the connoisseurs
Awamori: Okinawan spirits/firewater. A type of sake usually mixed with water and
ice before drinking.
Habu sake: Awamori with the local poisonous snake (a habu) fermenting in the
Goya juice: has to be tasted to be believed. Goya is bitter Okinawan melon.
Shiquasar juice: Shiquasar is a citrus fruit. A cross between lemon, lime and unripe
mandarin, the taste is sharp but refreshing.
Water is drinkable in Naha city but doesn’t always taste so good. Bottled water is
Sports drinks: Good for during training and those sweating a lot in the heat. Try
Pocari Sweat (yes I know it sounds bad), Aquarious or the more familiar Gatorade.
June to September is Typhoon season in Okinawa. Typhoons do like to lurk around
Okinawa and play, but there is plenty of advance warning and they don’t stay for too
Okinawan sun can be very hot especially on the outer islands and in the water.
Always take sunscreen and a hat and sunglasses because you’re gonna fry!
Humidity is very high. Wearing cotton is preferable. (Even if it is a heavy dogi)
Drink plenty of water. Drink plenty of water, drink more water.
There are a few Internet cafes around. Most can be found on Kokusai Dori. If you want to do some printing out /downloading, etc you can go to a net café.
‘Space create’ is at the north end of Kokusai Dori on second floor almost opposite theTakara records shop and near the bus stop. 500¥ per hour, drinks free. Also offers use of pool and ping pong tables and you can hire and watch DVDs.
NET Café is in middle of Kokusai Dori located on second floor next to the Doutors
coffee shop. (Not far from Mitsukoshi Department store) Price is 500 ¥ per hour,
Car rental is very simple. Don’t forget to bring your International license with you. If
you rent a car please remember there is 0 tolerance in Japan for drinking and driving.
It is law to wear a seatbelt and no driving in the bus lane (theoretically). As far as I
can tell scooters are exempt from any road rules. Some riders can even smoke, talk
on their cell phone and ride at the same time. It’s amazing. You will often see them
belting towards you along the footpath, so pedestrians be careful.
Rent a car / Rent a bike/ Rent a Bicycle: Several services offered. Check around
tourist brochures etc.
There are many taxi services in Okinawa. Just wave your hand at the driver and
they should stop for you. A red sign in the front window means the Taxi is free. A
green sign means it is occupied. Fares start from 450 yen and go up from there.
Taxi drivers in Naha are generally kind and honest.
The monorail (yu ru rail) is reasonably cheap and very handy for getting around
Naha city. (200-260 yen). Maps/ timetables are available at the station but basically
there is a train every 10 minutes so you won’t be waiting long. The first train is at
around 6am and the last train of the night is at around 11.30. It runs from Naha
airport to Shuri.
Stops that are handy to know are:
Makishi or Asato stations, both near the Higaonna dojo, (at the North end of Kokusai dori).
Asato station is opposite the RyuBo supermarket
Oroku station near Jusco department store and the Hyper Hotel,
Tsubogawa or Onoyama Koen station near the Budokan.
Asahibashi station near the Ryu Kyu bank and Naha bus terminal,
Kencho mae station connects to the Ryubo department store and is at the south end of Kokusai St.
Miebashi station is near the Daiei department store.
Omoromachi station connects to the DFS department store and is near Naha main
place shopping and cinema complex.
Shuri station is about 10 mins walk from Shuri castle. The bus (#1) is better if you
don’t want to walk.
There are many ferries that leave from Tomari in (Tomari port) for the surrounding
islands. You can make day trips to Tokashiki or Zamami island. March is whale
watching season. Tickets can be brought directly from the port office (you don’t
usually need to book in advance) or ask at the Okinawa tourist information office on
Okieidori (just off Kokusai Dori, down from Starbucks coffee) and they can help you.
All buses routes 1 – 20 are city buses and will usually trundle down Kokusai Dori and
end up at Naha bus terminal. Flat fee of 200¥ paid into box beside driver as you enter the bus.
Buses numbered 20 plus are suburban lines. Take a ticket as you get on and pay when you get off according to your ticket number.
Places to visit by bus or on foot:
Shuri castle and park (World Heritage site)
Number: 1,12,13,14,17. ¥200 Get off at Shuri jo koen mae. Admission ¥800. (Or take
the monorail to Shuri Station and walk about 10 mins).
Shikina en (Royal family gardens, UNSCO site)
Number: 1 or 5 bus. 200¥. Get off at ‘Maji’ bus stop. Entrance fee ¥300. Closed
Number: 1 or 12, 13, 17. ¥200. Get off at shurijo koen iriguchi or tonokura. 3 mins
walk from stop (behind shuri castle).
From Naha main bus terminal take the Naha Itoman line number 89, ¥.500 Then
transfer at the Itoman terminal to the #82 bus ¥400 to the Heiwa peace memorial
park. (Get off at Heiwa kinen kouen mae) Bus every 20mins.
Former underground navy headquaters
From Naha terminal number 33, 46 or 101. Get off at Tomigusuku koen mae and
follow the signs, 10 min walk.
Chinese garden made to resemble the gardens in Fukien province China. Fuiken is
the sister city of Naha and where white crane style Kung Fu developed.
If you turn right at the intersection at the far South end of Kokusai St and head for
the sea you are going in the right direction. The street you are looking for is called
The gardens are closed on Wednesdays.
Kanryo Higaonna Sensei and Miyagi Chojun Sensei Memorial site
Just across the road from the Fukushu Gardens is a small park. Up on the small
hill on the left is a stone memorial to Higaonna Kanryo Sensei and Miyagi Chojun
Naminoue beach and Naminoue Shinto Shrine.
From the park/gardens on Matsuyama road keep heading straight down towards the
sea and you will come to the beach and up on the hill, the shrine.
Tipping is not necessary in Japan.
Visa: (The permit to stay, not the credit card) If you have a problem with your visa
check with your embassy.
Baths: You are supposed to shower before you get in the bath. If you use the public
bath don’t soap up in the tub!
Convenience stores: Usually open 24hours the main ones are: lawsons, hot spar and family mart. Most things including phone cards and stamps can be brought from
Helpline: Japan Helpline is a 24 hour service, toll free and offers advice in many
Photo booths: There are many, usually outside supermarkets or inside malls.
Embassies: Please try the helpline or ask at Okinawa tourist office to help with embassy/ consulate numbers.
Habu is the poisonous snake of Okinawa. It is nocturnal, brown with triangular head
and white belly. Usually hides in old stone walls or hangs out in trees at dusk (a bit
like a surly teenager of snakes) but now seldom found in the city other than in the
bottom of a sake jar. If bitten (highly unlikely unless you go blundering through a
cane field at dusk), Call 119 and seek help ASAP!
Big, brown with white collars and wings. Not to be taken lightly as have been known
to steal houses and run away with them on their backs. Otherwise harmless. The
Higaonna dojo has a few as pets.
Large and lots of them. Very hungry for your legs and ankles during training. At this
time no known disease carriers so harmless other than a bump and a scratch.
Geckos (yama mori)
Harmless and very cool in my opinion. Like to sing to you at night and catch the
There are a few critters in the water you need to be aware of.
The crown of thorn starfish, Box Jellyfish and Scorpion fish all leave nasty stings
that need medical attention. Also there is a sea snake to be aware of, but I’m not sure how well he can get his (or her) teeth into you so don’t panic (yet). Sharks aren’t seen too often but needless to say they enjoy cruising the nice warm Okinawan seas too.
Generally swimming areas have nets that keep theses critters out and the floor has
been swept free. However it always pays to know where you’re putting your feet. If you go diving wear the boots and watch the hands.
The Okinawa tourist information bureau is a great place to go for information on
sightseeing, booking trips to outer islands, diving excursions etc. Located on corner
of Okeidori and Kokusai dori (Starbucks is on the corner) they have English
pamphlets, internet booking access and staff who are really nice and helpful.
Another place to get in on the local English speaking hub is the Rehab bar and
café on Kokusai street. Someone there is bound to be able to answer your questions, connect you to someone else or help in general. Also has range of English books and magazines you can borrow, satalite TV and free internet access. Also good friends of mine so I am bias in this report! It is opposite the Mitsukoshi department store and not far from the Heiwa markets.
Here are some web sites about Okinawa you may find of interest or help.
The information I have provided in this article is as accurate as I could get, but of
course it is subject to change.
If you have any comments or notes please let me know.