Photo of an island off the coast of Okinawa at sunriseOkinawa is one of the Ryukyu islands that stretch from Southern Japan to Taiwan. Okinawa has its own unique climate, history, and culture which makes it quite different from mainland Japan.

Its subtropical climate, long stretching white sandy beaches, and blueish turquoise water attracts visitors from near and far to wind down and enjoy island life. Due to the island’s surrounding coral reefs, Okinawa is also a popular destination for scuba diving!

Since Okinawa is closely situated to Taiwan and Mainland China, you can find influences of these cultures in the island’s architecture, art, music, and food. One example in particular is Shisa or sometimes known as “guardian dogs”. This variation from Chinese guardian lions, are usually placed on roof tops or entry ways to ward off evil spirits and protect the home. You can spot many versions of Shisa throughout the Ryukyu islands.

From beautiful hibiscus flowers to the tranquil sounds of Sanshin, Okinawa’s rich culture is not to be missed.

For more information about schools in AEON’s Kyushu area click here.

Here’s more from AEON Okinawa School teacher Mitch sensei:

How did you make friends when you first came to Japan?

Picture of Naha Kokusai-Dori School teacher MitchI didn’t know any Japanese when I first came here. Fortunately, this is probably the most foreigner-friendly town in Japan. It was pretty easy to get around without assistance, and pretty easy to communicate when I needed it. It’s also really common to find someone at the bar or soba shop who knows at least a little English. From there, it wasn’t too long before I started making friends with both locals and foreigners.

It’s also pretty important to explore. It’s really easy to get recommendations for places around here from students. If you know some Japanese, it’s pretty easy to make friends with Okinawans, who usually try to meet you halfway with their English skill.

Please describe one of your travels:

My best friend visited in spring, which was really fun! We went to a lot of the sights around the island especially in and around Shuri-jo. We met up with a couple of the friends I have here and we went to a couple of bars afterward. He was here for only two days, but we went to a lot places, and we were exhausted by the end.

I also went around the island once with some coworkers. We went to a couple of beaches and a few touristy places before winding up at Sefa-utaki, which was a very ancient holy site for the Ryukyus. It’s really dense with foliage and close to the ocean, so it felt absolutely magical. I’ve been to the shrines in Dazaifu, but nothing compared to the sheer awesome sight of this forest. Seeing the sun break through the clouds and trees after a while definitely added to the experience. Then we ate Okinawan soba afterward. It was delightful!

For more information about AEON from current and former teachers, see AEON’s reviews on Glassdoor.