Okinawa is an unforgettable place for sure, but you will still want some physical reminders of the great time you’ve had there! What are the best souvenirs to bring back home along with the precious memories?
Kokusai Dori and Makishi Public Market (牧志公設市場) are packed with souvenir stores, and each of these stock a myriad of interesting knick knacks! Ones that caught my attention were the screaming chicken, which are basically an air pump that makes a siren-like noise when the chicken’s belly is squeezed, pouches made of frogs (I don’t actually know if these are real or not..), little seashell lamps and wind chimes, star shaped sand souvenir bottles, and kariyushi shirts which are Okinawan-Hawaiian shirts. There are also glassware stores that make necklaces, pendants, keyrings, and almost any type of accessory of coloured glass. The hotaru ishi (蛍石), or firefly stone, is a blown iridescent blue with a black undertone glass, and it is dimly beautiful.
My personal favourite is yubi-habu (指ハブ), or a “finger snake”; it’s a trap coarsely woven from straws and it tightens around your finger when you pull on it! There’s a special trick for retrieving your finger from the snake ;)
A little away from Kokusai Dori is the Pottery Village, where all the pottery art is concentrated. Teapots, bowls, cups, and all sorts of clayware can be found there. Different Ryukyu designs of the shisa (シーサー), a pair of guardian lion dogs commonly seen in front of temples and houses, are sold here, ranging from simple carvings to more intricate and elaborate sculptures.
Everywhere you look, there will be greenery! Palm trees, plants with fan-like leaves, plants with weird looking fruits. These are plants that grow in tropical climates and are unique to this part of Japan! Not to forget, there is also a plethora of wildlife underwater! Picking live plants or corals is a definite no-no, but ones that are dead or have fallen on the ground are free for all! Pressed flowers or leaves, and hardened dead coral or shells along the beach make perfect personable souvenirs.
Okinawan people are friendly beyond any measure, and have a very bright, sunny disposition! Just like the weather! Also, the Okinawan word for “Welcome!” is “Mensore! (めんそーれ)” which is different from the usual “Irasshaimase! (いらっしゃいませ)” used in the other parts of Japan. The hustle and bustle of city life may only be minutely seen in Naha, but other than that, island life is wonderful and peaceful and welcoming, everything one could dream of and more.
The dorms and inns (minshuku 民宿) that we stayed at were run by very nice and friendly people, the travellers in the dorms were also very open in sharing their experiences and thoughts, and the minshuku hosts made it all the more welcoming and homely (breakfast was heartwarmingly awesome). We stayed in guest houses in Naha and Zamami, a lovely little pension in Onna village, and pitched a rented tent at Kenmin no Mori (県民の森) campground near Onna.