Okinawa Gozaimasu

Onna, Japan

We’ve spent most of our getaways this year exploring different places in Japan. These trips were fairly heavily scheduled trying to see and do as much as possible. Okinawa was another location on our bucket list. We aren’t going to be able to travel this summer due to a variety of reasons, so I wanted to get in another holiday before Mike was tied to his desk for the next few months. Although Okinawa has several recommended attractions, we really wanted to hang by the beautiful East China Sea. I found a fantastic deal on a resort in Onna that was recommended as the best beaches on the main island. I found cheap airfare and a limousine bus that would pick us up at the airport and drop us at the resort. We could simply relax for a few days. Mike’s reaction was incredulous when I told him that my plan was just to stay at the resort. “You planned a vacation where we aren’t sight-seeing?” He quickly added, “I’m not complaining. I’m just surprised.”

The flight to Okinawa was only three hours long, but the actual getting there took much longer than we’d initially figured. Flights out of Haneda were more than twice the cost of flights out of further away Narita. This meant we had to leave our house about 4 1/2 hours before our departure time. It was my first time flying out of Narita, and I did find the Narita Express train to be easy and relaxing although pricey. The Okinawa Airport Limousine bus amended their schedule on April 1st (after I had planned everything). Now the first bus after our arrival wasn’t departing until three hours after we landed. I discovered this schedule change the day before we left and contemplated renting a car. However, I didn’t want to spend an extra $300 for a car we weren’t planning on using otherwise. Our flight was delayed so we had less time to kill at the Okinawa airport. There was a nice observation area to watch the commercial planes and Japanese fighter jets train. It also had coin-operated car, bus and plane “rides” which Will happily played on for free. We were anxious to get to our hotel but time passed quickly. The ride to the hotel was about an hour and fifteen minutes via a pretty boring toll road. Will happily watched a movie and overall did great with what amounted to an entire day spent traveling.

It was approaching dusk when we arrived at the large resort. We were all starving so headed down the street to a burger joint. Unfortunately, it was closed. Will was quite disappointed, and Mike didn’t want to try another restaurant with him melting down. We headed into Family Mart, a convenience store, and grabbed dinner in there. Will loves conbini meals so he was happy with this decision. We ate dinner on our balcony overlooking the beach, and all of us got excited about the days ahead. We decided to go for a night stroll on the beach. Several people had sparklers and were letting off small fireworks. Will was enthralled. A family from Hong King shared some sparklers with Will which absolutely made his day.
On Friday, we woke up to glorious weater. Our hotel breakfast buffet was enormous and yummy. Will was delighted to find a bouncy castle by the outdoor tables. After breakfast, I sent Mike to gift shop to buy some sand toys but Will and I quickly discovered a large basket of toys to borrow. We chased Mike down to abort the mission. We then spent the bulk of the day at the beach. It was a perfect day. It was warm enough to swim but not too hot. The water was incredibly clear, and we often saw fish swimming around. The color of the sea was so vibrant that all I wanted to do was look at it. We did take a walk to one end of beach. I ran to the convenience store across the street for sushi lunch for the adults and fried chicken for Will. I was eagerly waiting for my close friend, Annaliesse and her family to arrive. They’d been exploring Okinawa for several days but were spending their last two nights at our resort. Shortly before they arrived, Mike realized how badly he was getting burned. I’d also concluded that I’d forgotten my arms on the initial sunscreen application. Even Will, who had been coated in sunscreen multiple times, was getting a bit red. I really wanted to finish the day at the beach with Annaliesse but knew we needed a break from the sun. We crossed path with our friends on our way to the indoor pool promising to come back out when the sun was lower in the sky.

The indoor pool was large and the perfect temperature. Will loved the slide. They also had paddle boats and giant inflatable balls and wheels you could use for a small fee. Will was perfectly happy with the slide and simply swimming around. We swam for about an hour before heading back to the beach. It was late afternoon; the sun was lower but the clouds were also rolling in. It quickly became too chilly for swimming. We formulated our dinner plan and headed inside to clean up.

We met Annaliesse and her family at the beachside yakiniku (Korean style BBQ) restaurant. We were joined by two of their friends stationed in Okinawa. They were both extremely nice, and I enjoyed chatting with Anga over dinner. A second-grade teacher, Anga was also great with the children helping redirect them the few times they got antsy during the 90 minute all-you-could-eat meal. We were all impressed with the choices of meats, seafood, and veggies we could grill at our table. I particularly enjoyed the seafood since the yakiniku restaurants by us normally do not include that. We added the all-you-could-drink option so a lot of alcohol was also consumed. With full bellies, I think we were all ready to go to bed except Will. He again became mesmerized by the sparklers, and of course people shared with him. This child is going to be very disappointed when we move back to America, and he doesn’t continually get gifts from random strangers.

It rained all day Saturday. The forecast looked like it might stop by afternoon but that was not the case. It was Will’s birthday so he was too excited about turning four to be bothered by the wet, windy weather. I had told him I was leaving all his birthday presents at home but surprised him with a Lego Ninjago t-shirt and a child’s camera. We had breakfast with Annaliesse then spent some time at the indoor pool. Unfortunately, the pool was not as warm when the sun wasn’t shining in. Will was also exhausted, and I think that played a role in wanting to leave the pool sooner than I anticipated. He passed out for a couple hours late morning. Mike took a nap too, and I happily read from a very interesting book called Tokyo Vice. Mike splashed over to the conbini and brought back noodles for lunch. Will spent the afternoon documenting everything with his new camera as we bounced between the hotel’s small free play area and the larger paid indoor playground. I was so glad Annaliesse and her daughters were there. Will loves playing with them, and I can talk to Annaliesse for hours. This also allowed Mike to get in some true relaxation in our room. He also went for a swim out in the rain which is something he enjoys. For dinner we’d walked to an Okinawan restaurant across the street. The food was really good but the kids were exhausted and showing it. I think we all could’ve ordered another round of food, but decided it was time to get the children out of the restaurant. Annaliesse invited me to join her at the hotel’s onsen, but we still hadn’t properly celebrated Will’s birthday. Will has yet to discover the joy of cake but Mike picked up a couple slices of cheesecake for him to try. Back in our room, we lit a candle and sang him “Happy Birthday”. He ate a few bites of cake proclaiming it delicious, but quickly declared that he was full. The rain had ceased, and he begged to go down to the beach. It was still windy, and I pointed from our balcony that no one had sparklers or fireworks. Still he persisted. Since it was his birthday, we let him stay up late for a short walk on the beach. He quickly found the only other children on the beach and together they dug in the sand. They discovered that if they dug down a bit, warm water would seep up making a pool. They found a crab, and Will impressed the older children by fearlessly picking up the kani. They soon made a pool for the crab laughing as they called it Kani Onsen. I was proud of my new four year for obeying when I told him it was time to go up for bed.

Although a bit windy, Sunday was sunny and clear. We once again could enjoy breakfast outdoors while Will bounced away. We spent the day hanging out and admiring the magnificent beach, this time being more diligent in applying sunscreen. Will and I took a walk on the pedestrian causeway between our hotel and the Sheraton next door. He loved taking pictures and climbing up a small lighthouse before walking across the pedestrian bridges that completed the path. A bride and groom were having their wedding photos taken, and Will saddled up to the photographer copying her moves. I did ask if he could take a picture and the couple readily agreed. I whispered to Will to tell them “Omedeto Gozaimasu” (Congratulations), and they were impressed with his Japanese skills. Gozaimasu is a word Will has mastered since it is part of thank you (arigato gozaimasu) as well as good morning (ohayo gozaimasu). Since Omedeto Gozaimasu is also the phrase for Happy Birthday, he’d heard this several times throughout the weekend as many people had asked his age. I had to chuckle that whenever I attempted a family photo over the weekend, I’d prompt, “Say Okinawa” and Will would yell “Okinawa Gozaimasu!”

We picnicked on the beach for lunch and then paid a short visit to the outdoor pool. I didn’t even attempt to go in knowing they’d just filled it the day before. I was surprised that Will took a few turns on the slide without complaining about the temperature. Next Mike paid for Will and himself to do the Adventure Obstacle Course in the water for 90 minutes. Mike figured he’d love the trampoline, and I guessed the slide would be the favorite. However, Will loved the one that looked a bit like a W and flipped him back and forth a bit like a fast seesaw when Mike would climb over the middle. By late afternoon, Will was begging to go to bed, but Mike and I were trying to squeeze in every last second of vacation. We’d be leaving just after breakfast in the morning. We finally decided to do another conbini dinner on our balcony and hope Will would pass out shortly thereafter. We ate dinner and watched the sunset. Will was so overtired that it took longer than expected to get him to sleep. When he finally did go down, Mike and I drank some wine and listened to music outside.

We don’t take a lot of do-nothing vacations. We tend to do tons of sight-seeing and hiking. This is partially due to wanting to see and experience as much as possible while we live in this corner of the world. It is also because our child is happier when moving and experiencing changing scenery. However, Will has always been a lover of the beach. It is the only place we can sit and really relax while he mostly entertains himself. This was a much appreciated relaxing holiday, and the beach did not disappoint. Mike and I agreed that it was some of the most beautiful water that either had seen.

More photos and travel tips/info below…

Travel Tips
Flight: I really tried to get cheap flights out of Haneda but nothing was coming up. After I booked our trip, I learned that Skymark, a discount airline, does fly from Haneda to Naha (Okinawa). I don’t know why that didn’t come up when I was searching but I want to make sure others know that.

Rizzan Tancha Bay Sea Park: I was extremely happy with this hotel. The beach was gorgeous and the location was awesome. Granted I had gotten an incredibly good deal paying ~ $135 USD/night. I had read in a lot of the reviews that you had to pay for many of the extras at the hotel. Everything was reasonably priced and there were things available for free. Our reservation included a fantastic breakfast buffet, and we also had the option to use our breakfast tickets for lunch instead. There was a free small play room for little children, free floaties at the pool and a big basket of sand toys to use at the beach. I loved that there was a bouncy castle at the breakfast buffet and available for use all day long. I liked that you could opt to not have your room cleaned and get ¥1500 voucher or just have them take out the trash for a ¥1000 voucher. For ¥300/30 minutes there was a larger paid indoor playground which was great for a rainy day. We didn’t do it but they also had a lot of arts and crafts you could pay to do which would be great for older kids on a rainy day. At the beach, there was one free slide, but several paid large inflatables. The all-day passes were a good value. You did have to pay for beach/pool towels, umbrellas and lounges but they’re all reasonably priced. We also got free tickets for towels when we checked in. We had packed our camping towels so we mostly used those. Each floor had a service center that had a microwave (there are refrigerators in the room) as well as washing machines and dryers (~¥300/load). The restaurants at the hotel we’re all reasonably priced, and we enjoyed the food. We also used the convenience store across the street a lot. Our hotel room was big, but the beds were small (closer to twin than full). Mike and I each slept in one and put Will on the couch. Overall though I was more impressed with the hotel than I thought it would be (partially due to the great rate). We could’ve gone to an all-inclusive resort, but I think we would’ve spent much more money.

Another note, after I’d booked the hotel, I’d discovered the hotel’s beach and outdoor pool weren’t opening until April 22 (we arrived the 20th). I had emailed to check that we could still use the beach and had been told we could but there wouldn’t be lifeguards or amenities out yet. The pool was being filled on the 21st, but the beach was actually open when we arrived. I don’t know if it was the first day they were open or if they opened early due to good weather or full bookings. Keep this in mind when booking this or other hotels in the area.

Okinawa Airport Limousine Bus: http://okinawabus.com/en/ls/
Rizzan Tancha Bay Sea Park Hotel: http://www.rizzan.co.jp/english/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will took this picture

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