Practical information on Okinawa
This page is designed to bring useful information to people who plan a visit to Okinawa for karate or other martial arts purposes. It is in no way completed and will be updated along the way. We welcome your comments and hints that might be helpful to visitors.
Hotel rates in Okinawa are generally charged by person, not by room. Also, confirm if meals are included. Some facilities accept credit cards; some do not.
Right-on-the-beach resorts: Most resorts are located beachfront or near a beach. They offer breathtaking views of the beautiful blue waters, sports activities, spa services, delicious cuisine, etc. Prices range from ¥ 20,000 and above.
Near-the-city hotels: These hotels range from resort-like facilities with pools to hotels strictly for business travelers. Prices range from ¥ 5,000 and above. Most are conveniently located near downtown areas.
Local Inns and guest houses: If your budget is limited and experiencing vibrant conversation with locals is on your itinerary, then these are the places to stay. Prices range from ¥ 2,000 and above.
Weekly rooms & Monthly rooms: These types of accommodations come completely furnished with kitchenettes & cookware. Rooms are rented on a weekly or monthly basis and a deposit is required. Prices for weekly rooms start from ¥ 25,000 and above, monthly rooms from ¥ 80,000 and above.
For the POLICE: Dial “110”. (English ok)
For lost and found, go to the closest kōban (Police box)
For an ambulance or in case of fire, dial “119”.
Shoes: Take your shoes off before entering a house, dōjō or any training facility like the Okinawa Karate Kaikan or the Budōkan. Don’t leave your shoes lying in the entrance way but put them in the stands provided. If there is no stand, place them at the entrance, tiptoes facing outward for an easy way out and if possible to the side of the entrance so your shoes are not in somebody’s way. Try not to step on the ground when taking your shoes off. Don’t sit down on the entrance way to tie up your shoes.
Sitting: When in a dōjō or in a tatami room, don’t sit with your legs out in front of you or pointing at another person; Sit in a seiza position and if not possible sit Indian style.
Smoking: Recently, non-smoking regulations have spread. Therefore, many restaurants adopt the non-smoking/smoking area system. For example, Kokusai Dori is a smoke free street. By law, tobacco can only be purchased by those 20 years of age and above.
Tattoos: Irezumi in Japanese. Tattoos are still seen by many as a symbol of Yakuza, the Japanese mob, and criminality. Many places like sauna and public baths may refuse the entrance to their establishment to people with tattoos, regardless of the size and design.
What to wear in and out the dōjō: Kids walking to and from the dōjō in karategi is a common sight in Okinawa but less common with adults. Going to the training venue wearing a karategi pants and a normal T-shirt is usual. Do not wear watches, socks, rings and the likes during training.
Emergency hospital: Naha city: 098-877-1199 (you can go there by monorail getting off at Byoin-mae-eki station) Official website
Adventist Medical center: 098-946-2833 (English speaking doctors available – 30 minutes from central Naha – 10 minutes in car from monorail Shuri Station) Official website
Okinawa Red Cross Hospital: 098-853-3134 (in front of Yogi Park, next to Naha Police Station)
Free wifi: Starbucks and Mission Coffee have free wifi. Mission Coffee will give the password for free. Starbucks is for free as well, you just need to register with an email address once. They have a flyer with English instructions if you ask them. It works in every Starbucks, at least in Japan.
Karate, kobudō & martial art stores
Ishimine Shōkai: Located in Naha City Sueyoshi district. Offers karate uniforms and other martial goods. Official website
Ippondō: Located in Gate 2 Street in Okinawa City, it offers a wide variety of goods and souvenirs. Official website
Shureidō: The most famous Okinawa karate uniform brand. Offers martial artists clothing and accessories. Located in Naha City, close by the Sōgenji wall. Official website
If your hotel doesn’t have a laundry service or a washing machine within the establishment, there are many laundromat (coin laundry) available in most cities. You will need 100 yen coins for both the washing machine and the drying machine. Laundry detergent is available depending on stores. It generally costs 300 yen to wash and 100 yen every 10 minutes of dryer time.
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!
Convenient stores: Family Mart, Lawson and the recently opened Seven 11 are the most popular. Most are open 24hours.
Helpline: Japan Helpline is a 24 hour service, toll free and offers advice in many languages. Dial 0570-000-911.
Library: The Okinawa Prefectural Library is located above the Naha Bus Terminal (after moving from Yogi Park). The library is open from 9:00AM – 7:00PM on weekdays and 9:00AM – 5:00PM on weekends. Closed on Tuesdays, 4th & 5th Sundays, holidays, June 23rd, New Years, & special book arrangement days. Books specializing in Ryukyuan history, culture and karate are available on both the 1st floor (general floor) and 2nd floor (Okinawa matters reference room).
Massages: Many hotels offer massage services. Just ask the front desk. While there are many stores called Temomin that offer quick back, head and foot massages, Chiropractic clinic (Seitai in Japanese) are also available for efficient massages. It usually costs 3,000 yen for a 30-45 minutes session. Other experiences are the cobblestone reflexology footpaths found in parks and hard and soft reflexology.
Nommunication: Many Okinawan people enjoy having a few drinks after a long day of work. It’s the time of day when people get together to enjoy conversation and a few drinks.
Tipping: Don’t tip! As in mainland Japan, tips are not a tradition, therefore it is not necessary nor expected.
Western toilets: Convenient stores have public western toilets. Politely ask if it is alright to use the toilets or purchase something.
Banks: They are closed weekends and National holidays. Banking hours are Mon- Friday 9:00am to 3:00pm (May vary depending on the bank). You can exchange traveler’s checks and foreign currency at most main branches.
Currency exchange: The Bank of Okinawa has set some cash exchange machines in major shopping malls. Your can change 8 currencies there. In Naha, visit San-A Main Place in Shintoshin and AEON Naha in Oroku.
Withdrawing money: In most case, it is not possible to withdraw money from a regular ATM machines found in Japanese banks with a card issued outside of Japan. The most convenient option is to go to a post office. Post office’s ATMs have a guide in English and accept most major credit cards. Like the Post office ATM located on the 1st floor of Ryubo Palette Kumoji, most ATMs are in service 7:00-23:00 weekdays, 9:00-21:00 Saturdays and 9:00-19:00 Sundays.
Name card in Japan and Okinawa is an important part of the culture. Having some cards made may help introducing yourself on the first day. It is possible to have name cards made in a few days in one of the many name card & seal stores around the island. For a regular design, plan approximately 2000-3000 yen for 100 cards.
Post offices are open Monday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00. Main branches only have a counter opened 24hours all days. Look for the symbol below. It generally costs 50 yen to send a postcard and 80 yen to send a letter. For international rates, ask at the counter.
Aeon Rycom: Located in Kitanakagusuku at the entrance of Okinawa City, the Aeon Rycom shopping mall is the latest attraction when it comes to shopping. Official website
Junkudō: The biggest bookstore in Naha. The Okinawa and karate corner is on the 2nd floor and the foreign book and magazine section is on the 3rd floor.
Naha Main Place: Located in Shintoshin, next to the Okinawa Prefecture Museum, it has a wide choice of shops, restaurants and a cinema complex. 5 minutes walk from the monorail Omoromachi station. Official website
Ryūbō: Also known as Palette Kumoji, this land mark is a huge department store at the South end of Kokusai Street in Naha City. Official website
Supermarkets: The major stores are Jusco, Union and San-A. Many are opened 24hours.
100 yen shop: Many department stores have one such store offering all types of goods and food.
Telephones in Japan are color coded: green phone takes either coins or a phone card and is used for making domestic calls only. A gray telephone can be used for domestic or international calls. Cards or coins can be used and there is an English guidance. Prepaid calling cards are available at convenience stores or you can make collect calls or use your own credit calling service. The country code for Japan is “81”.
To call overseas, you can purchase a prepaid card in many convenient stores. (NTT World Prepaid Card, KDDI Super World Card, etc…).
For cellular phones, in most cases it is not possible to buy a prepaid SIM card in Okinawa.
Now, it is possible to purchase a prepaid SIM card ONLINE with Japan Communications Inc. More info at this link.
Naha Tourist Information Bureau: Located on the basement floor of Tenbusu Naha, opposite to McDonald’s restaurant in Kokusai Street, the bureau has English maps and pamphlets and English speaking staff available. Official website
Multilingual call center service: The OCVB has set a call center for visitors. It operates every day 9:00 to 24:00. The phone number for English Inquiries is 0570-077201.
Sightseeing: The Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB) is your gateway to sightseeing information on Okinawa. Information is available in various languages. Official website
Driving: Car and scooter rental is very simple. However, you will need your International license. If you rent a car, remember there is a 0 tolerance in Japan for drinking and driving. According to the law, you must wear a seatbelt and no driving in the bus lane is allowed during certain hours of the morning and evening.
Taxis: There are many taxi services in Okinawa. Just wave your hand at the driver and he 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.
Monorail: Yui-rail, the Naha monorail, runs from Naha Airport to Shuri Station. Extension work is underway and will allow to reach Urasoe City in the coming years. It is a very handy way to get around Naha city. Fares starts at 200 yen and go up to 320 yen. The first train is at around 6:00 and the last train at around 11:30. Trains are available every 10 minutes or so. Official website
Ferries: There are many ferries that leave from Tomarin (Tomari port) for the surrounding islands like Tokashiki and Zamami islands.
Bus information: All buses routes 1 – 20 are city buses and will usually trundle down Kokusai Dori Street and end up at Naha bus terminal. Be aware that the Naha bus terminal is under construction until March 2018. Flat fee of 200 yen paid into a box beside the 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.
Visiting a dōjō
In the past in Okinawa, a letter of introduction to the master was needed to become a student. In other cases, parents would bring their son asking the master to make an adult of him. Today, while many dōjō open their doors to foreigners, being escorted or introduced is sometimes the best way to find a good instructor or visit and train in a dōjō. If you want to visit other styles while on island and training in a dōjō, the best way is to ask your instructor for advice on which dōjō he would recommend for a visit. It is a nice way to have some doors open for you the traditional way! If you do not have an instructor in Okinawa, you can contact the Okinawa Karate Information Center for help in this matter.
Tuition fee: While they vary from dojo to dojo, remember that in Okinawa like in Japan, it is impolite to give money directly to someone. When paying a tuition fee, please put the money in an envelope. Note that there is no specific format or design therefore there is no need to buy a nice envelop.
What to bring: For training, people wear a karate uniform, called karate-gi and not a kimono! A towel and a bottle of water are a must! Some dōjō may accept sport clothes but it is always better to wear a karate uniform. Rental karate-gi are available for a fee. Contact our center for more details.
Overall: Okinawa is a year-round destination. January to March brings temperatures ranging from 16°-18°C (60°-64°F) with occasional chilly winds. Long sleeves and sweaters are recommended during these months. April, May and June bring short-sleeves weather with temperature averages from 21°-26°C (69°-78°F). Temperatures start climbing from July till September, rising to an average of 28°C (82°F). Sunglasses and caps are a must during this time of the year. From October, the temperature gradually declines till December with an average of 18°C (64°F).
The Rainy Season: Traditionally, the rainy season begins in May and continues to June. Humidity rises to 80% or above.
Typhoons: The so-called “peak season” for typhoons is from July to October.