Okinawans are running on a different schedule. Try to make an appointment with local at 9:00 AM, you may still be the first one to arrive even if you are 15 minutes late. The code is that it’s completely acceptable among the locals to be 30-60 minutes late for a meeting, and up to two hours for those with young children at home.
3000 kilometers north, in the capital of Japan, trains are expected to be always on time. If a train runs behind schedule, many will line up outside the train station manager’s office to obtain the Proof of Unexpected Delay, so they can prove to their boss at work that it’s the train that causes their late arrival to work. Why such dramatic difference within the same country?
Every society has its clock driven by the flow of goods and information. Okinawa has developed so much since WWII. Being a part of Japan’s economy, fuelled by the recent boom of tourism, the clock of Okinawa society is speeding up to catch its growth. Not long ago in Okinawa, goods were transported by livestock, now the majority of Okinawa families own automobiles, and a rapid train system is in the baking (as for 2018). Hardly is to come across the romantic image illustrated by Bokunen Naka, an Okinawa woodblock printing artist, who is known for capturing the slow Okinawa lifestyle by carving on wood blocks. In many of his work, you can see a couple of islanders napping under the shadow of screw pine by the ocean on a hot summer day. You almost can feel the breeze coming out of his artwork.
- A portrait of Okinawa by Okinawan artist Bokunen Naka ( photo credit: Okinawa Island Guide)
With over ten million people visiting Okinawa each year, the slow life many come to experience in Okinawa is becoming harder and harder to find. About 30 minutes away by boat, there a small island call Tsuken island. How small is it? You can travel end to end on a bicycle in 20 minutes. As soon as you arrive in Tsuken island, you will feel the universe is back to its pace driven by the sound of the wave hitting the beach. Everyone on the island seems to be doing one thing and one thing only, growing carrots. The residents are so proud of the carrot they grow so they build a monument/vista tower that shapes like a giant carrot.
There are only a handful of general stores and restaurants that operate in the owners’ schedule. There is a sign at the ferry dock that reads “call this number if you need to rent a bike”. We called and a man picked us up with his mini pickup trunk. He took us in the back of his truck (no seat or seat belt) to his family-owned general store. The rental bike costs 500 Japanese Yen a day. It has an almost flat tire and we use the pump provided by the owner to add air. It was good enough for us to go round the island.
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There is no famous landmark or attractions on Tsuken island. You will see carrot farms one after another, and then a beautiful beach with crystal clear water. The sea water here is so clear that you will want to drink it.
If you plan to visit Tsuken island, I recommend you bring your own bike (if you have one), or rent a decent bike from a local shop on the main island. Pack your own picnic box and have a nice beach. You can also travel by hoverboard or skateboard as the road condition is decent enough for mini vehicles.
In Tsuken island, you will find the lost “Okinawa Time” – driven by the flow of nature, not by technology. If you visit during carrot season, you may also be able to see a self-severed carrot stand where you put down 100 Japanese Yen and take home a big bag of freshly harvested carrots.
Tsuken island is one of the over 100 small island in Okinawa prefecture. Many of them are close enough to be visited by ferry on the same day. I hope you can take advantage of the convenience we have – living so close to paradise – to visit this beautiful modern oasis.
To visit Tsuken island, you need to take a ferry from Hiradaiya ferry dock. Purchase a round-trip ticket in advance and be mindful of the schedule. The last ferry leaves before sunset, and it’s not fun if you are stacked on the island overnight.
|One Way||Round Trip||Travel Time|
|Adult 640円||Adult 1220円||30 mins|
|Child 320円||Child 610円|
|Adult 790円||Adult 1510円||15 mins|
|Child 400円||Child 770円|
|From Main Island||From Tsuken Island||Boat Type|
- The ferry to Tsuken Jima from Okinawa main island.
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