Okinawans are running on a different schedule. Try to make an appointment with a 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 late for those with young children at home.
In the capital of Japan, 3000 kilometers north, trains are expected to always be on time. If a train runs behind schedule, many people will line up outside the train station’s manager’s office to obtain the Proof of Unexpected Delay. This is so they can prove to their boss at work that it’s the train that caused their late arrival to work. Why such a 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, fueled by the recent boom of tourism, the clock of the 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 making (as for 2018).
The Okinawa laidback lifestyle has been displayed in many pieces of art. Here is a beautiful 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 works, you can see a couple of islanders napping under the shadow of screw pine by the ocean on a hot summer day. You can almost 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 is a small island called Tsuken Island. How small is it? You can travel end to end on a bicycle in 20 minutes! As soon as you arrive on Tsuken island, you will feel the universe is back to its pace driven by the sound of the waves 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 carrots they grow they have built a monument/vista tower that is shaped like a giant carrot.
There are only a handful of general stores and restaurants that operate within the owners’ schedule. In fact, 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 costed 500 Japanese Yen a day. It had an almost flat tire and we used the pump provided by the owner to add air. It was good enough for us to go around the island though.
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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 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. In addition, I recommend packing your own picnic items and have yourself a lovely picnic on the beautiful 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-served 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 islands 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 stuck 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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**The information in this article is written by the designer of the Okinawa Story Map based personal experience. It does not aim to be 100% accurate or academically correct. Please enjoy the stories and feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this article.