On arrival at Naha Airport take the monorail (ticket at your own expense) to the hotel in Naha city, the capital of Okinawa. We will have an important tour briefing in the late afternoon, generally at around 5.30 pm however please check with reception for the exact time and location. Afterwards you will experience a welcome dinner with your fellow travellers.
Following dinner you have the night free to spend at your own leisure. Check out some Okinawan handicrafts at the local store, relax at a lounge overlooking the skyline, or take a short taxi ride to nearby attractions, the choice is yours.
Overnight Mercure Hotel Naha or similar
This morning we will set out on foot to Tenbusu Naha to experience a paddock to plate briefing, before venturing to the Makishi Market (Naha's kitchen, with dozens of fresh food stalls showcasing local produce) to purchase the ingredients for our immersive slow food cooking class. The class, conducted by local chefs who have a vast understanding of Okinawa's food culture will provide a wonderful insight into this integral part of Okinawan life. After we have eaten the fruits of our labour we will continue by bus from downtown Naha to Shikinaen Garden. Constructed at the end of the 18th century as the second residence of the Ryukyu kings, Shikinaen features wooden palace buildings in Okinawan style, replete with red tiled roofs. The landscaped gardens are set around a central pond. Though the gardens were destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa of 1945, the restoration work is to a high standard and in 2000, Shikinaen was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore at your leisure; a visit to Tsuboya Pottery Village is recommended. A centre of ceramic production since 1682, when Ryukyu kilns were consolidated here by royal decree, the area offers a fascinating insight into Okinawan ceramics. Overnight Mercure Hotel Naha or similar
Shuri Castle is a fort and palace, with a fusion of Chinese and Japanese elements from the 13th century, and was the seat of power for the Ryukyu kings for 400 years. The tiled surface of the forecourt is striking with its red and white stripes and is uniquely Okinawan. We step inside and take a glimpse into a magnificent lost empire. For lunch we head to Ashibiuna, a traditional Okinawan restaurant followed by a hands on folk art and cloth dyeing experience. The history of Bingata cloth dyeing is rich and the tradition is passed down through generations. The dye, which is made from plants, is the perfect means for creating rich and varied works of art and we will learn how to create them ourselves with the help of a skilled artisan. The evening is free for you to take in one of the many Okinawan cafes or jazz music venues in Kokusai dori, the island's "International Street". Overnight Mercure Hotel Naha or similar
Southern Okinawa was the epicentre of one of the most intense battles of World War II. Today we retrace these events at the Naval Underground headquarters, as well as the Himeyuri Memorial and Peace Museum and Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum. In 1944, the Japanese Navy Corps established the underground structure as their headquarters in Okinawa. Measuring at a length of 450 meters at that time, the semi-circular tunnels are made up of posts and concrete by using pickaxes and hs. We will walk through these tunnels as well as visiting the commanding officer's room and some of the operations rooms. Himeyuri was built to remember the schoolgirls who were conscripted to be nurses during the Battle of Okinawa. It is next to a cave that these women hid and attempted to help the injured and dying. Though a sombre period, an understanding of the events which took place here is a reflective experience. Note days 4 and 5 may be reversed depending on weather conditions, if the forecast indicates that today is more favourable for kayaking then we will do so, with the Southern Okinawa day moved to tomorrow accordingly. Overnight at Grand Mer Resort or similar.
We venture to Hiji, home to the highest waterfalls in Okinawa. The 1.5 kilometre trail to Hiji Falls can be hiked in about two hours round trip. Keep an eye for the native wildlife like the Ryukyu Robin and the Ryukyu Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle. We then have lunch at a local restaurant and discover the secret behind why five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as the rest of Japan. After lunch, we take to the water, kayaking alongside mangroves in Gesashi Bay, before visiting the Nakijin castle ruins which take us back to the 13th century, to a time when this island was a collection of three kingdoms. Our farewell dinner will be held at the hotel where we can share our experiences of Okinawa. Overnight at Grand Mer Resort or similar.
The trip concludes today after breakfast. Your leader will assist you to join the shuttle bus (at own expense) to Naha International Airport.