Here’s How You Can Contribute To Okinawa’s Sustainable Islands

Perks For Responsible Travelers

By The Savvy Team
March 10, 2021
Adventures, Sponsored Post

From actively protecting natural habitats to eating as the locals do and engaging with their traditional ways of life, here are just a few ways you can contribute to the increasing sustainability of these islands, while experiencing the best of Okinawa along the way.

For more than 20 years, Okinawa has nurtured a growing trend toward achieving sustainability. In a rapidly changing world that is still negotiating a pandemic, many Okinawans have been working to create initiatives that both engage tourists and enrich the local community and environment.

Protect and revive the coral reef

A large portion of the world’s coral reefs can be found in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the Okinawa archipelago. Here they support rich ecosystems for native marine life, create natural seawalls and absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide. In Onna “Coral” Village on the west coast of the main island, a 30-kilometer long reef has for centuries supported local seafood and livelihoods.

Onna “Coral” Village on the west coast of Okinawa's main island.

Onna “Coral” Village on the west coast of Okinawa’s main island.

In 1998, due to a sudden rise in sea temperatures, almost 90% of the coral around Okinawa’s main island succumbed to bleaching. Shocked by this tragic loss, local fishermen resolved to save the reef by becoming coral farmers. By 2003, they succeeded in transplanting farm-raised coral into the sea. So far, they have transplanted more than 100,000 coral seedlings.

At Sango Batake in Yomitan, you can make an individual coral seedling, which is nurtured at the farm until it’s large enough to survive in the ocean. The mature coral is then transplanted into the sea, where it eventually spawns and repopulates the critically endangered reef. As responsible travelers, we can also protect the reefs by not touching living coral in the sea, using coral-friendly skin products and learning more about how best to protect the reefs.

Eat seasonal ‘longevity food’

Okinawa is famous as one of the world’s five “Blue Zones” of longevity, where more than 1,000 centenarians are still living relatively healthy, happy lives. These ageless islanders are surrounded by peaceful and abundant nature. They participate in a lively and supportive community, and most importantly — they eat a healthy diet.

Farm-to-table restaurant Emi no Mise offers Okinawan “longevity cooking.”

Farm-to-table restaurant Emi no Mise offers Okinawan “longevity cooking.”

Former nutritionist and chef Emiko Kinjo was fascinated in particular by the prolific vegetable gardens of the village grandmothers, as well as the natural medicinal properties of local seasonal ingredients. She opened her own farm-to-table restaurant Emi no Mise in Ogimi to share the culture of Okinawan “longevity cooking” with visitors. By eating locally grown food, you can experience a fundamental part of Okinawa’s long-established healthy lifestyle, while helping to preserve the local food culture.

Safeguard traditional culture

In 1986, the few hundred residents of Taketomi in the Yaeyama Islands stood up to save their island from uncontrolled development by drafting the Taketomi Island Charter. This comprehensive charter encompasses issues ranging from land ownership to landscape preservation. It even uses locally grown and produced materials to make souvenirs.

Traditional Okinawa wooden houses with red-tiled roofs.

Traditional Okinawa wooden houses with red-tiled roofs.

Now you, too, can walk along clean narrow streets paved with white coral sand, among limestone walls that surround traditional wooden houses with red-tiled roofs. (Please be aware, however, that Taketomi Island is still understandably cautious about welcoming tourists during the pandemic — so be sure to check the local situation before you make plans to visit.)

As young and youthful Okinawans work and play to preserve their culture and traditions, there are many ways you can join their trend toward sustainability. Engage in environmental preservation, enjoy the seasonal food harvest or explore the various unique aspects of Ryukyu culture.

While you’re visiting the outer islands of Okinawa, why not pick up a native three-stringed sanshin and learn how to play “Asadoya Yunta,” a folk song from Taketomi?

Want to lend a hand? Here’s how…

For help planning your trip to Okinawa, here are some travel agencies to consult.

Note: Before traveling, please always check the latest government advice about your destination.

Okinawa Convention & Vistors Bureau logo

This is a condensed article based on information published on the official Visit Okinawa travel guide.

The Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau is running two campaigns for a chance to win round-trip tickets from Tokyo to Okinawa — feel free to apply for both!

  1. If you are a foreign resident in Japan who has been to Okinawa in the past, you can post your memories on SNS and have a chance to win 2 pairs of round-trip tickets from Tokyo to Okinawa or other great prizes!
    Learn more…
  2. We are now conducting a questionnaire about Okinawa for foreign residents in Japan. If you answer the questionnaire, you will be entered in a drawing to win 2 pairs of round-trip air tickets from Tokyo to Okinawa and other prizes.
    Learn more…