There are places in the world that make you feel you can forgive and forget everyone and everything in your life. That’s how I would describe Okinawa: a place where everything and everyone can be forsaken and forgiven. I traveled to Okinawa in the summer of 2021, hoping I would enjoy a tropical journey in the south. However, I returned home with more than I could have ever hoped for. Okinawa healed a part of me and revealed something I had not discovered until then.
I didn’t have many expectations about Naha. I thought it would be similar to any other city in mainland Japan. I am glad I was wrong because Naha is nothing like the other cities in Japan. There, the old and the new are intertwined without one destroying the other. Although it is possible to see this in different cities in Japan, Naha seemed like a more harmonious city to me.
I visited Naha during the pandemic, so there were few visitors. I don’t know how Naha is usually, but it felt like a quiet and peaceful place. Even the famous Kokusai Shopping Street was tranquil compared to the other bustling streets where I live. I am sure the businesses suffered immense financial losses during the pandemic, and I hope they return to normal with the borders reopening.
Walking in the city’s narrow alleys allowed me a glimpse into local people’s lives. Numerous friendly cats were wandering around, looking for food everywhere. There was a distinct difference between the architecture of Naha and the rest of Japan. For example, the houses in Naha are usually white and have flat roofs, which made me feel Naha was the least “Japanese” city in Japan.
“Slow life” and “Japan” are not words that are often used together. However, slow life seemed to permeate life in Okinawa. Everything from commuting to school life hinted that life in Okinawa is much slower than in the rest of the country. I naturally slowed down when walking in Okinawa, because I would miss out on the details of this island if I paced the streets up and down.
The senior citizens ambled around, smiling and looking robust. No wonder Okinawa is called the healthiest place on Earth and has an ample number of centenarians. Scientists say this has something to do with their diet, but it is also a result of their lifestyle, which includes lots of sunny days and less stress. The same goes for the older people living around the Mediterranean Sea.
I felt more peaceful during my short stay in Okinawa. I didn’t need to rush anything. I could sit in a coffee shop for hours and enjoy watching people. There was nothing to worry about, and happiness in Okinawa was not hard to achieve. It was everywhere and replenishing; I didn’t have to do anything to be happy. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel nostalgic. Instead, I felt comfortable and happy where I was at that moment.
Cape Hedo and revelations
What could I say that has yet to be told about the beauty of Okinawa? The island draws countless visitors to itself every year, but the situation was different when I was there. I visited during the pandemic and witnessed a unique situation. I don’t think Okinawa will ever be that empty again, being such an otherworldly beauty.
What allured me most throughout my journey was the solitude on the roads. Traveling by the turquoise waters on a sunny day did wonders for my mental health. I was going to Cape Hedo—the northernmost point of Okinawa—and the road was incredibly peaceful. When I arrived, a few people were gasping at the wild waters washing the rocks beneath them, while the mist in the air gave a mystical aura to the distant mountains.
Something switched inside me that day, that time. Cape Hedo revealed a part of me that I hadn’t discovered until then: I was capable of forgiving and forgetting everyone and everything in the world. If the world could forgive disasters and continue rotating around the sun, why couldn’t I do the same? If the world could be this tranquil despite all the hardships, why couldn’t I forgive myself?
This revelation sparked my path to healing. Forgiving and forgetting were my keywords in Okinawa and summed up my trip. I realized my heart was as vast as an ocean only if I let go of the troubles—the anchors—that held me down. I didn’t need to seek happiness and peace elsewhere because they lay within me. I am thankful to Okinawa for bringing this to light. It’s so easy to forget the treasure we sit on.
Finally, I had a new purpose for traveling: to explore what new emotions and thoughts my travel destinations could unearth. We all might travel to the same place, but our memories, thoughts, and feelings about that location will vastly differ. Even the most-traveled places on Earth will always be open to new experiences and interpretations. That’s what makes traveling a unique human experience.
Okinawa was beyond a tropical journey for me. I mainly stayed in Naha, but traversed the island from the north to the south. Wherever you go, there is another beauty waiting around the corner. It is impossible to get bored of Okinawa since no road, beach, or cliff resembles another! When you think you’ve gotten used to it, another one pops up. Who knows, you might have your own revelations at one of those places!
Is there any place in the world that stirs up new emotions or ideas for you? Do you travel purposefully?
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