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Thinking about beaches, you’d be forgiven for not instantly picturing Japan. But don’t hoo-ha the notion just yet, the Land of the Rising Sun is also the land of impeccably pretty islands.
1. The Okinawa Islands are isolated
Atsui. A word you very much get to grips with in Japan, and one of the main reasons the Japanese steer clear of the beach. Atsui means hot, and when the sun comes out, Japan can be very, very atsui. Fortunately that’s where the azure waters of Okinawa Island come into play. Located three hours south of Tokyo and with year-round high temperatures, the shallow cyan waves provide instant relief. Famed for pale swathes of sand, lush backdrops and very little else, tiny fish will encircle your feet and stare at your alien body perplexed. Beach-goers aren’t common here, and yet with so many idyllic coastlines to discover, it makes sense to enjoy your very own Sir Richard Branson moment; for a short time at least, Okinawa Island could quite easily be your own.
2. Okinawa mainland is dazzling
As one of the most pristine locations in Okinawa, Emerald Beach affords sweeping views across Motobu Peninsula's crystal-clear waters. Popular for its beauty as well as its amenities, which include bathrooms, snack bars and sun-drenched picnic spots, the sand is platinum-white and the namesake emerald sea is perpetually inviting.
3. Minna-Jima tops the lot
If you’re after something a little more remote – void of sun-seekers and occupied completely by nature - travel by ferry from Motobu Town to the island of Minna-Jima, arriving in a utopian paradise just 20-minutes later. In Okinawa you’re never more than a short trip from startling uninhabited islands and Mina-Jima tops the lot. With metres of white beach, an underwater snorkelling odyssey and a verdant forest of palms, prizes are discovered both above and below the water.
4. The options are endless
Like Nirvana origami, in Japan you'll find exotic isles wrapped within other spectacular islands. From Naha, the three islets of the Kerama Islands (still within the Okinawa Island prefecture) lie just 35-60 minutes away by ferry. Snorkelling enthusiasts will revel in the transparent waters of Aharen Beach; with crystal-clear depths of up to 60 metres, turtles are frequently in eyeshot. For water as turquoise as the brochures promise, Ishigaki Island, in the Yaeyamas, boasts the formidable Kabira Bay beach. A pure Japanese beauty, combine it with an entire day of Ishigaki island-hopping, made easy with numerous ferry options.
5. The beach vibes are different to NZ
A steaming hot bowl of curry and a bottle of Asahi. For every inch of impossibly perfect white sand – the type that will remind you of the South Pacific – there’s a marked cultural reference to reaffirm you’re in Japan. Bikini-clad girls in sky-high heels, rentable shade sections (complete with hammock and tables) and the customary tradition to Suikawari; break watermelons with a long wooden stick. And when you’re done exploring the cultural differences, there’s always that one homogenous beach activity that satisfies the soul wherever you are in the world; watching the sun go down. So grab your Bento box, settle into the sand and absorb the famed Okinawa sunset.
> READ THE ENTIRE MARCH 2016 EDITION OF INSPIRE HERE
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