Differences Between Okinawa and most of the rest of
- Those Japanese Pay Phones.
There are five types of pay phones on Okinawa. The most frequently seen are a green/turquoise
Larger Green Phones are found in phone booths and accept up to 10 ¥10 coins. If it is an
emergency, there is a small red box located above or to the side of the phone which can dial the
POLICE (dial 110) or the FIRE DEPARTMENT/AMBULANCE (dial 119) free of charge.
The smaller Green Phones are usually located in open boxes and accept up to six ¥10
coins. They also have the red box for emergency calls at no charge.
Yellow Phones are located in some phone booths and are generally used for long distance
calls. They accept up to nine ¥100 coins and also have an emergency call box.
Pink Phones are found in most nightclubs, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses
for use by customers. These phones accept only one ¥10 coin at one time, which allows for a
three minute phone call.
To use any of these pay phones, lift the receiver, deposit as many coins as it will accept, then dial
the number you want. Charges only begin when the other party answers the phone. You'll hear
the coins drop into the telephone as they are used. Once you hang up, any change due you will
come out in the coin return box.
Many of these phones also accept phone cards, which can be purchased just about anywhere,
including vending machines.
- Pedestrian Bridges
High above the busier roads in Okinawa are pedestrian bridges. To prevent traffic pileups, these
bridges allow pedestrians to cross the road without worrying about waiting for the "walk" signal
at busy intersections. Speaking of "walk" signals, in downtown Naha you'll find the regular old
crosswalks, but in addition to the usual "walk" and "don't walk" signs, a musical number
accompanies you as you walk across the street. Most people call this the "hurry up and cross"
- Parking meters.
You actually need instructions on how to park correctly when you see a parking meter out in
First, make sure your car is parked in the correct spot and deposit ¥200 in the meter. You'll get
60 minutes. But, beware -- if you park in the spot for 15 minutes, then put the yen in, the meter
will automatically skip that 15 minutes, leaving you with just 45 minutes to park. If you try to
add more yen to lengthen the time, it won't work. This is because the meters have a laser beam
that registers the time as soon as you pull in. If you want additional time, back the car up, then
pull into the space again, or find another space. Only then will the meter accept more yen.
- Unique Creepy Crawlies such as:
Geckos - These cute little fellows are part of the lizard family. You usually won't see
much of them during the day, but at night you may hear them make a "clicking" or "chirping"
sound. They're not that large, some may get to be almost six inches long, and they have "suction
pads" for feet so they can climb walls and other things with ease. Their little eyes give them a
cutesy look, so you can't help but fall in love with them.
One story tells of a gecko that was so unafraid of humans that it would come out when the
people were having drinks. Then it would climb up on of the glasses and sip at the
Cockroaches -- These are not like any cockroaches you've seen or
imagined in the states. These are big fellas, similar to palmetto bugs found in southern states like
Florida. They love to come out at night and if you're lucky, your gecko friends will eat them right
up. But most of the time you have to do battle and take care of the cockroaches yourself.
Although most adult cockroaches can fly, they don't usually bother. They run along the floor,
upside down on drawers or in cabinets and generally like to make you scream in horror.
Habus -- There are two kinds of poisonous snakes on Okinawa, the Okinawan Habu and
the Hime Habu. You are advised to avoid dense vegetation, sugar cane fields, and small caves.
especially in the summer. Also, if you go hiking, don't go alone and make sure you wear proper
attire. Look before you touch anything and if you see a dead snake, don't touch it. A Habu has
been known to have a reflex bite as long as four hours after death and the bite is still poisonous.
If you do get bitten, don't panic, there are serums readily available, but seek help immediately.
Spiders -- One of the most commonly seen is nicknamed a "Banana" spider because of its
body shape and sometimes yellow color. It is actually a very large garden spider and harmless
unless you provoke it (just like almost any other animal or insect).
Centipedes -- No, you're not seeing things if you suddenly find a fairly good-sized
centipede fighting with your cat one day. Some are as much as six inches long and are pretty
harmless, although they have been known to sting people.
- Local Restaurants
If you've finally decided to take the plunge and eat at a local restaurant, you may want to take
advantage of the following tips.
Before you go to the restaurant:
1. Don't overdo on the make-up (especially lipstick) and perfume. In fact, don't wear perfume at
all. The Japanese pride themselves on the distince aromas of their foods, which could be spoiled
by your perfume odor. The dishes your dinner is served in are usually decorated with delicate
line drawings and other artwork that can be damaged by lipstick.
2. Big rings are a no-no, as they can chip or damage cups and other dishes you'll be handling
3. Fingernail polish should be a natural, light color. Avoid garish colors such as bright red,
neons, hot pinks. This is just a courtesy to others -- remember, you are in a foreign country.
4. Bring a package of pocket-sized tissues. Use one to clean your chopsticks at the end of the
meal and to use if you order certain dishes such as a whole fish.
At the restaurant:
1. Rice and soup usually begin the meal, the rice is placed to your left and the soup to your right.
If they are covered, remove the lid from the rice and place it to the right of the dish, then remove
the lid from the soup and place to the left of the dish.
2. As you drink the soup, place the cup in your left hand and lift the cup to your mouth (don't
3. Eat the rice with your chopsticks as you hold the rice cup close to your mouth. Go back and
forth between the rice and soup. Don't eat all the rice first, then the soup or vice versa.
4. Always leave a mouthful of food in the dish/cup. This is an old custom meaning you enjoyed
the visit and will be back again soon. To finish all the food is an insult and means you don't want
to continue the relationship.
5. After you've finished, replace the lids and put the chopsticks directly in front of you (after
you've wiped them off with a tissue).
- Vending machines are everywhere!
The most prevalent are beverage machines. For ¥100, you can try lemon tea, flavored sparkling
and spring water, cold coffee blends, and more. Some of the machines play music after you insert
your money. Other vending machines carry snacks,
cigarettes, comic books, ice cream, music CDs, and even liquor (you'll find those mostly in hotel
lobbies and in downtown areas where there's a lot of foot traffic).
These stamps (like the one used as the background on this page) are used in lieu of signatures in
many business transactions on Okinawa. An inkan is usually a small piece stone or wood with
your name carved at the bottom of one end in Kanji (Japanese language symbols). Okinawans
are required to register their inkans and pay a fee each year to keep it valid. Some
Americans like to have them to sign letters or books or as an unusual and nifty souvenir.
- Bento Boxes
These handy-dandy lunches are available in grocery stores, at restaurants and even roadside
stands for the person on the go. Inexpensive and ready to eat, these hot lunches usually consist
of fish, chicken or pork as the"main" meal, plus rice, noodles, tofu and other goodies.
All restaurants present their customers with wet towels rolled up in little plastic bags when they
give you the menu. Depending on the time of year, the towel is warm or cold. What a refreshing
way to start off a delicious meal! Wipe a cool towel across your hot forehead in the summer or
warm your hands up on a cold winter night.
- Elevators in department stores
Each elevator has its own attendant who makes sure passengers get on and off the elevator with
ease. As the elevator comes to a stop, the attendant cheerfully announces what is on that floor (in
Japanese, of course). If you need to find something, there is usually a customer service booth or
desk where someone usually speaks English. If not, don't fret, they'll find someone who does
speak English. Talk about customer service!
- The Expressway
This 57.3 kilometers long (about 29 miles) highway runs from Shuri to Nago, although it is being
made longer to go further north. The tolls are expensive and payable only in yen. For example, to
travel from Kadena to Nago will cost 1100 yen -- about $11.00 -- one way. It does make your
trip shorter though, because the speed is 80 KPH (about 50 MPH and the
highest speed on any of Okinawa's roads), so if you need to get somewhere fast, take the
expressway. There are emergency phones located frequently on the expressway and there are rest
stops with food, beverages and souvenirs. But before you go on the expressway, make sure you
have a safety kit in the car and that the kit includes a flare and safety triangle to put on the road in
case of an emergency. This is required by Japanese law. If your car breaks down and you don't
have these items, you can get a ticket. If you run out of gas, you can get a ticket, too.
Motorcyclists are not allowed to carry a passenger while on the expressway. The most important
thing to remember is when you're in Okinawa, drive on the left side of the road, which means the
right lane is for faster traffic, the left for slow.