The ocean is a field of blue. The mountains are deep green. Time passes slowly in this village.
Kushi, Nago City is located in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa. The area enters into Yanbaru where a vast natural ecosystem exists. Kushi consists of 13 areas including Henoko. which is the intended destination of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma when it is relocated. The area is known for its untouched nature and traditional lifestyle.
People in the Kushi area had no experience in tourism before but have recently started their own vacation rentals – accepting bookings from from mainland tourists. I visited the Yoshino family to write about their vacation rental in the area.
“Grandma, what do you like about Okinawa?” a young student asked her elderly companion. They were working in the rice field together.
The girl is from Saitama Prefecture. She has loved her “Grandma” since she was a child visiting with her family.
In Okinawa, she and Grandma chat together like a real family.
“The ocean is beautiful and people are nice,” Grandma said. “We may seem rough to you, but people here are all good.”
“I learned ‘Ichariba choodee’ the other day,” said the adopted granddaughter. “Once we meet, we are family, right?”
“Sure... You can learn many things here. Grandma said. "Take it all in, OK?” The conversation continued as they stripped leaves from sugarcane.
Much can be learned from the experience of living with local people. You can help out in the fields or have cultural exchanges through various interactions. You can sing and play sanshin (shamisen) after dinner. From these kinds of experiences, you can learn the secrets of life and form lasting friendships.
“When you stay with Okinawan people on Okinawan time, you see a different side of Okinawa and appreciate the ties of friendship,” reads one guest comment. The Kushi Interactive Tourism Office that is in charge of this kind of tourism in Kushi actually receives the positive comments such as this regularly.
According Mr. Nagai from the office, positive changes have come to the host families as well.
For example, here is a story about a family from the mainland who stayed with the K family in Kushi and cooked saataa andagii (Okinawan doughnuts) together.
K’s grandson came home from high school and noticed that somebody had left some homemade saataa andagii on the table. K explained to his grandson that he and the family from the mainland had made those delicious Okinawan doughnuts together. The grandson then surprised K by asking him if the two of them could also do that together some time. K realized then that he had never even thought about inviting his kids or grandkids to make saataa andagii with him. By hosting visitors, K and his family obviously discovered something new in their ordinary life.
Vacation rentals are getting attention as a new kind of tourism in Okinawa. It is great for tourists because they can experience a local life and gives locals a chance to rediscover charms of their own home towns.
The Kushi Interactive Tourism Office offers agricultural experiences with 10 host families. Other experiences are available as well, including area guides, Okinawan cooking and crafting. Please ask them about the details.
Kushi Interactive Tourism Office
Address: Wansaka Oura Park, 465-7 Oura, Nago City, Okinawa
Tel: 090-9785-7832 (vacation rental section)