Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Discovering Okinawa on Foot

Onoyama Park in Naha, Okinawa is a great place for a morning workout

Onoyama Park in Naha, Okinawa is a great place for a morning workout

Naha, Okinawa

    The sign reads “Welcome to the Eden of Japan” as we arrive in beautiful Okinawa. 

    A short taxi ride away is our home for the next five days, The Harbor View Crown Plaza, in the center of downtown Naha.

   We soon learn that just a short nine minute walk from the hotel is Onoyama Park, a sprawling, well kept area that runs parallel to the Onoyama River and the Tsubogawa Monorail Station.

   Onoyama Park has something for everyone looking for a good workout. There is a soft track like surface that runs along the river, which turns into asphalt as it winds its way through the park.

   It doesn’t take long before we discover why Okinawa is called the “island of smiles” as we are greeted by dozens of locals with “ohayou gozaimasu” and a smile.

   I’ve never meet friendlier people which makes us feel right at home from our very first day.  The park is filled with dozens of health enthusiasts by six each morning doing a variety of activities from running, jogging, walking, Tai Chi, stretching and using the many types of exercise equipment available throughout the park.

   Several of the locals are dressed in extra clothing which includes sweat pants and jackets, along with towels wrapped around their necks in order to get a good sweat going in the 80 degree heat. 

   During my five mornings at Onoyama Park I had never seen anyone working out without a shirt and only a few wear running shorts above the knees. 

   Onoyama Park has some of the biggest, longest, children slides I’ve ever seen.  Of course, you have to walk up a hundred steps or so to make use of the slides which would give those kids a great workout in itself.

   One of the coolest things that I found within the park was a barefoot walking path that contained smooth rocks of various sizes that are supposed to stimulate various pressure points in the feet.

   Further down is a rock climbing wall that is steep and goes up for about 100 yards and included a rope that helps you propel the vertical giant in relative ease.

   There are tennis courts, a sumo mound, clean restrooms throughout the park, and we feel safe and comfortable at all times, which is a real plus when you’re out for your daily workout routine.

   In the center of the park, up on a hill, is a beautiful Buddhist Temple which is well kept and open to everyone. 

   Onoyama Park is still growing as a portion is under construction for what is to be an Olympic size pool that should be open to the public in early 2010.

  Okinawa has the longest living people in the world and exercise is at the forefront of their daily lives.  Very few people are overweight or obese and most consume a healthful diet of vegetables and fish.

   Our afternoons are spent walking to Kokusai Street, considered the Main Street of Naha.  Kokusai is a 30 minute walk from the hotel and is host to the largest shopping area that I’ve ever seen.

    Kokusai used to be called “The Miracle Mile” because there are shops on both sides of the mile-long street.  Take a detour onto any of the dozens of side alleyways and you’ll discover endless shops filled with a wide assortment of trinkets, foods, and knick knacks.

    Everywhere we turn we are greeted by happy smiling people and an energetic “konnichiwa.”

What stands out about Okinawa is how clean everything is – the streets, the people and the restrooms.

  An eco conscientious island is very apparent starting from the hotel which has different trash containers for plastic and aluminum trash and another for burnable trash.

   Trash containers are easy to find throughout the island.

   Just remember, when crossing a street, to look right then left as people drive on the opposite side from what we Americans are used to driving on.

   With our morning run at Onoyama Park and our afternoons walking through the back streets at Kokusai we are able to put in about 10 miles per day and continue to maintain our fitness level and our weight while on vacation.

   While visiting the Nakijin Gusuku Ruins, near Nago City in central Okinawa we were introduced to Seiji Nakamine, a healthy 75 year old that was born and raised in Okinawa.

    Nakamine was a volunteer tour guide at the ruins that spoke English and helped us understand the castle remains and the various worship areas.

    “I actually speak better Spanish than I do English,” Nakamine said.  “I worked at the U.S. Army base in Naha for 19 years and that is where I learned to speak English.”

   Nakamine, now retired, spends a good deal of his time volunteering to help visitors understand the social and cultural aspects of his home. 

   What impressed me about this 75 year old was how healthy and active he was.  Nakamine took us through several hilly spots, during a slight rainfall, where the footing was poor and he continued to wait for us, up ahead, as he showed his youthfulness and stamina.

   When asked if he was Okinawan or Japanese, Nakamine replied, “That is a very good question.  I am Okinawan,” he said with a smile.

Randee Joseph and tour guide, Seiji Namine, pose for photo at Nakijin Gusuku Ruins

Randee Joseph and tour guide, Seiji Namine, pose for photo at Nakijin Gusuku Ruins One of the site at Gusuku Ruins near Nago City in Central OkinawaOne site at the Gusuku Ruins near Nago City in central Okinawa

One of the many ruins located at Nakijin Gusuku near Nago City in central Okinawa

One of the many ruins located at Nakijin Gusuku near Nago City in central Okinawa


July 13, 2009 - Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , ,

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