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The last stop on our trip was the tropical island Okinawa, south of mainland Japan. The temperatures in all places we visited had been quite high for late October/November, but when we arrived on Okinawa it was like we went back to summer. We stayed at a friend's house where we slept on real tatami mats. It was a great experience to stay in a real Japanese house and get a taste of home life in Japan. The first place our host took us, was the Shikina-en garden where visitors from abroad used to be taken by the locals. 

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Next, we went to the view point Cape Manzamo, which means "a place for 10,000 people to sit" in Japanese. We had dinner at a traditional Okinawan restaurant at a low table with a sunken floor for your legs. Food on Okinawa and the surrounding islands is quite different from mainland Japan. Of course, you can still get things like sushi and ramen, but the key ingredients in Okinawan cuisine are pork and konbu, a specific type of seaweed. Some dishes have been influenced by the Americans, who have several army bases on the island, such as taco rice, dishes with spam (canned precooked meat) and Blue Seal ice cream.

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The next day, we took the boat to a group of even smaller islands, the Kerama islands. We stayed on the second largest island called Zamami, and did a short day trip to Aka. It was low season when we were there, so it was really quiet on the islands. In fact, some shop and restaurant owners couldn't even be bothered to open their businesses everyday. Life on the islands was very laid-back, and there was not a lot more to do than just chill at the beach, do some snorkelling and eat, which was a perfect way to end our trip. Both Zamami and Aka are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs so you can see a lot of beautiful things if you go snorkeling. Zamami even has a special turtle beach, where you might be able to spot turtles if you go at the right time. The area is also very famous for whale watching, because humpback whales come there in the winter (December-April) to mate.

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This trip to Japan was an incredible experience and I would recommend anyone to go there. Japan is an interesting and very culturally rich country. In Tokyo I was exposed to the buzzing, hyper modernised life in urban Japan. In Kyoto, the city of temples, I got the full Japanese tourist experience. Himeji castle made me wonder what life as a Japanese royal must have been like. I went back to the roots of Japanese denim in Kojima and immersed myself into modern art on Naoshima. Hiroshima surprised me with its positive vibes, despite its horrid history. I saw how beautiful autumn can be in Miyajima. And last, but not least, I had the warmest birthday ever on tropical Okinawa. I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in Japan :)

Merel

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