This is a condensed article based on an article published on Visit Okinawa Japan.
This much is certain: the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the face of travel. But to keep things in perspective, the world has faced significant travel challenges as recently as 2001. With adaptations and precautions, people once again regained their confidence in travel safety, albeit with a few inconveniences.
With nearly a year of experience under their belts, travel agencies and destinations have built a solid foundation for safe travel in the pandemic and post-pandemic age of coronavirus. Those of us living in Japan will need some well-deserved relaxation when it is safe to travel again and discovering different parts of Japan will be a great option. As a major destination for domestic tourism, Okinawa, with its warm climate and endless variety of outdoor activities, is one of the places you might consider. Here are some ways to make your next trip to Okinawa safer and more enjoyable.
Things to Do Before Your Trip to Okinawa
It is important to keep in mind that Okinawa is not a single destination, but an archipelago, with islands having a unique set of circumstances they are dealing with during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the smaller islands have medical support facilities that can quickly be overcome by an increase in serious cases of COVID-19 while others can absorb temporary upticks in infections. The Okinawa Multilingual Contact Center is a public service providing tourist information, interpretation services, and emergency support. You can contact them to find out the COVID status of any of the islands you intend to visit (the English phone number within Japan is 0570-077201). Okinawa Monogatari is maintaining consolidated information about travel-related information specific to each of the islands (in Japanese) and is another way you can check current information.
COVID safety is a two-way street, so while we want to feel safe when traveling to a destination, it is also important to help the local people feel safe about accepting visitors from outside of the area. In the “With Corona” age of travel, monitoring your health prior to traveling will be the norm. Keeping a temperature log for each traveler in your group from about 2 weeks prior to departure is recommended. Purchase travel insurance so you have peace of mind if you need to cancel or postpone your trip for health reasons and be prepared for the cost and language barriers of an urgent hospital visit in the rare case it is necessary.
Safe Travels While in Okinawa
Although the tropical climate and fresh sea air might lull you into letting your guard down, don’t become so distracted by the atmosphere of Okinawa that you fail to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Continue to wear a mask indoors and in the close presence of others, especially service workers. But take advantage of the warm weather to eat outdoors, at restaurants that have an outdoor seating area or perhaps enjoying the sunset from a beachside park, using the growing options for take-out at Okinawa’s restaurants.
Enjoy Okinawa’s wonderful climate by walking or using bicycles to get around the islands. Bicycle shares and rental shops are plentiful in Okinawa and even electric-assist bicycles are available for those who want or need one.
Shops and restaurants that have demonstrated compliance with the anti-COVID safety measures of the prefecture will prominently display a “Shisa” sticker. Visit these establishments with peace of mind.
In the event that a visitor to Okinawa is concerned they might have contracted COVID-19, Okinawa provides a Medical Interpretation hotline (0570 050 235) able to take calls in many languages. The hotline representative can advise them and give them information about health care centers and clinics in Okinawa that can support them.
Okinawa’s naturally safer environment
Beyond the specific preparations Okinawa Prefecture has made against the coronavirus’s spread, nature itself has blessed Okinawa as an inherently safer environment against the virus. With its warm weather, clear oceans, and lush forests, Okinawa calls to visitors to enjoy time outdoors, safer place to be in the age of coronavirus. Okinawan tourism has always catered to outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of activities like scuba, paragliding, trekking, and cycling. For those who enjoy a slower pace of travel, there are also pristine beaches to relax on, exquisite cuisine to dig into, and cultural activities to participate in. As a family holiday destination, Okinawa has a wide variety of things to do to please every family member.
Before travelling, please always check the latest government advice about your destination.
While we cannot deny that the coronavirus will likely change personal travel for years to come, we don’t need to let it steal the joy from our precious vacation time. Destinations like Okinawa, which have natural advantages against the spread of coronavirus, are also taking concrete steps in making travel in Japan a safer and less worrisome experience.
Photos courtesy of OCVB