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Okinawa is home to some of Earth's longest-living people. Fly there from Tokyo, then tour the coastline to tap into the fountain of youth.

 

1. Eat well
With an emphasis on vegetables, seaweeds and seafood – some unfamiliar even to mainland Japanese – the Okinawa Diet is key to healthy living. On a rural road in Ogimi Village, in the jungly northern region of the main island, Emi No Mise restaurant is run by trained nutritionist and chef Emiko Kinjo. She serves up a multicourse lunch with a photo legend to help you decipher what you’re eating: sea grapes, bitter melon, local tofu, vinegared mozuku and soba noodles scented with shikuwasa, a local citrus. Locals don’t just eat well; they garden well too. Don’t be surprised if the 90-year-old woman who waved to you was the one who farmed the greens on your plate.
• Emi No Mise, 61 Okanehisa, Ogimi Village, 81-98-44-3220

2. Stay fit
Okinawa is the birthplace of karate. Until the early 1600s, these islands made up the Ryukyu Kingdom, a realm heavily influenced by Chinese and Southeast Asian cultures. After the feudal domain of Satsuma invaded and banned the use of weapons, karate was developed as a strategy for self-defence. You’ll step back in time with a lesson at the Okinawa Traditional Karatedo Kobudo International Study Center, set in a replica of a walled Ryukyu village. As the instructor will tell you, the focus is not on the showy flourishes of competition martial arts; it’s all about subtle but strong movements underpinned by a deep sense of spirituality.
• Okinawa Traditional Karatedo Kobudo International Study Center, 1010 Takashiho, Yomitan Village

3. Contribute to the community
Okinawa is a string of about 160 islands surrounded by the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, making it a paradise for snorkelling and scuba. Coral plays a key role in maintaining marine diversity by purifying the water, but the reefs are sensitive to environmental contaminants and global warming. Tour the seeding project at Sango Batake to see some of the 200 different types of native coral. Afterward head to the nursery for hands-on help in rebuilding the reefs; you’ll snip and transplant baby coral that will eventually get a new lease on life out at sea.
• Sango Batake, 915 takashiho, Yomitan-son, Nakaguni-gun, 81-98-904-0323

Flying high is part of staying young in Okinawa (Photo: Okinawa Flyboard)

4. Soak up the sun
Okinawa’s active surf culture is a youthful counterpoint to its reputation as an oasis for the elderly. Its many seaside resorts are on the next wave of water sports. At Okinawa Flyboard in Uken, get into a wetsuit, take a ride offshore in a watercraft and strap on a pair of boots that are essentially a jetpack for your feet. As a pressurized stream pushes you upward, it’s all about trying to balance on a column of water while flying up to 15 metres in the air. If you’re not quite doing the flips and spins worthy of hydroflight athletes at the Flyboard World Cup, at least you’re far enough from the beach that people won’t hear you squeal.
• Okinawa Flyboard, Uken Beach (east coast), 644-3 Uken, Uruma City, 81-80-3752-9500

5. Connect with the past
Vestiges of 13th-century castles still define the landscape of Okinawa, and the sweeping views over the mountains to the rugged shorelines feel unchanged since the era of the Ryukyuan kings. Go even further back in history with a tour of the Valley of Gangala, which encompasses a series of limestone caves inhabited by the prehistoric Minatogawa Man some 20,000 years ago. Hike through a primordial landscape of dreadlocked banyan trees, where archeologists are still unearthing artifacts, and get a coffee at the Cave Café. (Just beware of stalactites dripping into your cup.)
• Valley of Gangala, 202 Maekawa, Tamagusuku, Nanjo City

Tags

JAPAN     OKINAWA     OSAKA     SUN DESTINATIONS     TOKYO    

Getting There

Air Canada offers year-round daily service to Tokyo-Haneda and Tokyo-Narita.

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