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Update's "winter things to do" guide

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-03-02

Although winters on Okinawa are short and fairly mild, the winter "blues" can still creep up on anyone. February can often seem very long, with the temperature sometimes dipping below 50 F, making the typical day at the beach seem like a far and distant memory. Swim-suits are replaced by jackets, and windows which normally remain open are closed. The days are short, and clouds often cover the blue sky. But there are many fun things you can do to make Okinawa's winter go by quickly.

One of the best ways to get you through the cold months is to enjoy many of the leisure activities that can be done on Okinawa all year round. Hiking is a great way to get out of the house and explore, and there are plenty of great hiking courses around the island. The "Ishikawa People's Forest Park" has several great trails that take you through some beautiful sub-tropical terrain. The Onna-son "Historical Road" is another great hike, which leads you along parts of an ancient road used during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. It also gives you a fantastic view of both the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. A walk along the Hiji Waterfall route is also very rewarding, and the wooden constructed steps and bridges make it safe for people of all ages to reach the base of the 90 foot high waterfall.

If the outdoors does not appeal to you, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun indoors. You can actually get into the winter spirit by visiting the ice skating rink at "Haebaru Sports World." The official size hockey rink enables you to have plenty of room to test your skating skills, or fall down, whichever the case may be. The complex has batting cages, bowling, and billiards, providing fun for the whole day. The new Mihama shopping area, located in Chatan, also lets you enjoy many different things in one place. The area includes the beautiful Seven-Plex movie theatre, restaurants, bowling, and a huge game center. Other entertainment indoors lets you select from a variety of concerts, plays, and other events here on Okinawa, which are all listed in the Japan Update monthly community calendar.

If none of these ideas can cure your longing for beach weather, you can still find some satisfaction with a few winter-time, marine related activities. Beach combing and reef walking are both fun and are traditional past-times in Okinawa. As the tide goes out, tide pools and caves are left behind filled with colorful tropical fish. You can observe locals scouring the exposed area of reef for shellfish and other delicasies. Whale watching is another way to get back out on the water. The exciting tours, which last until the end of March, put you upclose an personal with the mighty creatures. You can even enjoy the magical underwater world of Okinawa at the Expo Park Aquarium if you desire.

By combining many of the above mentioned activities together with some great local food, you can really satisfy both yourself and your family. Okinawan "soba" is a favorite among many foreigners living on the island. It is inexpensive, filling, and tastes great on a cold winter day. "Nabe" is another good tasting dish, and is a great way to spend an evening with friends.

"Nabe", which means "pot" in English, is a homemade type of soup. It begins by heating a ceramic pot with a portable gas burner, which sits on your dining table. There are many variations of "nabe", but a typical way of making it uses "dashi" (fish stock for soup). Together in boiling water, you then add: tofu, cabbage, shitake mushrooms, scallions, scallops, shrimp, muscles, and salmon. After simmering everything for 20 to 30 minutes, it's ready to eat. Everyone sits around the pot, serving themselves and adding more food to the soup as you eat. You can substitute the seafood with chicken and other vegetables of your choice. The ceramic pots and gas burners can be found at any local home shopping center, such as "Makeman" or "Big 1." It is cheap, fast, and fun!

Take advantage of the winter weather and discover some of Okinawa's other treasures. There is always something to do if you are willing to get out and search. Before you know it, summer will be here again!

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