Daily Archives: 2011/08/01

The Adventure Begins – First Stop: Naha, Okinawa

The name Okinawa might be familiar to many Americans for the sole fact that about 35,000 U.S. military personnel are still stationed there to this day. And indeed when you arrive in Naha, the biggest city on the island of Okinawa, you are immediately traumatized greeted by various bits of American cultural influence. A quick drive up the main highways of Okinawa will reveal multiple military bases from the four major branches of the U.S. military.

Shisa - Ryukyuan decoration used to ward of evil spirits and keep in the good ones

However, there is also a very strong Okinawan culture that existed before the arrival of the Americans and is still very strong today. The Okinawan people hold on to their culture very well. Okinawan culture is also more open and relaxed than that of the mainland of Japan. Although I don’t speak much Japanese, I was informed by a friend that basic language exchanges are more informal here than on the mainland. After all, the Japanese language has four levels of politeness used when addressing someone, second only to Korean, which has six or seven levels depending on who you ask. The politeness level used on the islands tends to be much more relaxed. Just make sure you don’t take that attitude back with you to the mainland or you might end up insulting someone without meaning to do so.

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