Okinawa product managers get immersed in destination

Hands-on experiences galore for first overseas Okinawa famil since the pandemic

Japan is open to tourism again, and what better time to host the first famil visit to Okinawa in three years. Antonio Khattar, The Walshe Group’s Account Manager for Okinawa Tourism, has just returned from escorting a small group of product managers to the region, and shares his experience here with LATTE.

The group flew from Sydney on ANA’s daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner service to Tokyo, offering more legroom than most in Economy class and warm Japanese hospitality, Khattar said.

“We made a seamless connection through Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to our two-hour flight south to Naha, Okinawa’s main gateway city.”

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“Okinawa is not like any other part of Japan – our trip was all about experiencing the region’s unique natural landscape, culture and activities.

“This included a karate experience at the Okinawan Karate Kaikan where we (successfully!) attempted chopping through tiles, a traditional cooking experience with Yonner Food which took us through Naha’s food halls.

“We discovered a variety of unique Okinawan ingredients and produce including some of the sweetest pineapples and miniature bananas you can find! It was hard not to be tempted by snacks along the way like some delicious vegetarian tempura or some Sata andagi, a traditional Okinawan Brown Sugar Doughnut.

“We picked up some goya bitter melon and some pork belly before heading to our cooking teacher’s apartment to learn about how to prepare and cook traditional Okinawan meals for dinner – a really special and intimate experience,” Khattar said.

Hayley O’Rourke, Journeys By Design
Yonner Food Cooking Experience

The group also had another hands-on experience, taking part in the century-old practice of Okinawan indigo dying which has been popular with locals since the Ryukyu Kingdom era.

Using the Ryukyu indigo dye which has long been produced in the Izumi area of Motobu Town in northern Okinawa, the participants each walked away with their own handmade piece of indigo-dyed art to take home.

Bianca Hockey, Travel Japan HIS
Rika Nishimura, Kuroko Boutique Tours
Indigo dyeing experience - the finished product

To end the Okinawa famil, the group also explored the Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands, about an hour’s flight from Naha. During the visit to Ishigaki, they visited an Ishigaki-yaki pottery studio where the speciality is a fused glass style of pottery making – creating colour-rich glass-coated clay pieces.

Here the travel advisors had the chance to create their own masterpiece which will be shipped home to Australia in a few month’s time once the entire process is complete.

Ryukyu glass making - by the resident expert
Karen Robertson, MW Tours

“It’s the perfect momento to remember our visit… although I cannot see mine being displayed at a museum any time soon!” Khattar quipped.

The visit to Okinawa featured some special stays to highlight some of the stunning accommodation options available for Australian travellers. Properties included the centrally located Hyatt Regency Naha, the boutique 19 villa HIRAMATSU Hotel and Resort in Ginoza on the main island – where they enjoyed a 7-course French influenced Okinawan degustation meal; Fusaki Beach Resort on Ishigaki Island and the HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island – a luxurious yet traditionally built hotel where Khattar says it almost felt like a step back in time with its tastefully designed Okinawan architecture.

A view from an infinity pool at HIRAMATSU

“There is so much to see and do in Okinawa. I can’t wait to share with all my tips and advice with travel partners!” Khattar added.

For more information about Okinawa and advice, email Antonio at: antonio.khattar@walshegroup.com.

Lead image: Pictured during the HIRAMATSU Hotel site inspection, from left are: Karen Robertson, MW Tours; Rika Nishimura, Kuroko Boutique Tours; Hayley O’Rourke; Journeys by Design; Bianca Hockey, Travel Japan HIS; Antonio Khattar, Okinawa Tourism/The Walshe Group, with Kahoru Iijima from Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau and Domenic Puszicha, Tour Guide.

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