Japan Talking Point

A Journey of Discovery in Okinawa

Japanese prayer (Ema) at temple
Written by Kirstie Pelling

A Journey of Discovery in Okinawa

Japan is many things to many people.  For us it was a luminous pink kitten on a pagoda roof and a manga character in an electric town. It was a tidal wave of people on a zebra crossing and a glitter covered dancing robot. And that was just Tokyo! Much further south, Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands is so confident of its variety and appeal that it recently launched a campaign inviting a clutch of experts from different countries to come and discover its many sides. What did they find? Read on in this post, sponsored by Okinawa Prefecture..  

Hiking to Happo Ike in the Japan Alps

Japan is an amazing country for a journey of discovery. Hiking to Happo Ike in the Japan Alps

Seven go exploring

Seven experts from seven different countries; musician, dancer, mixologist, scuba diver, athlete, instagramer and food blogger were handpicked to visit Okinawa; one of the southernmost islands of Japan. They were handpicked to showcase what this island is famous for, and to take part in a series of challenges. And then to share their experiences with the rest of the world in a series of videos. Have you been missing The Apprentice? Then you should tune in to this…

Japanese prayer (Ema) at temple

There are many things in Japan that are a puzzle to outsiders. Ema at Japanese temple.

Apprentice style challenges

A mash up of a travel show and The Apprentice- but with nicer people and no orange tans- this series of little videos is worth a look if you have some down time and want entertaining. A bunch of the young and the beautiful are parachuted in to island life, split into two teams and given a daily task.

Here’s the cast:

Shoot like an Instagram pro

Yes this is an accountant and dentist free zone, but then who wants to watch someone doing sums in the sun or pulling teeth on a beach? In the first video we are treated to a whirlwind ride around the island of Okinawa with Canadian Instagram expert Seattle. She captures the sacred spirit of Sefa-Utaki which holds Okinawa’s royal history. She records squids drying in the sun on quaint Ojima Island. And she portrays the glorious detail of the C14th Shuri Castle, reconstructed to its full and former glory in the 1990’s. We then watch as her fellow travellers have to grab the same shots, without knowing names or locations..


Learn karate from the master

Okinawa; A Journey of Discovery is a fun series to watch, with tips from the experts and you might learn something. And each challenge showcases a different face of this beautiful island and of Japan. German Cross Fit Athlete Felix has a go at learning a Karate Kata from a strict Okinawan master and then teaching it to the others on Maeda beach. Apparently karate was developed in Okinawa. Who knew?


The real star is Okinawa

There is an element of interactivity to the campaign; you can question each competitor in the comments section of each video. The star of the show, however, is the region. Much better than The Apprentice’s grubby old London; Okinawa is a sunshine world of UNESCO heritage sites, ancient castles, cliff top views, and rocky coast. It makes me wish we’d scheduled it in to our own journey around Japan in the summer. People live longer in Okinawa than anywhere else on the world too. Must be all that fresh squid and fresh air.

Onu-ko-in at Kyosan, Japan

Onu-ko-in at Kyosan, Japan- a sacred space worth Instagraming.

You don’t have to be on TV to do this

The videos are also worth watching to glean ideas for family holidays. Why not set your own Instagram challenge next time you are on holiday, where you have to find the location of Dad’s pic and copy it exactly? Why not send one family member off to learn a local skill for the day and then teach the others. Why not have a challenge where you all compete to be the best? Watch the video below to see the challenge we set ourselves while in Japan’s Mount Fuji area; swimming the five sacred lakes.

Talking Point: Family Challenges

Do you set challenges while you are on holiday? Or learned any new skills? What’s worked for you? Do leave a comment with your thoughts.

Just after sunset at Onomichi from viewpoint

Our own discovery time in Japan- just after sunset at Onomichi from viewpoint

More tips on Japan

If you’re interested in your own journey of discovery in Japan, check out our post full of tips for a Japan Road Trip and the companion post on 25 of the best things to do with kids in Japan.

25 Things to do with Kids in Japan

25 Things to do with Kids in Japan

Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in collaboration with the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa. The views and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • I never came up with a plan to set a family challenge while travelling. But maybe when my daughter is a little bit older it would be fun if she gets bored.

  • We never set ourselves preplanned challenges like you do, and I envy you for this collective choice. My family wouldn’t pull that rope. But challenges happen along to us, too, and we take them as they come. Challenges make holidays remarkable, it’s the mishaps we remember, the small adventures. Nothing happens, nothing to remember. Two weeks on a beach or by a pool is not for us either.

  • I do like the idea of a family challenge holiday. Hm. Yes. You’ve got me thinking there!

    We did challenge my mother in law to learn to ski at 60+ last time. I suppose that counts a bit? Unevenly spread across the group, though.

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