A Very Oki Christmas Featuring @thespiritedwife
I am more than excited to share with you this week's guest blogger, Ashley Cooper from @thespiritedwife!
Living in Okinawa, I often turn to Instagram to find like-minded women who share hidden gems around the island. When I first found Ashley, I was immediately drawn to the images on her instagram feed. I thought, "who better to share the Christmas magic of Oki than Ashley who undoubtedly transforms those warm and cozy holiday feelings into tiny little squares?" If Instagram ever were to be considered art, her page is absolutely of that caliber. Just scrolling her Instagram feed brings back so many fond memories of my own childhood and feels like home! Without further adieu, enjoy Ashley's blog!
Hi! We're the Cooper family!
We currently reside in magical Okinawa, Japan. This is our second tour here. There's truly no place like it and we're grateful we got to return and show our girls where they were born. Our girls getting to experience Okinawa at an older age has been one of the greatest gifts. I'm completely honored that Kellie asked me to be a guest on her blog. Isn't she the coolest? Her encouraging and down-to-earth posts are just the best!
It's the holiday season and I'm excited to share some of our favorite Christmassy things to do here in Oki during the month of December! 2020 has been doozy and living life during a pandemic has proven to be hard on us all. I wish more than anything to give my mama a hug or to travel beyond Japan. Travel. Such a beautiful word. With restrictions changing daily it can be especially hard to make any exciting holiday plans. Good news! Some of our most treasured yuletide memories were the ones we made here on-island. I'm pumped to share our humble little Oki Christmastime bucket list. Please note that most of the pictures shown below are from last year. Light installations and attractions may have changed and improved for 2020.
1. MURASAKI MURA WINTER LANTERN FESTIVAL
Murasaki Mura is located in Yomitan. Its traditional Ryukyu Kingdom theme transports you back in time. Add brilliantly lit lanterns and it serves up an additional dose of wonder and excitement. Be sure to explore the grounds! There are special themed installations all over the park. The festival is ongoing through the month of March. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings during the hours of 1730-2200. There are mask protocols and your temp will be checked at the gate. In previous years there were performances and outdoor food vendors. Be sure to check their website for any changes before attending.
2. SOUTHEAST BOTANICAL GARDENS
The Southeast Botanical Gardens during the day is already a storybook dream, but after dark this place lights up like no other. The Botanical Gardens illumination brochure advertises "2.8 millions of brilliance!" I just love that. Everywhere you look is adorned with lights. EVERYWHERE. Clark Griswold better step up his game. Wander the paths and you'll find goodness around every corner! You can experience the gardens in its full sparkle anytime after 5pm.
3. CHURA ICHIGO
Ichigo! Meaning “strawberry” in Japanese. December means the start of strawberry season, and for our family that is a very, very big deal. We love strawberries and the strawberries here taste like candy! A little pricey, but so entirely worth it in my book. We love going strawberry picking stateside. Guess what? You can do it here too! Strawberry picking at Chura Ichigo starts on the 19th of December. Last year I easily made a reservation on their website. I'm not 100% sure how it will all work this year with Covid, but I would definitely keep checking their website for updates. They do offer an all-you-can-eat picking, but with restrictions that may not be an option. Be sure to check with your command before adventuring. Fingers crossed we can simply pick fresh strawberries! All else fails, you can still visit the greenhouses and buy pre-picked strawberries.
4. AMERICAN VILLAGE
An American Village visit during this season is a must. Lots of lights and funky statues scattered all around. It's become our Christmas Eve tradition to ride the Ferris Wheel at sunset and then stroll the area looking at lights. Bring along hot cocoa and make it a night! It's a simple activity packed with some serious sweetness.
5. HOME SWEET HOME
You already know where I'm going with this, huh? Cheesy, I know, but I truly believe that the best place to achieve those warm fuzzy holiday feelings is in your own home. Gather your tribe and celebrate old traditions! Start new ones! Deck every single hall. Bake cookies. Watch all the holiday movies. You can order yourself a traditional Oki Christmas dinner! I see you KFC and Jimmy's Christmas cake! We currently live across the street from the most precious Japanese preschool. Last Christmas they had school. It strangely rocked me. It was like any other day for them. Christmas obviously isn't celebrated the same here as in the states so it's only natural for things to feel a little off. Go into this year without any expectations. I highly recommend having a game plan for the day if you're especially missing home this season. We're excited to add a little hike to our day after presents and grab Chinese food for dinner. Make it special in your own way!
BONUS: Don't forget to take advantage of the cooler weather. We thoroughly enjoy hiking and camping this month too. Visit those castle ruins while you're at it! That sweltering heat will be back before we know it! Happy Holidays, friends. Wishing you and yours a beautiful Oki Christmas.