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Okinawa consists of 160 islands and only 48 are inhabited. The capital city of Okinawa Prefecture is Naha, which is located in the southern part of the Okinawa Islands. In the past, Naha was the commercial center of the Ryukyu Kingdom. However, the city was completely destroyed during the battle of Okinawa in World War II. With its history and subtropical climate, Naha remains one of my favorite tourist attractions.
Paraestra is an MMA team that was created by former Shooto welterweight champion and Vale Tudo Japan competitor Yuki Nakai. Currently, Paraestra has multiple gyms throughout Japan and its headquarter is located in Tokyo. As it focuses on MMA, Paraestra Okinawa offered various classes including Brazilian Jiu-Jiutsu and striking classes. Also, there are a few current MMA contenders training for their future fights.
All classes were taught by Ryota Matsune, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and a former Shooto Featherweight Champion with a record of 16–2–1. Given that the Paraestra Okinawa is focused on MMA/Shooto, students were well-rounded. Also, the class sizes were smaller as it is located in a small town. Because of this, training sessions were intimate.
While training in Naha, Okinawa, I was lucky to meet Jon Valles, a former US Marine and a current MMA competitor, who welcomed me into Okinawa’s Jiu-Jitsu community. He was kind enough to invite me to dinner and to train Jiu-Jitsu at the US Marine Corps Camp Futenma with US Marines which will be covered in the next post.
Paraestra Okinawa’s class structures were fairly standard with intensive body weight training. As mentioned previously, the gym is home for current MMA fighters and the level of sparring was notable. Although the gym might be in a remote location, it was worth visiting after a relaxing day with beautiful scenery of Okinawa. Also, be sure to drink a lot of water beforehand. Combined with lack of air conditioning and its tropical weather, training could be challenging.
Paraestra Okinwa was located about 1.7km south of the main shopping malls and tourist attractions near Makishi Monorail Station. As a backpacker, I did not rent a car so I walked to the training facility almost everyday until I met Jon who offered me a ride to training. I would highly recommend renting a car while traveling in Okinawa or you will end up walking everywhere like I did (Google Map: Link)
Paraestra Okinawa’s facility had a small mat space and locker rooms. Unfortunately, there was no shower as the gym as it catered towards locals. The facility includes a few weight training equipment.
Paraestra Okinawa’s schedule is posted online, but it is written in Japanese. With an assistance from my friend, Jon, I have translated the schedule for you below:
Drop-In fee for a day was ¥2000 and you can pay in cash at the gym.
<<Exchange Rate: ¥1000 =~$9.32 USD as of April 5th, 2018>>
Tourist Attractions & Food
- Shuri Castle— The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which served as a residence for Ryukyu kings until Okinawa became a Japanese Prefecture in 1879. The top of the castle overlooks Naha. I would recommend Shuri Castle’s traditional Okinawan tea and snacks while touring the castle.
- Sunset beach (Chatan) — Chatan is located 17km north of Naha. Sunset beach is located near the Mihama American Village. The beach is pleasant and serene since it was not crowded.
- Fukushūen — A traditional Chinese garden with a beautiful scenery. The garden was established as a symbol of the sister city relationship between Naha and the Chinese city, Fuzhou.
- Makishi Public Market —The most popular market district in Naha trades all sorts of Okinawan food and souvenirs. The surrounding area of the market is filled with restaurants as well. I would recommend rewarding yourself with delicious local cuisines after enjoying Okinawa’s humid tropical weather.
- The Mihama American Village — The entertainment complex is surrounded by American military bases and it provides nostalgic pleasure to American soldiers. The complex has restaurants and shops selling American brand clothes and food. The most notable feature of the American village is its Ferris Wheel.
– Okinawa Map