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‘Cobra Kai’ star Ralph Macchio says visiting Okinawa, Japan, was “almost spiritual for me”


In the East China Sea, in southern Japan, Okinawa Prefecture comprises 160 islands with a surprisingly tropical climate. It is also one of the five Blue Zones, where people live the longest and are the healthiest.

Cobra Kai star Ralph Macchio filmed scenes for season three over a few days on the lush main island of Okinawa – the birthplace of karate and the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

He was struck by “the perfectly clear skies and calm breezes while enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains and beautiful coastlines.” During his brief journey, “what remained consistent was the welcoming embrace of the island’s people, often described as the happiest place in the world with its unparalleled longevity and longevity.” Macchio kept up Ryukyu Onsen Senagajima Hotel (from $150 per night), known for its popular traditional hot spring bath called onsen. He says visiting the “‘Land of Miyagi’ was almost spiritual for me.”

With the country closed to travelers until October 2022, the newest properties and experiences in Okinawa are largely undiscovered outside of Japan.

2020, Hoshinoya Okinawa (from $1,005 per night) opened in Yomitan village with protective local Gusuku stone walls, ocean panoramas and technicolor coral reefs in front. The 100 low-key rooms and villas feature interior patios and contemporary design that references hyper-local cultural heritage, such as Okinawa’s traditional dye. The cuisine is fresh and sourced from the ‘farms of the sea’. Horse riding on the beach, Ryukyu martial arts and local lessons sanshin musical instrument are also all available.

Guest house in Hoshinoya Okinawa, Japan.

Hoshinoya Okinawa

Forty-five minutes northeast Halekulani Okinawa (from $559 per night), an outpost of Waikiki’s famed Halekulani. Opened in 2019, it offers private helicopter transfers from the airport, which appeals to the Japanese film industry, musicians and athletes. The most remote accommodations are five shrine-like clifftop villas with heated pools and natural hot springs (onsen), starting at $2,374 per night. The locally sourced gourmet restaurant Shiroux is led by two-Michelin star chef Hiroyasu Kawate, and the resort has two exclusive experiences in the newly minted UNESCO World Heritage Site Yanbaru National Park, where guests can try the beloved Japanese activity of stream climbing, known as sawanobori.

Halekulani Okinawa - Resort - Pool at sunset - Japan

Sunset pool at the Halekulani Okinawa.

Halekulani Okinawa

Taketomi is a charmingly quiet island with just three villages (and no airport; it’s accessible by ferry from Ishigaki Island) with a beach of star-shaped coral sand, water buffalo cart rides, and a local banjo-style instrument called sanshin. The islands Hoshinoya Taketomi (from $827 per night) is a 48-villa luxury resort where a lively 94-year-old resident teaches guests mat weaving, one of the many tizawa practices, also called handicrafts in the local dialect. General manager Jumpei Kataoka says guests are “able to connect with traditions that have remained unchanged for centuries. The locals welcome guests and want them to get to know the island by living like them.”

Hashinoya Taketomi - Guest Villa - Resort - Okinawa - Japan

Guest villa at the Hashinoya Taketomi in Okinawa, Japan.

Hashinoya Taketomi

Also on offer for a limited time: the Iriomote Island Jungle Butler experience on a small trodden island, kayaking through Japan’s largest mangrove basin and trekking into remote jungles home to the protected Iriomote wildcat. “To round off the day, travelers can take part in a nighttime breathing ritual and find serenity in the stars,” adds Kataoka, as this is “the first area in Japan designated as a dark sky sanctuary – the Milky Way, Seven Sisters and other star clusters shine brightly from Taketomi!”

A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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