Cold! Because of strong winds + poor home insulation
Winter break – take some additional nenkyuu and travel or visit family (be sure to bring back some omiyage)
Come back for some New Year’s nabe parties w/ co-workers and friends, when you gather around a pot and each share in the cooking of nabe, a japanese stew.
In Okinawa and mainland Japan, people give each other New Years cards (年賀状 ねんがじょう nengajou), and children get money in special envelopes (お年玉 おとしだま otoshi dama). Friends and co-workers may ask for your address in order to send you a card as well. If you are lucky enough to receive one, it is a nice gesture to send a reply.
By the end of January, you would’ve decided whether you are re-contracting or returning to your home country.
Okinawa boasts the earliest cherry blossoms. They are darker in color compared to mainland Japan’s cherry blossoms. Go see them in Nago in late January or Early February.
In February, Hokkaido has its annual snow festival (雪祭り ゆきまつり yuki matsuri), which showcases some really impressive snow and ice sculptures. It’s worth taking some nenkyuu to fly to mainland Japan to check it out!
Whale Watching season also happens in February. Go to Zamami!
Okinawa City Marathon – Late February. Run Forrest Run!
Spring season (early march – end of April)
Good weather! one of the best times to hit the coral-filled beaches
Triathlon season (Ishigaki & Miyako triathlons)
In March, Okiten – a super huge annual art exhibition happening in Urasoe. If you are an artist/into art, this is a must see, and why not plan on submitting your work there as well?
In late April, enjoy Okinawa’s annual fireworks festival in Ginowan… on a beach!
Rainy Season (early May – early June)
The strong winds (umbrella-breaking winds) from winter return to accompany bouts of heavy rain. Not everyday, but often, and the rain may last quite a long time when it comes.
Golden Week – a string of Japanese holidays happening from the end of April to early May. A lot of ALTs travel during this time. Go with them!
An unbeaten path in the many Golden Week travel options is to volunteer in Asia. Many options exist, including initiatives started by former JETs.
One of the more prominent Golden Week holidays is Children’s day (kodomo no hi) on May 5th , when parents will let a kid be a kid for one day. This is the holiday when you may see koi fish banners. Each koi represents a different member of a person’s family.
Cool May events: Iejima lily festival, Beach volleyball tournament in Miyako
Also from May to June, a lot of Hari Dragon boat races will occur in Naha, Itoman, and elsewhere.
Typhoon Season (early June – early August)
Typhoons are strong hurricanes. They usually last a day or two, and are characterized by really heavy winds and rain. Although technically, you are not completely safe until the end of November, the majority of them happen in July and early August.
Typhoons are not that scary! Okinawa is super prepared for them. People know what to do, and buildings are equipped for them. So most are actually excited when typhoons come, and have typhoon parties!
You will still need to be safe and take the necessary precautions for each typhoon (i.e. securing things on your balcony, collecting enough dry food to last you two days, etc). Also listen out for warnings and advice from the PA about upcoming typhoons.
June 23rd is Irei no hi (the day to console the dead), and is considered an important Okinawan memorial holiday for the families who were lost in the Battle of Okinawa.
Some ALTs take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) in early July. Remember that you have to register months in advance (April), and it is never too early to start studying for it.
A fun festival, Tanabata, where you write your wish on colored paper and tie it to a tree, is celebrated in early July.
An awesome event to go to in July is the Peaceful Love Rock Festival in Miyako. It is a big music extravaganza that even people from mainland Japan come to see. Many Okinawa JETs make plans to attend each year as well.
JET Recontracting/Returner’s Ceremony in mid July – JETs who are staying sign their contracts. JETs who are returning to their home country give a speech in Japanese as punishment (j/k, it’s a chance to show their growth and improvement in the language :).
Usually after the Recontracting/Returner’s Ceremony, the annual Gumball Rally occurs, a fun scavenger hunt between teams of ALTs on the island.
Summer season (late July – late September)
The hottest and most humid time of year. Your work clothes may be noticeably drenched in sweat if you don’t wear an under shirt, but the under shirt will make you hotter. It’s a catch 22!
The bugs will come out. Yabai!
English contests (skit, debate, story, and speech) happen at different times of the year, but the big prefectural-wide ones happen predominantly in the summer and fall seasons. ALTs are often asked to prepare students and/or play the role of judges at the contests.
In late July to mid August, there will be a couple of “English camps”, for which ALTs plan and host a day or two of English activities for students. These English camps may or may not take place on an actual campground. They also happen at schools and at the Education center.
Summer is also a big time to travel. Go visit your family (if you haven’t during the winter break) or go on an awesome adventure. A lot of ALTs visit Mt. Fuji because it’s the only time you can hike the mountain (July to early August). This is highly recommended, as well as going to see the ancient forests of Yakushima, Kyushu.
Unfortunately, some of us also have to say goodbye to Okinawa and each other during this period. Attend the annual farewell party to hang out with everybody for one more night at a pension, before you say the big sayoonara.
At the end of August (following the lunar calendar), there will be Obon in Okinawa. It is a 3-day holiday, where it is believed a family’s ancestors revisit the family altar. It is usually accompanied by a lot of Eisa performance, before and after. Furthermore, Okinawans generally avoid the sea during Obon (they believe the spirits will attack you during this time, and consider it generally a bad omen).
Awesome events: the 10,000 people Eisa Dance Parade and Yonabaru Matsuri/Tug of War in August, followed by the Orion Beer Festival, the All Okinawan Eisa Festival, and the All Okinawan Lion Dance Festival (shishimai) in September!
ALT annual trip to an outer island in September. I highly recommend going! It’s fun, and one of the best events all year to bond and get to know all the new and old ALTs on the island.
Fall season (late September to late December)
Fall, like Spring, has good mild weather. It’s great for snorkeling/diving in the ocean, and exploring various places outside.
Cool Fall events: the Okinawa Craftwork Expo and the Naha tug of war in October, as well as the Itoman’s Peaceful Illumination Festival in December.
Silver Week happens mid – late September. You might want to use this time to visit mainland Japan or an Okinawan outer island.
If you are a cyclist, you may be interested in entering the Tour de Okinawa in November.
The Skill Development Conference (SDC) happens at the Education Center in early November. Very useful workshops pertaining to teaching and life in Okinawa will be offered by your fellow ALTs. Besides being extremely informative and helpful, it is usually accompanied with a book exchange, a JET t-shirt design contest (the winning shirt can be bought at the conference), and a fun social event afterwards.
In early December, you must (but not really) choose between the Naha marathon or taking the JLPT (register in September)… a rock and a hard place!