Formerly the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, today the hundreds of islands that make up Okinawa belong to Japan. Okinawa is an amalgamation of traditional Ryukyu customs, western influence, Japanese language and culture, and island lifestyles. Visitors to Japan’s southernmost prefecture are as likely to experience Eisa dancing and hear the beat of taiko drums as they are to eat in steak joints and hear multiple dialects of spoken Japanese. The Okinawan islands extent for 620 miles (1,000 km) and showcase some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that Japan has to offer.

Sun and beaches are the primary reason to visit Okinawa, but with 19% of the total land area of the prefecture designated as Natural Parks, some visitors also seek out hiking and other outdoors adventures in the region. Others visit for the rich Okinawan culture. Karate, the world-renowned martial art, has its root in Okinawa. In addition, Okinawan people live longer than anywhere else in the world, partly attributed to the local diet of fish, seaweed, and abundant fruits. The most popular cultural attraction is the recently rebuilt Shuri Castle in Naha.

Practical Info

The Okinawa islands are divided into three geographical archipelagos. There are 11 cities amongst the nine major islands, and some are much easier to reach than others. Okinawa Island houses the capital, Naha, and can be accessed easily by frequent flights from Tokyo and other major mainland cities. More remote islands can be accessed by ferries and flights from Naha.  To reach the most remote, uninhabited islands can be extremely costly but is doable for travelers looking for an island to call their own for a little while.

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