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The mention of Japan rarely conjures up images of coral-fringed islands bathed in sunshine and lapped by turquoise waters. Okinawa, a prefecture comprising more than 150 islands, reveals a Japan that many didn't know existed. World War II relics sit on tropical beaches; sushi is served alongside exotic fruit; and the locals operate at a pace far more relaxed than Tokyo and Kyoto. International and domestic flights land in Naha, the prefecture's modern capital; while Okinawa-honto, the busy main island of the archipelago, is the principal starting point for sightseeing tours that showcase the region's beauty. Popular cruises cover the islands of Iriomote, Yubu, Taketomi, and Kohama, characterized by powdery white sand beaches, roaming water buffalo, and fauna-rich mangroves. The Ishigaki and Miyakojima islands—far closer to Taiwan and the Philippines than anywhere in Japan—are an ideal (and literal) jumping-off point for scuba diving and snorkeling. Diving courses tailored to all abilities allow you to explore caves and observe weird and wonderful marine species, including anemones, sharks, and damselfish. Meanwhile, off-road motorbike tours are great ways for thrill-seekers to explore the islands. Family-friendly Okinawa attractions include the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa World, and Ryuku Mura, while top draws for history buffs are Nakihim Castle, Shuri Castle, and the Himeyuri Peace Museum—all best booked in advance to ensure tickets and easy entry.
Thanks to its subtropical climate, Okinawa stays warm throughout the year. The rainy season, however, lasts from early May to early June, and the rest of the summer can be oppressively hot and humid; there are often typhoons in July and August. The best times to visit are the spring and fall (from March until early May, and from late September to November).
The main island of Okinawa has an efficient public transportation that includes both buses and monorails. Ferries and planes can connect you to other islands around the archipelago. Some islands are small enough that you can explore them on foot or by bicycle, but renting a car or booking a tour will let you see more sights and venture off the beaten path.
Okinawa’s main island hosts a number of colorful festivals throughout the year. If you can cope with summer’s heat and humidity, you can catch two of the biggest in August: the Naha Giant Tug of War and the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri. Both holidays include festive decorations as well as lots of music, dancing, and street food. If you visit in May, you can catch the Naha Dragon Boat Race.
Nicknamed Japan’s Hawaii, Okinawa is a tiny tropical archipelago about 400 miles (600 kilometers) from Kyushu. It’s known for its laid-back island culture, warm seawater, and pristine beaches. It’s also one of the world’s designated Blue Zones, famous for its healthy lifestyle and high concentration of nonagenarians and centenarians....More
Activities in Okinawa tend to revolve around its many coastlines. Adventure-seekers can try wind sailing, scuba diving, or snorkeling along the coral reefs, while the calm, warm water is ideal for taking a dip. You can also visit a pineapple farm or sightsee to discover the island’s cultural heritage....More
Count on spending at least four days in Okinawa. You’ll need at least a night in Naha, the capital, to see Ryukyu-era Shuri Castle. Hit the beaches along the shores of Okuma for a day or two, and then head by bridge to Ikei, a separate island with turquoise waters....More
Yes, there’s plenty to do. Okinawa is known for its beaches and warm, sultry weather, but the island is also home to a culture that’s proudly distinct from Japan. Learn about traditional ceramics and visit the studio of famed potter Jissei Omine or indulge in Okinawa’s pork-based cuisine....More
For centuries, Okinawa was an independent island nation known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. Though now a Japanese prefecture, Okinawa still has a separate culture and history from mainland Japan—one that Okinawans are proud of. Added to that, the island has an American influence due to its US military bases....More
Yes. Okinawa is a top travel destination, brimming with natural and cultural attractions that are worth visiting. Nature lovers and divers find a unique coastal ecosystem ideal for underwater exploration, while culture enthusiasts enjoy learning about the island’s traditional crafts and indigenous Okinawan spiritual beliefs....More
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