Population: 1, 415 million
Okinawa is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and is a chain of islands far to the south-west of Kyushu.
Consisting of 49 inhabited islands and 111 uninhabited islands, Okinawa has a subtropical/tropical climate. Unlike the other Japanese subtropical/tropical islands there are frequent flights from all the major cities of Japan, which helps Okinawa remain one of the major tourist destinations for the Japanese.
Every year there are more and more foreign visitors going to Okinawa.
With their own language and customs, Okinawans still regard themselves as different from the mainland Japanese and proudly call themselves uchinanchu or “sea people”.
- NAHA CITY
- Naha is the capital of the Okinawa Prefecture in Japan and is the main city on Okinawa Island, with a population of around 700,000 - more than half the total population of Okinawa.
Some of the best attractions in the city are:
Shuri Castle. This castle is the former seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom, built in the Okinawan gusuku style. Completely destroyed during World War II, the present buildings were rebuilt in 1958 and 1992.
Peace Park. This park has a beautiful view overlooking the ocean, and features several open-air memorials including the Cornerstone of Peace, wave-like walls of granite on which are engraved the names of those who died in the battle on the front as well as the back. It is a very interesting park.
Okinawa World. The major attraction at this theme park is Gyokusendo Cave, 890 meters long, with some interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations. Above the cave is a touristy village with performances of traditional dance, shops selling crafts and snake liquors, and restaurants.
Kokusai Doori is full of shops that sell a multitude of Okinawan products.
Naha actually has one beach, Naminoue. Not the most beautiful beach in Okinawa, but a clean beach for all practical purposes. Also, one has to keep in mind that the swimming area can be very limited depending on the season and the weather.
- WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE
- Most people come to Okinawa for the sun and beaches. Even in midwinter, temperatures rarely go below 15°C in Okinawa. For more adventurous types, the vast yet almost uninhabited island of Iriomote is covered in dense jungle.
Cultural attractions are rather more limited, but two of them are the newly rebuilt Shuri Castle in Naha on Okinawa Island, and the carefully preserved tiny village of Taketomi in the southern Yaeyama Islands.
Historical sites related to World War II can be found throughout the islands, especially the main island of Okinawa, including the Peace Memorial Park in Naha, the navy's former underground headquarters and the Himeyuri Monument.
Churaumi Aquarium is a world class aquarium located on the Motobu peninsula. Attractions include one of the world’s largest tanks with huge whale sharks and manta rays. The aquarium is located in Ocean Expo Park with a beautiful public facility called Emerald Beach.
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) is a one of kind research institute located in Onna, its ancient castle like architecture, carefully crafted hallways and amazing views of the East China sea make it a very unique destination.
- GETTING THERE
- By plane
Most visitors arrive in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. Domestic flights connect major Japanese cities directly to some other Okinawan islands like Miyako and Ishigaki.
The A-Line Ferry , also known as Maru-A, runs twice a week from Kagoshima (25 hours) and once a week from Osaka/Kobe to Naha.
Marix Line runs between Kagoshima and Naha only. All ferries call at various minor islands including Yoron and Amami Oshima along the way. Note that if you don't speak Japanese, you will find it easier to book through a travel agent.
In addition, Star Cruises operates irregular cruises from Keelung, Taiwan to Naha via Ishigaki and Miyako. The service operates in summer months only (June-Sep) and is not available all year.
- CLIMATE/ TEMPERATURE
- Most of the Okinawa islands belong to the subtropical climate. Even in January and February, the average high temperature is around 20°C, making the area a popular winter getaway, although it's often cloudy and usually a little too cold for sunbathing due to the winter monsoon.
Spring, around late March and April, is an excellent time to visit. The rainy season starts early in May and continues until June. Unlike the rainy season in mainland Japan, it rains neither everyday nor all day long during the rainy season in Okinawa.
Summer in Okinawa is hot and humid but still one of the peak visiting seasons, while September brings a succession of fierce typhoons. October and November are again good times to visit.
- WHAT TO WEAR
- During summer, you should be fine if you wear a short-sleeved shirt, t-shirt or a dress, however a long sleeved shirt is highly recommended if you choose to go near water or to the mountains.
In the winter, be sure to bring warm clothes such as winter coat or jacket, hat, scarf and gloves.
For the spring and autumn a light jacket or a sweater should keep you warm.
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