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Okinawa

The crystal blue sea with white-sand beaches and colorful fishes dancing through corals Shuri Castle, the castle of the King of Ryuku, registered as a World Cultural Heritage
Okinawa, lying nearly halfway between Kyushu and Taiwan, consists of more than 100 islands and isles of different sizes and is situated at the southern extremity of the Japanese Archipelago. The climate there is mild and comfortable to live, with temperatures not falling below the springtime levels in Tokyo and Osaka even in winter.

On the islands grow gregariously tropical and semitropical plants, like banyan trees, blooming one after another all the year round. The features of Okinawa also include the inhabitation of many rare living things, such as Iriomote wildcats registered as a natural monument and living on the Iriomote-jima Island. The crystal blue sea with white-sand beaches and colorful fishes dancing through coral attracts vacationers as a holiday resort with many diving spots.

For about 400 years from the 15th century to the middle of the 19th century, Okinawa had seen prosperity as the Kingdom of Ryuku, a prosperous state independent of Japan's central government. Cultural properties and conventions born through the intercourse with foreign countries in those days still survive in such interesting forms as artifacts and festivals, giving additional charm to Okinawa. Especially, Shuri Castle (the castle of the King of Ryuku), reconstructed in Naha City and registered as a World Cultural Heritage in 1992, attracts many visitors.

Okinawa boasts of many traditional public-entertaining arts of its own that have been handed down to this day, like the Ryukyu dance gracefully performed by female dancers in red-patterned costume expressing the feelings of a woman over her lover or husband, the shishi-mai (lion dance) said to have been introduced from China and performed with the mask of a lion with a colorful mane and the Eisa in which a group of dancers dance to the accompaniment of soul-stirring drums and shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument).

Getting there
Two hours and 45 minutes to Naha Airport from Tokyo Haneda Airport. Two hours and 10 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Two hours and 15 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport. Twenty minutes to Naha Bus Terminal from Naha Airport by bus.
 

  • Central Okinawa
    U. S. Military Facilities and Remains of Ryukyu Kingdom - Water Front Popular Among Young People
    The area between Urasoe, the northern neighbor of Naha, and Yomitan-son Village in the central part of the Main Okinawa Island is marked by a noticeable concentration of U.S. military facilities including the Futenma Airfield and the Kadena Air Base, throughout all of Okinawa. National Highway 58 is lined with drive-ins, secondhand interior goods shops, shops dealing in used U.S. military goods and others with English language signs.

    Urasoe was the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom for more than 200 years from the mid-12th century to the early 15th century and the political and cultural center of Okinawa before the capital was transferred to Shuri. The Urasoe Castle in the city is of the largest scale, along with the Shuri Castle in Naha, among all castles in Okinawa. Remains of protective structures and a canal with fences were found near the rock walls of the Urasoe Castle.

    The Water Front Area at Chatan is a new amusement center popular among young people. There is a great inflow of customers and visitors to a large shopping center, beach, leisure land park, American-style restaurants and other attractions in this area.

    Many potters have moved to Yomitan in the past 30 years or so. They have built the largest nobori kiln in Okinawa Prefecture. The place where they work is known as the Village of Yachimun and pottery made there is the major craft product of Yomitan-son.

    Getting there
    Two hours and 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Naha Airport. Two hours and 10 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Twenty minutes by bus from Naha Airport to the Naha bus terminal. An hour and 20 minutes by bus from the Naha bus terminal to the Chatan bus terminal. Fifty minutes to Futenma (Nakagusuku), and 45 minutes to Chatan.

     

  • Iriomote-jima Island
    Semitropical island where Iriomote wildcats inhabit - Canoeing in the river with thick mangroves
    Iriomote-jima Island is the largest in the Yae-yama Islands that lie 470 kilometers to the southwest of Okinawa Island and 18 kilometers to the west of Ishigaki-jima Island. Over 90 percent of the island is covered with semitropical jungles. The special natural monument, Iriomote wildcats, crowned eagles and other endangered species of animals inhabit, and you can see another natural monument, Sakishima-sappan, nipapalms and other rare plants.

    In the basins of the Nakama-gawa River and Ura-uchi-gawa River with thick growth of mangroves at the river mouths, there are cruising courses for boats and canoes, from which you can enjoy the dynamic virgin nature. There is Iriomote-jima-onsen Hot Spring, the southernmost hot spring in Japan, where you bathe in a bathing suit.

    You can go from the Mihara-shuraku village in the eastern end of Iriomote-jima Island to the Yufu-jima Island by water buffalo-drawn carriage. You can cross the shoal that is only 1 meter deep even at high tide on a special water buffalo drawn carriage for 15 minutes to the Yufu-jima Island. The entire Yufu-jima Island is a tropical botanical garden. You can watch the birds, monkeys and other wild animals at play among 40,000 palm trees and blooming hibiscuses.

    Getting there
    Three hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, or 3 hours and 10 minutes from Osaka Kansai International Airport to Ishigaki Airport. Take a ferry from Ishigaki Harbor to Iriomote-jima Ohara Harbor. It takes 40 minutes.

     

  • Ishigaki-jima Island
    Coral of various colors lying closely under the transparent water - The jungles of tropical plants such as mangroves
    Ishigaki-jima Island is the main island in the Yae-yama Islands, which are about 420 kilometers southwest of Naha on the Main Okinawa Island. The name of Ishigaki-jima is said to have been derived from ishigaki (stone wall) with which the inhabitants of the island surrounded their houses to protect them from typhoons. Yae-yama was named after the appearance of the nineteen islands, large and small, which looked like multi-layered (yae) mountains. Ishigaki-jima Island is 90 kilometers around, and abounds in lots of mountains, including Mt. Omoto-dake, 526 meters above sea level, the highest in Okinawa.

    There are lots of marine scenic spots on the island, such as Shiraho noted to the world for the coral of various colors lying closely under the transparent water, and Kabira Bay in which the blue of the sea is said to be the brightest in Okinawa. Ninety percent of the islanders live in Ishigaki. In the suburbs of the city, spread the sugarcane fields, beyond which are the mountain areas containing Mt. Omoto-dake. The green is deep, and in the jungles of tropical plants such as mangroves, there live valuable living things unique to this island.

    On the sea about 4 kilometers to the southeast of the island, lies Taketomi-jima Island, where there is a beautiful harmony of the red roofs of the houses and the green of plantains and fukugi (a kind of short evergreen tree), which produces an atmosphere of Okinawa in old times. The sand beaches around Taketomi-jima Island are known as one of the typical bathing places in Okinawa.

    Getting there
    Ishigaki Airport is about 3 hours 25 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, about 2 hours 50 minutes from Kansai-International Airport, and about 1 hour from Naha Airport.

     

  • Miyako-jima Island
    Coral reefs, strange rocks, and milky-white beaches - Transparent water and marine sports
    Miyako-jima Island is the main island in the Miyako Islands lying about 300 kilometers to the southwest of the Main Okinawa Island. This main island is a flat island like a low plateau, which consists of elevated coral reefs which rose with the bottom of the sea after the coral reefs had grown. Much of the arable land is sugarcane field. With transparent water, the beaches are most suitable for marine sports like diving. It is known for the triathlon race held in early summer and pro baseball's spring training camps which are held every year.

    There are seven islets around the island. Two of them, Ikema-jima and Kurima-jima Islets, are connected with a long bridge, and you can enjoy sightseeing by a rent-a-car or rent-a-cycle. Irihen'na-zaki Point projecting from the northern tip of the island commands a vast view of Ikema-jima Island to the north, Irabu-jima Island to the west, and coral reefs below. At the east end of the island, projects Agarihen'na-zaki Point, 2 kilometers long and 200 meters wide, where you can enjoy a wonderful sight of strange rocks standing in line on the coral reef sea. Beautiful beaches such as Yonaha-maehama and Suna-yama Beaches, which have milky-white shores and are suitable for swimming in, are one of the charming points of Miyako-jima Island.

    In Yonaha-maehama, is a theme park, Ueno German Culture Village, which imitates Stade in Germany, a sister city of Ueno-son, which attracts a lot of visitors.

    Getting there
    Miyako Airport is 3 hours 15 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 35 minutes from Kansai-International Airport.

     

  • Naha
    Outer Port of Shuri, Capital of Ryukyu Kingdom - Gourmet Town and Cultural Center of Okinawa
    Naha in the southern part of the Main Okinawa Island, is the political, economic and traffic center of Okinawa. Kokusai-dori Avenue is the most crowded place in Naha, the largest city in Okinawa. This street, about 1.6 kilometers long, is lined with department stores, souvenir shops, movie theaters, restaurants and coffee shops, and there is heavy traffic all day long. The Makishi Public Market is located on the Main Market Street running south from a halfway point on Kokusai-dori Anvenue. The market, the kitchen of Naha, is always full of energy and excitement.

    Naha once prospered as the outer port of Shuri, Capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In those days, Naha had much trade with China and Southeast Asia. Among the major remains of the Ryukyu Kingdom are the Shuri Castle, the ruins of the Enkaku-ji Temple, which is the head temple of the Okinawa Rinzai Sect, and Tama-udon, the tombs of Kings of Ryukyu. Placed in a cave excavated through natural rocks, these tombs are of a grand scale and in a style unique to Okinawa. Shurei-mon, a grand gate, is also a sight to see. It is depicted on the face of the 2,000-yen bank note. Tsuboya, a pottery village with a history more than 300 years long, is crowded with pottery enthusiasts.

    Getting there
    Two hours and 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Naha Airport. Two hours and 10 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Two hours and 15 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport. Twenty minutes by bus from Naha Airport to the Naha bus terminal.

     

  • Northern Okinawa
    No. 1 Beach Resort Area in Okinawa - Home of Yambaru-kuina
    The western coast running from On'na-son in a northern part of the Main Okinawa Island to the base of the Motobu-hanto Peninsula is the largest beach resort area in Okinawa, with an array of big hotels along the sunny typical subtropical beach. The area offers many tourist spots and attractions including scenic spots like Manza-mo Point and Maeda-misaki Point, the Ryukyu Village where a traditional farming village in Okinawa was reproduced and an underwater tour in the tourist submarine Mogurin.

    The area to the north of Nago, called Yambaru, is in a subtropical zone and made up of mountains and hills covered with primeval forests. It is the home of Noguchigera, a woodpecker confined to this area designated as a Special Natural Monument, and Yambaru-kuina, a rare bird designated as a Natural Monument. Trekking along a clear stream of river amid primeval forests is very popular. At times, trekkers have to wade in waist-deep water.

    Yambaru Subtropical Park and Ryukyu Castle Butterfly Park where varied subtropical plants and insects can be seen are located in the Motobu-hanto Peninsula jutting out from western Yambaru. These parks are major tourist spots in northern Okinawa.

    Getting there
    Two hours 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Naha Airport. Two hours 10 minutes from Kansai International Airport. Twenty minutes by bus from Naha Airport to the Naha bus terminal. An hour 30 minutes by bus from the Naha bus terminal to On'na-son Yakubamae bus stop (Manza-mo). An hour 20 minutes to Maeda-misaki Point.

     

  • Southern Okinawa
    Limestone cave boasting its most beautiful scene in Asia - Spots with lots of sacred places and ruins of castles
    The southern part of the Main Okinawa Island, which is also called Shimajiri, is the place of Okinawa's foundation, where many places of scenic beauty and historical interest remain, including Shuri Castle, the castle of successive kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and Tamaudon, the burial place of the successive kings, which is a grand stone building with three grave rooms laid out on a rock face. This area is also the site of a hard-fought battle in the Second World War, and there are lots of memorials to war victims.

    Itoman at the southernmost end of Okinawa is well known for agya cornering fishing peculiar to Itoman and the Dragon Boat Race (Hari) in early summer. In the city, there is an industrial art village for Ryukyu glass and lacquer ware, in which you can take part in the process.

    In Tamagusuku-son Village, is Gyokusen-do Kingdom Village, which is a great theme park containing Gyokusen-do, a very beautiful limestone cave, a tropical orchard, and a traditional entertainment spot.

    Getting there
    Naha Airport is 2 hours 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport, and 2 hours 10 minutes from Kansai-International Airport. Then take a bus from the Naha Bus Terminal to the Itoman Bus Terminal, which takes 30 minutes, and to Chinen, which takes 1 hour.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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