"Okinawa: Japan's Hawaii in Many Ways" Okinawa by AKtravelers

Okinawa Travel Guide: 433 reviews and 1,261 photos

When the Japanese think about Okinawa, they call it Japan's Hawaii. And there are lots of good reasons for that, starting with Okinawa's tropical climate. palm trees and fine, white-sand beaches. In fact, there are several luxury beach resorts and golf courses on the island, and planes to Okinawa contain a fair share of vacationers. However, the parellel goes even further: both Okinawa and Hawaii are bristling with American military installations, geographically important to projecting American power into the Pacific. The U.S. military established itself on Okinawa soon after the epic 1945 battle and even administered the island for 27 years before returnoing it to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. Both Okinawa and Hawaii were independent monarchies until the 19th century, and many locals remain nostalgic for those daysof indepnndence. Okinawa was still independent when Commadore Perry and his Black Ships stopped by to sign a treaty on their way to Edo, but the Okinawan monarchs were the first victims of Japan's fledgling expansionism after the Meiji Restoration, losing their power gradually in the 1870's. Consequently, like the Hawaiians, the Okinawans have their own identity and separate culture, which seems to blend island, Chinese and Japanese influences. The historic parellels continue as both places have significant World War II sites and sobering memorials worth touring. Finally, both Hawaii and Okinawa are the most ethnically diverse parts of their respective countries, as years of trade and differing rulers have created social melting pots. Okinawa is home not just to Okinawans and Japanese, but thousands of Americans (some that came during the 27 years of occupation and liked it so much they stayed), thousands of Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese. One advantage of this for the traveler is that English is more widely and better spoken here than anywhere else in Japan. And to me, the interaction of these cultures makes this small island one of the more interesting places in the world, especially since it is governed by an otherwise very homogenous nation-state. From my limited view, Okinawa seems to work well, so maybe they share something else with Hawaii: a little aloha!

This visit to Okinawa was my second, and so far I've focused my touring on the historical aspect of Okinawa, visiting its World War II sites and a few of its pre-annexation sites. Unfortunately, the shellings and bombings during the battle destroyed almost everything on the southern half of Okinawa, so little remains from its time as the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. As a matter of pride, the people reconstructed Shuri Castle, home of thirteen Ryukyu kings and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Before entering the castle proper, you walk through a museum where any shard of te original castle is saved and on display -- sadly, there's not much. Later on I drove by a site labled on my map as "Pavement Road" -- it's a cobble-stoned road dating from before the war. How sad that they have so little of their history to preserve that a cobblestone path from the early 20th century is a tourist stop. But that's life on a formerly leveled island.

  • Last visit to Okinawa: Dec 2009
  • Intro Updated Dec 10, 2009
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