"Introduction to Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands" Top 5 Page for this destination Okinawa by okinawa_wave

Okinawa Travel Guide: 435 reviews and 1,269 photos

A Chain of Islands Surrounded by Sub-Tropical Seas

I was born in the U.S. but have lived on Okinawa for over 14 years. My grandparents are Okinawan and I have been lucky enough to experience Okinawan culture up-close. I wanted to create this page because too many people think that Okinawa is an island of military bases. It is not...It is so much more. I wanted to share my Okinawa experiences so much that I actually spent 6 years writing a guidebook, which was finally published in 2005.

The Ryukyu Islands lay in the East China Sea and are quite far from mainland Japan. In fact, they are much closer to Taiwan. Okinawa is the main island, surrounded by 100 smaller islands and sandbars (36 are inhabited). The islands' amazingly clear waters and colorful coral reefs have been attracting Japanese tourists for decades. They are home to over 380 species of corals and an array of tropical fish. Although Naha and central Okinawa are well developed with the same problems of any other urban area, the northern part of Okinawa Island holds many wonderful beaches, where you can snorkel right from the shore. If you are looking for extreme quiet and relaxation, head to one of the outer islands, which can be accessed by ferries leaving from Okinawa's ports. Dive with hammerhead sharks, see great humpback whales, or just glide above friendly fish in a protected lagoon. Real adventure seekers can visit the island of Yonaguni, where mysterious underwater ruins lay just off the coast...
My favorite islands are Tokashiki and Zamami because of their close proximity to Okinawa Island and the amazing abundance of coral and fish. Be sure to check them out!

Unique History and Culture

The islands have more than just nice beaches, though. Okinawa Island is full of fascinating culture and friendly people. It is also a unique place, vastly different from mainland Japan. It has its own distinct language, traditions, and history. As an independent kingdom, Okinawa flourished while trading with nations such as the Kingdom of Siam, Vietnam, and China between the 14th and 19th centuries. During this time, the island kingdom was heavily influenced through its cultural ties with China, which can still be seen today in various festivals and local customs. Okinawans have always had a zest for life, and everyone - from children to the elderly - loves to dance and sing during traditional gatherings throughout the year. I love hearing the sounds of the Okinawan sanshin - a three-stringed lute from China - while walking down the street at night. There is also nothing like watching the energizing "eisa" dance as the pounding of drums fills the air during the summertime Eisa Festival! These are some of the things that I love about Okinawa...

Above the Waves

If you grow tired of the beach, then you will also find plenty to do on land. You can cool off with a swim at a beautiful waterfall, hike along paths in the coolness of a subtropical rainforest, or just walk through a local village while soaking up the atmosphere. There are also many sites to visit: castle ruins, spiritual prayer sites, and theme parks. Okinawa has nine World Cultural Heritage Sites! I have been to each one and they are all worth a visit. Festivals occur throughout the year and are a great way to meet locals.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Okinawa offers a safe environment for travelers looking to experience Asia.
  • Cons:You need to know where to go to experience the "real" Okinawa.
  • In a nutshell:Filled with amazing experiences above and below the water!
  • Intro Updated Mar 25, 2006
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Reviews (46)

Comments (13)

  • lovehysteric's Profile Photo
    Oct 28, 2007 at 5:02 PM

    Hi Kenny,I have been in Okinawa 6 mths now,and love your info,could you please tell me where exactly I can go Orange picking.I am from New Zealand I live in Naha,Thank you.

  • eviltooth's Profile Photo
    Jul 23, 2007 at 6:17 AM

    Hi thanks for the tips! I'm planning a trip to Oki in August. Where can I find your guide book?

  • adeeltahir's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2007 at 1:24 AM

    nice page as well. I hope you will travel other destinations as well in Asia and World. A lot of best wishes for your wife as well. Adeel Tahir

  • juliewong's Profile Photo
    Apr 8, 2007 at 6:19 AM

    Hi, lovely Okinawa page you have. Enjoyed learning about the place especially the hammerheads and underwater ruins. Never knew diving can be done in Okinawa too.

  • Samarkand-74's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2007 at 9:17 AM

    Hi, what great tips you have! Me and my boyfriend are coming to Japan in october-november. I really look forward to see Okinawa and some of the other small island. And thanks to you tips we now know what to eat and where to eat. :)

  • Jan 10, 2007 at 11:06 AM

    Hi from Seneca Falls, NY USA. I really enjoyed reading your comments and the experiences you have had over the years. We are in the process of planning a trip to Okinawa in May 2007. Thanks for taking the time to share Okinawa with us!

  • Oct 30, 2006 at 4:47 AM

    Hi Kenny! Thanks for your birthday wishes! My husband treated me a great japanese dinner - overlooking Paris. What more can you ask for?

  • Erin09340's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2006 at 10:24 AM

    What great information and beautiful photos

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Apr 19, 2006 at 10:07 AM

    Fantastic page & photos of Okinawa! I hope to visit here someday :)

  • terps94's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2006 at 6:49 AM

    awesome page!! I spent 2 yrs here and had a good wonderful time exploring the island

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