"Introduction to Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands" Top 5 Page for this destination Okinawa by okinawa_wave
Okinawa Travel Guide: 384 reviews and 951 photos
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!
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...
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: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!
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