Okinawa Guide - Okinawa attractions, beaches, islands, World Heritage Sites, pictures, climate, history and Okinawa maps. Okinawa is tropical holiday destination with world class diving sites and beautiful white sand beaches.
Okinawa is Japan's tropical play ground, which refers to Okinawa Prefecture which includes hundreds of islands and the main island of Okinawa. The main island of Okinawa is mainly composed of coral and is surrounded by many beautiful beaches which are said to be the best in Japan. Okinawa's tropical climate makes it a great place to relax and enjoy yourself. Okinawa features fabulous tropical coral reefs with a large biodiversity making Okinawa a popular destination for divers and casual snorkelers a like.
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The chain of islands that make up Okinawa Prefecture is more than 1,000km long and starts near Kyushu and heads south towards Taiwan. The capital of Okinawa Prefecture, Naha, is on the main island of Okinawa. Okinawa is also known as The Ryukyu Islands or Ryukyus, after the Ryukyu Kingdom which flurished on the islands from the 12th century.
Shuri Castle Okinawa
OKINAWA PREFECTURE MAP
OKINAWA PREFECTURE ATTRACTIONS
Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture, and consists of hundreds of islands known as The Ryukyu Islands or Ryukyu's, in an island chain over 1,000 km long, which extends southwest from Kyushu (the southwestern most of Japan's main four islands) to Taiwan. Okinawa is said to have the most beautiful beaches in all of Japan. Okinawa normally enjoys above 20 degree Celsius weather for most of the year. Many coral reefs are found around Okinawa and wildlife is abundant. Sea turtles return yearly to the southern islands of Okinawa to lay their eggs. Okinawa's capital, Naha, is in the southern part of the largest and most populous island, Okinawa Honto. Okinawa is famous for its distinct history and culture, but popular because it is tropic resort region.
OKINAWA PREFECTURE CAPITAL
Naha is a coastal city on the southern part of Okinawa Island facing the East China Sea. Naha is the largest city and capital of Okinawa Prefecture. Naha features banks, many shopping malls, a long shopping strip, restaurants, bars and tourist gift shops. Naha also features Shuri Castle, a World Heritage Site, which is a reconstruction of the most important Okinawan Castle and the former Ryukyu Dynasty palace.
Bise District in Motobu Okinawa is attractions include the village of Bise with its hundreds of deep green Fukugi trees planted in rows to provide the houses of the village with protection from the strong winds of typhoons. Fukugi trees have been used for protection for thousands of years and some in the village are 350 years old. Bise also features Bisezaki which is a famous snorkeling point, where colorful fish swim right near the shore line.
OKINAWA MAIN CITIES and TOWNS
Nago is a tourist town located in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa. Nago is particularly popular because of its beautiful beaches including the main beach, also known as Nago Beach, which features lifeguard and net to protect swimmers from dangerous sea life. Nago other attractions include Nago Castle ruins, Pineapple Park, Okinawa Fruits Land and the last remaining wild dugongs in Japan.
Aguni Island is famous for its rows of beautiful garcinia trees and cycad (king sago) palms. Aguni Island features a picturesque sandy coastline on the eastern side and sheer cliffs along west. Aguni Island is about 60km north west of Naha on the main island of Okinawa.
Hamahiga Island is only 4km off the coast of the main island of Okinawa. Hamahiga Island today is popular for its beautiful beaches, including Hamahiga Beach, but in the Ryukyu traditional culture, the island is said to be the birth place of the Okinawan civilization. Hamahiga Island contains many sites of great religious significance in the traditional Ryukyu culture.
Henza Island is a popular location to visit as it connected to Yokatsu Peninusla on the main island of Okinawa via the very picturesque Kaichu-doro, causeway and bridge. Half way along Kaichu-doro is an observation point and shops. Henza Island connects to Hamahiga Island to the south via a road bridge and to Miyako Island in the north east via another road bridge. Henza Island is the site of the Gulf Oil terminal. Gulf Oil paid for the initial construction of Kaichu-doro.
Ie Island features many great diving and fishing spots, plus white sandy beaches in the southern part of the island. In the north of Ie Island is the Lily Field Park which features 20,000 white trumpet lilies which bloom around the end of April and the beginning of May. Ie Island is just to the north of the main island of Okinawa at Motobu.
Ikei Island is famous for its beautiful beach, Ikei Beach. Ikei Island is located off the east coast of the main island of Okinawa, but is connected via a series of road bridges/tunnels which connect it through Miyako Island and Henza Island.
Irabu Island is an island in the Okinawa group to the south west of the main island Okinawa Honto and just west of the larger Miyako Island. Irabu Island has a road bridge connecting it to the smaller Shimoji Island, which has an airport. The main beach on Irabu Island is Toguchi Beach, which features beautiful white sand and clear water. Another attraction is the Irabu Island Lookout, which is shaped like a bird.
Irimote Island is a major eco tourism destination and is sometimes referred to as the "Galapogos of the East" and the "last unexplored region of Japan". The wild life on Irimote Island includes Iriomote wildcats, round-back tortoises and crowned eagles. Irimote Island features the largest mangrove swamp in Okinawa and 90% of the island is still covered by subtropical jungle.
Ishigaki Island is an island in the Okinawa group to the west of the main island Okinawa Honto. Ishigaki Island is the second largest island in the Yaeyama Island group. Both the city of Ishigaki and Ishigaki Airport are on Ishigaki Island. Ishigaki Island is famous for its beaches, which are some of the best in Japan. The beaches including Sukuji Beach which features one kilometer of white sand and Yonehara which features coral reefs just meters from the beach. Ishigaki Island is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs including the famous Blue Coral, which make it very popular for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Izena Island is famous for its cultural assests and is the birth place of King Sho En, the ancestor of the Second Sho Shi Dynasty of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Izena Island is to the north of the main island of Okinawa.
Kouri Island is famous for its Kouri Bridge, which is the longest open road bridge in Japan spanning 2,960 metres. Kouri Bridge connects Kouri Island to the main island of Okinawa via Yagaji Island. Kouri Island attractions include the a beautiful beach which is great for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Kouri Island is also famous for its delicious sea urchins.
Kume Island features many historic sites including sites relating to Kumejima Pongee (soft thin woven cloth frequently made of silk) which is said to be the original inspiration for all Japanese Pongee. Kume Island is about 90km west of Naha on the main island of Okinawa. Kume Island is substantially covered by rich green plant life and has recently become famous for its deep sea mineral water.
Minna Island is a crescent shaped island which is popular with divers, snorkelers and swimmers. The beach on Minna Island features white sand and clear waters. Minna Island is just off the coast of the Motobu on the main island of Okinawa. Don't confuse this island with Minna Island in the Miyako Island Group.
Miyagi Island Okinawa contains several spiritually significant sites to the Ryukyus including the Shinugu Shrine Ruins, Nagusuku Udun (burial tomb) and Yan Spring. Miyagi Island Beach is in the northern part of the island. Miyagi Island is connected to the main island of Okinawa, via a road bridge to Henza Island and then along the very picturesque Kaichu-doro, causeway and bridge. There is also a road bridge from Miyagi Island to Ikei Island in the north.
Miyako Island (Miyakojima) features very clear waters and very white sand beaches. In the right light Miyako Island features the striking contrast and colour difference of the white sands, the dark rocks, the green of the vegetation of the island, the blue of the sky and blue of the ocean. Miyako Island is the largest island in the Miyako Group of island, which are south west of the main island of Okinawa.
Okinawa Honto, normally just refered to as Okinawa, is the largest island of a group consists of hundreds of islands known as The Ryukyu Islands or Ryukyu's, in an island chain over 1,000 km long, which extends southwest from Kyushu (the southwestern most of Japan's main four islands) to Taiwan. Okinawa is said to have the most beautiful beaches in all of Japan. Okinawa normally enjoys above 20 degree Celsius weather for most of the year. Many coral reefs are found around Okinawa and wildlife is abundant. Sea turtles return yearly to Okinawa to lay their eggs. Okinawa's capital, Naha, is in the southern part of the largest and most populous island, Okinawa Honto. Okinawa is famous for its distinct history and culture, but popular because it is tropic resort region.
Taketomi Island features a traditional Okinawan village which is a designated nationally Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. The traditional village on Taketomi Island features homes with red tiled roofs, stone walls and even a water buffalo pulling a wagon which tourists can take a tour on. Taketomi Island is located just to the west of Ishigaki Island, making it closer to Taiwan than the main island of Okinawa.
Tarama Island is a very flat island in the Miyako Island Group. Tarama Island is famous for its Hachigatsu Odori Festival which features three days and three nights of dancing and music in the traditional Okinawan style. Tarama Island other attractions including the main beach, Hometown Beach also referred to as Nagashak, and Yaeyama Toomidai, which is a look out tower provides views of Ishigaki Island and part of the Yaeyama Islands.
Tokashiki Island is just 32km west of Naha on the main island of Okinawa and is the largest of the Kerama Islands. Tokashiki Island is world famous for its extremely transparent waters and is considered to be one of the best places in Japan to go diving.
Tonaki Island features traditional Okinawan residences and is designated as one of the Preservation Districts for Groups of Historic Buildings in Japan. Tonaki Island is located to the west of the main island of Okinawa.
Yagaji Island is famous for its Kouri Bridge, which is the longest open road bridge in Japan spanning 2,960 metres. Kouri Bridge connects Kouri Island at Nakijin Village to Yagaji Island at Nago City. From the observation deck on Yagaji Island you can obtain an excellent view of the Kouri Bridge.
Yonaguni Island is the western most of the islands of Okinawa and is only 100km away from Taiwan, which can just be seen on a clear day. Yonaguni Island is the site of some large submerged structures which appear to be man made. Yonaguni Island is famous for its big game fishing with marlin and tuna passing close to the island and its Hanazake 60% alcohol drink.
Zamami Island is famous for whale watching when in January through to April humpback whale breed in the waters just off the island. Zamami Island is part of the Kerama Islands, which are to the west of the main island of Okinawa.
Katsuren Castle is believed to be the oldest castle in Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Katsuren Castle is a gusuku (Okinawan) style Japanese Castle. Katsuren Castle over looks Awase and Nakagusuku Bay on the Pacific Ocean, hence why Katsuren Castle was also referred to as Ocean Gusuku. Katsuren Castle was at the height of its power in the mid 15th century under Lord Amawari. Excavations of the site have lead to the discovery of precious tiles and Chinese porcelain which provide a further evidence of the wealth and stature of Katsuren Castle. Today only ruins remain including walls and some foundations.
Nakagusuku Castle in Kitanakagusuku Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Nakagusuku Castle is a gusuku (Okinawan) style Japanese Castle built in approximately 1440 by legendary Ryukyuan commander, Gosamaru, to defend against Lord Amawari of Katsuren Castle. Today only ruins remain including walls and some foundations.
Nakijin Castle in Nakijin Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Nakijin Castle is a gusuku (Okinawan) style Japanese Castle which dates back to the late 13th century, and was constructed by the Hokuzan kingdom. Nakijin Castle is famous for its size with the complex covering 14 acres including 1.5km of walls. Today only ruins remain including walls and some foundations.
Shuri Castle in Shuri Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Shuri Castle is a gusuku (Okinawan) style Japanese Castle which dates back to the 14th century, and was constructed by the Ryukyu kingdom. Shuri Castle contained the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1945 the castle was almost completely destroyed by shells from USA war ships. Shuri Castle was reconstructed between 1958 and 1992.
Urasoe Castle was an Okinawan style Japanese Castle in Urasoe on the island of Okinawa. At the time of its construction in the late 13th century, Urasoe Castle was the centre of the Chuzan principality. During the 14th century Urasoe Castle was the largest castle on Okinawa. Urasoe Castle was destroyed in the 1609 invasion of Ryukyu by Satsuma. Today only ruins remain.
Zakimi Castle in Yomitan Okinawa and is a World Heritage Site. Zakimi Castle is a gusuku (Okinawan) style Japanese Castle which was completed in 1422 by the Ryukyuan military leader Gosamaru. Today only ruins remain including walls and some foundations.
Cape Hedo (Hedo Misaki) is the northern most point on the main island of Okinawa. The ocean off Cape Hedo is the meeting point of the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea. Cape Hedo features a monument (Memorial Tower) to commemorate the return of the Ryukyuan (Okinawa) Islands to Japanese sovereignty after World War II.
Cape Zampa is a peninsula on the western side of the main island of Okinawa, which features a beautiful beach, a section of rocky shoreline which is a popular fishing spot and a white lighthouse that stands out against the green of the Adan trees (screw pine). Cape Zampa also features a large statue of the lion dog Shisa which guards the entrance to Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza. Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza features shops, restaurants, childrens playgrounds and bbq pits.
Higashi-hennazaki is a peninsula at the south eastern tip of Miyako Island Okinawa, which is a designated Place of Scenic Beauty. Higashi-hennazaki features a light house which provides spectacular 320 degree views of the surrounding coastline.
Hiyajo Banta also referred to as Hiyajo Cliffs, are the tall cliffs which run along the north eastern coastline of Kume Island. Along the top of Hiyajo Banta runs the main Kume Island road which provides spectacular views of the blue ocean which contrasts with the green of the mountain forests.
Manazamo is a place of scenic beauty on the main island of Okinawa, where there is a contrast of three colors: the green of the grass on top of the bluff, the grey of the rocks and the blue of the sea. Manazamo is best seen on a bright sunny day. Historically the poet Yoshia Chiru wrote a famous poem for the Ryukyuan King after meditating at Manazamo.
Nakamura House is the historic house of the wealthy and powerful Nakamura family who controlled the Nakagusuku region of Okinawa. Nakamura House, which is now open to the public, was constructed during the middle of the 18th century using high quality materials not normally used in Okinawa at the time including red tiles on the roof and timber of Japanese Yew. Nakamura House is also surrounded by thick stone walls.
Okinawa Convention Center is the largest convention center in Okinawa with a capacity for 5,000 people. Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan on the main island of Okinawa is also the home arena for the Ryukyu Golden Kings basketball team.
Gokokuji Temple is a Buddhist temple which was founded in 1367 in what is now Naha Okinawa. Gokokuji Temple was a major temple of Chuzan Kingdom and the Ryukyu Kingdom, but was also later associated with the Christian missionary Dr Bernard Bettelheim and Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 to 1854.
Sogenji Temple was a Buddhist temple and mausoleum for the royalty of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Most of Sogenji Temple was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa (1945), however the substaintial stone gates remain including the stone tablet that informs all visitors to dismount. Even the kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom had to dismount prior to passing through the stone gates out of respect for the previous kings. The original stone walls of Sogenji Temple also remain, along with the foundations of the temple. Sogenji Temple was established in around 1477.
Sonohyan-utaki is an area within Shuri Castle which includes the religiously significant Sonohyan-utaki stone gates, built in 1519, and a grove of trees and plants leading to the gates. The gates were only opened for the king, who would pray at there prior to going on a journey. Sonohyan-utaki is a World Heritage Site.
Naminoue Shrine is a shinto shrine in Naha Okinawa. Naminoue Shrine was founded in 1890 on a site that had been sacred in the Ryukyan religion. Naminoue Shrine is set on top of bluff looking over the ocean and Naminoue Beach.
Seifa-utaki Shrine is the most sacred site in Okinawa and a World Heritage Site. Seifa-utaki Shrine consists of some striking natural rock formations including an arch formed between two massive rocks, caves and rock outcrops high above the sea. There were several buildings on the site, but these have been destroyed, now only rock path ways remain. Seifa-utaki Shrine was only used by the Ryukuan Royal families during their rein. Seifa-utaki Shrine is on the south eastern side of Okinawa Island.
OKINAWA MUSEUMS and ART GALLERIES
Oceanic Culture Museum features a planetarium with the ability to project more stars than any other in the world. The Oceanic Culture Museum Exhibit Hall is currently closed for renovation work: November 1, 2011 forward. Oceanic Culture Museum is within the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park.
Ryukyu Mura is a living recreation of a traditional Okinawan village, featuring actual Ryukyan houses that have been relocated from all over the islands of Okinawa. Ryukyu Mura features performances of traditional Okinawan dance and music, along with traditional Okinawan crafts produced using original methods and tools.
OKINAWA THEATRES and CONCERT HALLS
National Theatre Okinawa building was completed in 2004, but the site has a long history as a performing arts site for traditional Okinawa performing arts. National Theatre Okinawa holds performances of Kumiodori, dances, plays and folk art.
OKINAWA GARDENS and PARKS
Busena Marine Park just south of Nago Okinawa on Busena Cape features a narrow pier with an underwater observatory which places the viewer around 3 metres under the water. From this vantage point many fish can be seen. Busena Marine Park also has glass bottom boat tours where the viewer can see fish and colorful coral.
Greenery Kingdom also known as the Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum of the City Greenery Project, features tropical and subtropical plants displayed by species and by their climatic zones. Greenery Kingdom is within the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park.
Nago Castle Park, in Nago in Okinawa, is famous for its cherry blossom and is considered one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots. Nago Castle Park features thousands of cherry blossom trees which normally come into blossom at the beginning of February. Nago Castle Park also contains the ruins of Nago Castle.
Neo Park Okinawa in Nago Okinawa is nature park, which features several distinct habitats including Amazon jungle, African savannah, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Neo Park Okinawa star attractions include the Flamingo Lake.
Okinawa Battlefield Quasi National Park is the sight of some of the last stages of the Battle of Okinawa. Okinawa Battlefield Quasi National Park includes the Cornerstone of Peace, Peace Prayer and Memorial Museum, Peace Prayer and Memorial Hall and the memorial towers of each prefecture.
Okinawa Ocean Expo Park is the site of the International Ocean Expo that was held in 1975. Okinawa Ocean Expo Park includes Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Oceanic Culture Museum, Native Okinawan Village, Tropical Dream Center, Greenery Kingdom and the pretty Emerald Beach .
Shikinaen Garden was part of the Shuri Castle complex, however today the grounds of Shuri Castle have been reduced, leaving the Shikinaen Garden 1.5km from the center of Shuri Castle. Shikinaen Garden is in the outer suburbs of Naha on the main island of Naha Okinawa and a World Heritage Site. The Shikinaen Garden, constructed in 1799, is a rare and historically significant example of Ryukyun landscape gardening. Shikinaen features elements such as the circular layout which is seen in more modern Japanese gardens, along with a pond with a bridge to a small island which follows the Chinese style. These elements are combined with Ryukuan styled villa. Shikinaen was used as an area for the royals to relax or entertain important guests such as the envoys from China. Shikinaen is designated as a "Special Place of Scenic Beauty".
Cape Kyan today is a picturesque site within the Okinawa Battlefield Quasi National Park, however in 1945 at the last stages of the Battle of Okinawa it was the site where many civilians and soldiers jumped to their deaths.
Tamaudun is a substainial stone mausoleum where Ryukyuan royalty are entombed and a World Heritage Site. Tamaudun is in Shuri, Okinawa, only a short distance from Shuri Castle. Tamaudun was built in 1501 by King Sho Shin, the third king of the second Sho dynasty, for his father King Sho En. In all there are 18 kings and their families entombed in Tamaudun.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is famous for its massive main tank which holds 7,500 cubic metres of water and features panel 8.2x22.5 metres. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium features tropical fish, over 80 spies of coral, sharks, including the massive whale shark and manta ray.
Hamahiga Beach, in Katsurenhama on Hamahiga Island, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Okinawa. Hamahiga Beach is a quite beach, with clean white sand, clear blue water and a view along the Katsuren Peninsula, however there are no lifeguards. Hamahiga Beach is on the north western corner of Hamahiga Island.
Hatenohama Beach is probably the most beautiful beach in Japan, however such beauty is a little remote. The wonderful white sands of Hatenohama Beach is a strip of sand off the coast of Kume Island towards the main island of Okinawa.
Manza Beach is a white sand beach on part of a peninsula which extends out from the west coast of the main island of Okinawa. The 300 metre long Manza Beach is dominated by the multi story ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort located at its western end.
Nago Beach is a pretty and very popular beach in the tourist town of Nago on the main island of Okinawa. Nago Beach is part of the 21st Century Park and features a lifeguard and sea nets for the protection of swimmers.
Naminoue Beach is the only beach in the urban area of Naha, the capital of Okinawa. Naminoue Beach would be best described as accessible rather than beautiful as the view out to sea is destroyed by the road bridge in the way.
Kaichu-doro, which literally means "Road through the Sea", but is also referred to as the Mid-Sea Road, is a bridge and causeway road that connects the Yokatsu Peninsula on the main island of Okinawa to Henza Island, where Miyako Island, Hamahiga Island and Ikei Island can be accessed by road. Kaichu-doro, which is 4.75km long, is one of the most scenic and popular driving routes in Okinawa. Kaichu-doro features lookout point and shopping area half way along the road. Kaichu-doro forms part of the Road Number 10.
Kouri Bridge is the longest open road bridge in Japan spanning 2,960 metres. Kouri Bridge connects Kouri Island at Nakijin Village to Yagaji Island at Nago City. Kouri Bridge is best seen from the observation deck on Yagaji Island.
Warumi Bridge is a 315 metre long road bridge with a walk way that connects Yagaji Island to the main island of Okinawa. A walk along Warumi Bridge provides an ideal location to see the fabulous scenery which surrounds the bridge.
OKINAWA AMUSEMENT PARKS
Wellness Village Motobu is a theme park where you can experience many marine sports activities and even swim with dolphins. Wellness Village Motobu also features traditional Okinawan musical instruments, pottery and crafts.
Kadena Air Base (IATA: DNA, ICAO: RODN) is operated by the United States Air Force and is home to the 18th Wing. Kadena Air Base has around 18,000 USA service personal and 4,000 Japanese working on the base. Historically there a very basic runway on the site built by the Japanese, after capture by USA in early April 1945, the runway and facilities were upgraded to point where massive B-29 Superfortresses were using the base.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (ICAO: ROTM) is a USA airbase just 9km north east of Naha. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is home to around 4,000 USA Marines and was built on the site of several villages, which were destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Today Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is surrounded by houses in the Ginowan City.
Naha Airport (IATA: OKA, ICAO: ROAH) in Naha Okinawa. Naha Airport is a second class airport, which services both international and domestic flights. In addition to civilian services, Naha Airport is also a military air base for the Japanese Airforce. Naha Airport is located on the coastline just 4km from the Naha city office.
OKINAWA TRAIN STATIONS
OKINAWA PORTS and FERRY TERMINALS
Naha Port Terminal in Naha is where ferries depart for other island in the Okinawan group, including Fukuoka, Kagoshima and Amani Islands. Naha Port Terminal is not the same as Naha New Port Terminal.
Kokusai Dori is the main shopping precinct in Naha, with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques along both sides. Historically Kokusai Dori was known as "The Miracle Mile" because of its rapid recovery after World War II.
Mutsumibashi Shopping Arcade features mainly food stalls and shops with local Okinawan produce. Mutsumibashi Shopping Arcade, in Naha Okinawa, is a popular shopping arcade that starts on the main shopping street of Naha, Kokusai Dori.