DID YOU KNOW?
Okinawa is a sub-tropical chain of 160 islands located on the southern tip of Japan. It is the only subtropical region in Japan and is resplendent with warm weather, beautiful seas and beaches, and islands rich in nature. Formerly its own sovereign nation hailed as the Ryukyu kingdom, Okinawa has a unique culture that is different from mainland Japan. Today, Okinawa is the most popular domestic travel destination in Japan!
1Naha City & Shuri Area
Naha City, the capital of mainland Okinawa, has an energetic vibe to it with a busy shopping street called Kokusai-dori street. Also known as the Miraculous Mile, it is lined with rows of small shops selling every item you may have on your souvenir wish-list! Clothes, accessories, snacks, souvenirs, alcohol – you name it, they have it.
Heiwa-dori Shopping Street
Other places not to be missed are the Heiwa-dori Shopping Street and the Makishi Public Market. The former is a quaint sheltered shopping arcade where you can interact with the locals and shop to your heart’s content, even in rainy weather.
The latter is a two-storey market where you can buy fresh seafood and sashimi on the ground floor and devour them in the eateries on the second floor.
Naha City has the perfect mix of modernity and history as Shurijo Castle, the ancient fortress of the Ryukyu Kingdom, resides just a monorail ride away. Travel back in time to the 14th century, and immerse yourself in Okinawa’s history that is a rich blend of Chinese, Southeast Asian and Japanese influences.
The southern part of Okinawa has a diverse range of activities for everyone. You can visit one of the many beautiful beaches such as the Azama Sun-Sun beach or the Bibi beach. Feel free to explore Gyokusendo (a huge limestone cave) and Okinawa World, a theme park set in the Ryukyu dynasty period where you can try your hand at 20 kinds of DIY workshops. You can also enjoy cultural performances such as the traditional Eisa drum dance.
Senagajima Umikaji Terrace
Also, check out the latest addition – Senagajima Umikaji Terrace, a Santorini-like beachfront complex where you can enjoy the sea breeze as you browse through the offerings at the small shops, or relax over a meal at the cafes and restaurants.
Nirai Kanai Bridge
Drive down the 1.2km long Nirai Kanai bridge, a long and winding bridge with a magnificent view of the sea. The clear skies and the emerald-green sea here would make a beautiful background for any photos.
Central Okinawa boasts a myriad of to-go spots ranging from natural formations such as Cape Manzamo, Okinawa’s most scenic cliff overlooking the ocean, to historical castle ruins, modern-day complexes like America Village, a stretch of seafront resorts in Onna Village and more.
Cape Manzamo is a 20 meter cliff facing the East China Sea. Apart from its picturesque view, it also has a unique shape similar to that of an elephant’s trunk. This is one of the places you must visit in Okinawa! For another interesting selfie idea, pose with the largest Shi-sa (Lion dog) statue measuring 7 meters tall in Cape Zanpa.
Minatogawa Stateside Town
For café lovers, you might be interested in visiting one of the many Instagram-worthy cafes in Minatogawa Stateside Town, Urasoe. Previously a U.S. military neighbourhood, it is now filled with cafes and shops, and these funky and unique businesses operate out of the old houses of the military personnel! Even locals like to drop by to check out new developments!
History lovers should also visit the Katsuren-Jo Site, the remains of a castle built in the 13th century. Climb the 100-meter-tall fortress and enjoy the beautiful sunset and unforgettable panoramic view.
Mihama American Village
Enjoy the Californian vibe at the Mihama American Village where you can find beachfront shopping malls, cinemas, amusement parks, dining and cafes. Here, you will meet people from many countries.
The north-western part of Okinawa is home to the well-known Churaumi Aquarium and the Ocean Expo Park. As the largest sea tank in Japan, the Kuroshio Sea Tank showcases an extremely rare curation of three whale sharks together with Okinawa’s marine life. The Oki-chan outdoor dolphin show is also a great hit with children!
Kouri Island has been gaining popularity ever since the famous Japanese boyband, Arashi, shot a commercial here with the Heart Rock in the background. These are two pieces of heart-shaped rocks jutting out from the sea. Kouri island is located at the end of a two kilometer bridge. You can enjoy marine activities here, chill in one of the cafes or simply take a 30-minute drive around this island. Often touted as the ‘love island’, Kouri Island is popular amongst lovers for its mysterious ability to bring couples closer together.
Busena Marine Park
If you would like to observe underwater marine life without getting wet, you might want to visit the Busena underwater observatory tower at the Busena Marine Park where you can peer through circular windows to say ‘hi’ to the fishes. The Bise Fukugi Tree street is a stretch of road lined with 300-year-old trees creating a canopy leading to the beach. Don’t forget to take a buffalo cart ride through the area too!