Places to go
Okinawa has thousands of white sandy beach islands with crystal blue water, colorful coral, and fish. Some islands have a jungle and a mangrove forest as well. The most popular among the large islands include Ishigaki Island, Iriomote Island and Miyako Island.
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Southern Okinawa Tour
- Fukushu Garden - is a beautiful Chinese-style garden that includes a pond, a waterfall, and buildings designed and constructed using traditional Chinese techniques. Okinawa had close relations with China during the years of the Ryukyu Kingdom. This relationship included periodic visits from envoys of the Chinese emperor. Fukushu Garden was constructed to celebrate the city's historical ties to China's Fujian province and current relationship with the city of Fuzhou. Chinese technicians came to Okinawa to ensure the gardens were as authentic as possible, and even imported special materials for the project. The result is a tranquil space where visitors can relax and reflect in the middle of the bustling city.
- National Okinawa Memorial Peace Park - the beautiful and spacious Peace Memorial Park is located near the southern tip of the island. Its main attraction is the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, which gives a sobering overview of the road to the battle, the battle itself, and the reconstruction of Okinawa. Other monuments in the park include the "Cornerstone of Peace", a collection of large stone plates with the names of all fallen soldiers and civilians, including Koreans, Taiwanese, Americans and Britons.
- Navy Underground Headquarters - the Okinawa District Headquarters of the Japanese Navy was in this underground shelter during the war. At the end of the war, Commander Minoru Ota and other officers committed suicide here at the shelter. The interior of the shelter is kept as it was.
- Okinawa World - also known as Gyokusendo, is a touristy theme park about Okinawan culture. The park's main attractions are the Gyokusendo Cave, a crafts village and a snake museum. With a total length of five kilometers, Gyokusendo Cave is the longest of the many caves in the south of Okinawa Island, and Japan's second longest. 850 meters of the cave are open to the public and feature spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. The Kingdom Village is a nice replica of a traditional Ryukyu village with workshops introducing the various traditional Okinawan crafts, such as weaving, dyeing, paper making, pottery, sugarcane processing, the making of music instruments, brewing and the more recently introduced glass blowing. Visitors can gain hands-on experiences at many workshops and have ample of opportunities to purchase the local products at numerous souvenir shops. There is also a restaurant specialized in Okinawan cuisine. The Habu Park, named after the infamous, poisonous, local Habu snake, consists of a snake museum, a small zoological garden, and a snake show.
- Ryukyu Glass Factory - is the largest glass factory in Okinawa. Visitors can see the entire glass production process happen right in front of their eyes. In fact, you can even try glassblowing and make your own Ryukyu Glass cup!!
After you witness the miracle of glassblowing, you can experience all the fun of shopping from a wide selection of colorful glasswork in their large gift shop - everything from drinking glasses and plates to countless other beautiful glass pieces, you're sure to find some exciting souvenirs. Next to the glassblowing center is a pottery shop, which not only sells pottery but also offers Ryukyu pottery classes.
Ryukyu glass is very unique and is 100% handmade with vivid colors and various shapes. Craftsmen in the glass factory produce hundreds of masterful Ryukyu glass pieces every day. Taking a tour of the factory allows visitors to see how the craftsmen create their glass art.
Officially recognized as an Okinawan traditional craft, Ryukyu glass was created from raw materials of empty beer and soda bottles discarded from US military bases.
- Seifa Utaki - this is the most sacred site in Okinawa. In the Ryukyu language, Seifa refers to a place holding divine power and Utaki refers to a sacred place. The natural ceremonial altars at Seifa Utaki are named after rooms in Shuri Castle. Due to its strong connections to the Ryukyu Royal Family, entrance to Seifa Utaki was limited to Royal officials, with the ordinary public forbidden even to pass through the gates.
A legend about the origin of the Ryukyu Islands says that the first of all gods, Tedako (God of the sun), ordered two gods to land on the islands and organize them as nations. The first thing they did during this process was to establish sacred sites, one of which was Seifa Utaki. The Ryukyu kings used to visit Seifa Utaki every year to pray for a rich harvest and whenever a new king acceded to the throne for special ceremonies. There are six places of worship within Seifa Utaki and you can also see countless indigenous trees. The triangular cavern, formed naturally by gigantic rocks, is the symbol of Seifa Utaki, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2000.
- The Himeyuri Peace Museum and Himeyuri War Memorial - they were built in honor of the 194 schoolgirls and 17 teachers mobilized as nurse assistants during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Tragically, only five of them survived the carnage. They were known as the Himeyuri Student Corps. The Peace Museum exhibits photographs of the many victims, their personal effects, model reconstructions of the appalling conditions, and testimonies from survivors in an appeal against the misery of war. Today, as memories of Okinawa's war experiences wear ever thinner, the Himeyuri Peace Museum and war memorial serve as places that can teach the importance of peace.
Central Okinawa Tour
- American Village - a popular hangout for many Americans living on Okinawa, Mihama is home to the "American Village," which offers visitors many different ways to meet new people and enjoy their time here. Located in Chatan Town, which is in the vicinity of Kadena Air Base, Camp Lester and Camp Foster, Mihama allows visitors a hybrid of American and Japanese culture. No matter what time of day or night, Mihama has an attraction for all ages. One popular attraction and easily identifiable land mark is the large Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel, spinning at the top of a small shopping area filled with restaurants and retail stores, is a great way to get a birds-eye-view of the area. While browsing through the stores under the Ferris wheel, patrons can take a break and enjoy a meal at one of the many traditional Japanese restaurants or choose from American favorites like Baskin Robins or A&W Restaurant.
- Futenma Gongen (Futenma Shrine) - in the midst of Ginowan City, within earshot of the humming traffic and bustling crowds, stands a shrine for the gods of Okinawa. Futenma Gongen is made up of two shrines and a series of caves, which serve as a shrine for the Okinawans. The two large, gold-laced shrines materialize between the modern buildings of Ginowan. The buildings loom over the caves that house the old altars of Futenma Gongen. The new shrines were commissioned by King Sho Kinpuku five centuries ago, during the first Sho dynasty, to honor the gods of caves. Through a large wooden torii gate stands the largest shrine of Futenma Gongen. Within it lies a public altar where the priests of Futenma Gongen conduct ceremonies and the public can come to pray. The altar is beautifully shaped and is a magnificent piece of history. The shrine is said to be home to the god of Futenma Gongen. Behind the shrines there is a door that leads down a flight of moss-covered stairs to the caves of Futenma Gongen. These caves were the original place of worship for the Okinawans. The original altars still rest at the foot of the stairs. Visitors are asked to pay their respects to the spirits before following the path deeper into the caves. The caves are well lit, and filled with stalactite and stalagmite formations that sparkle from moisture seeping through the ground above. Many of these formations are said to symbolize fertility.
- Kokusai Dori - considered one of the top tourist destinations in Okinawa, Kokusai Dori, or "International Street," is a mile long selection of food, shopping, music and an overall view of Okinawan culture. Kokusai Dori was born immediately after the end of the World War II and is a perfect symbol of Okinawa's revival. Kokusai Dori is the largest shopping district and the main street in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. It is a must for any die hard shopper.
- Heiwa Dori - which means "Peace Street" and Ichiba-hon Dori branch off from Kokusai Dori near its center, these covered pedestrian streets are a great area to find bargain prices on a variety of items, including some unusual gifts.
- Shuri Castle - it was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed, with only a few walls standing as high as a few decimeters. In 1992, it was reconstructed on the original site based on photographs, historical records, and memory. Shuri castle has become one of Japan's best known sites since its Shureimon was chosen to appear on the new 2000 yen banknotes (released in 2000). In 2000, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Shikina-en Royal Garden - built in 1799, this is a garden that contains one of the royal family's residences. In fact, it was the largest country villa of the royal family. It was used as a retreat not only for the royal family but also for envoys from the emperor of China, thus playing an important role in the diplomacy of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The Shikina-en Royal Garden was completely destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa of 1945, but has been neatly restored in the postwar years. It features beautiful, relatively simple, wooden palace buildings with Okinawan style, red tile roofs and a spacious Japanese style landscape garden. The pleasant garden can be viewed from a circular path, which leads through the woods, along the ponds, over the bridges and past a pretty hexagonal building on a small islet. While designed in a style seen elsewhere in Japan, the garden is given a distinct Okinawan flavor by its buildings and subtropical flora. In 2000, The Shikina-en Royal Garden was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Northern Okinawa Tour
- Busena Resort - one of the best resorts in Okinawa. They have an underwater tower and glass boats that allows visitors to experience the beautiful Okinawa sea. There is also a main conference center and the Bankoku Shinryo Kan, which was used for the 2000 G8 Summit.
- Manzamo - literally meaning a place where 10,000 people are able to sit together. It is situated on a field created by coral reefs, and its grassy top is a familiar place for picnics and sports events. The northern views from the cliff top of Manzamo are spectacular, where one can see the deep blue waters of Nago Bay. One day in 1727, the villagers welcomed the Shuri King Sho Kei on his visit to Manzamo; and Nabi Onna, a well-known and passionate poetess of the time, created a poem for the king. From that time, Manzamo has been considered a site that inspires poetic feelings.
- Nakijin Castle - selected as one of the nine world heritage sites in Okinawa. Nakijin Castle is a major tourist attraction. It is believed that Nakijin Castle was built in the 13th century as a place of religious worship. On the 14 acres of castle grounds you can see several religious objects, such as the fire-god shrine and the houses of the sacred maidens who presided over religious festivals. Recent excavations of pottery and utensils from the castle prove that there was trade between Okinawa and China.
- Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium - Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park (Chura means beautiful & umi means ocean in the Okinawan dialect) - Okinawa boasts one of the best aquariums in the world! In fact, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world and the main attractions are its manta rays and three whale sharks.
The aquarium is part of Ocean Expo Park. The aquarium is made up of four floors, with tanks containing deep sea creatures, sharks, coral, and tropical fish.
Right outside of the aquarium, there are several free shows & exhibitions. For example, the Dolphin Lagoon, Manatee Pool, Sea Turtle Pool, as well as the Okichan Theater - this is where you can see a fun show featuring bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales. At all of the above mentioned facilities, you can observe the animals up close and personal. There is also a very beautiful beach very close to the aquarium called Emerald Beach.
- Pineapple Park - pineapples have been cultivated in Okinawa as an agricultural product since they were brought here by the Dutch in 1866. The park experience begins with a ride through pineapple fields and tropical, botanical gardens in a four-person automatic pineapple-shaped cart. After the ride, visitors can begin the indoor, self-guided tour that features a small gift shop & winery. It was opened in 1992 and is the first of its kind on Okinawa. The winery offers visitors all-you-drink wine and juice samples. The last stop of the indoor tour is the Haisai Market. Here visitors can have their fill of free samples of pineapple chocolate, cakes, cookies, candy, jelly, as well as fresh and canned pineapple, goya, seaweed, and sugarcane. Visitors can also buy countless products made from pineapple such as lotion, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and soap. Shoppers will also have the opportunity to purchase souvenirs like t-shirts, ceramic crafts, and children's toys.
- Ryukyu Mura - includes several old homes that have been gathered from around the Ryukyu Islands to preserve historic Okinawan culture. The buildings contain artifacts that explain the customs and life in traditional Okinawa. The Ryukyu Folk Village also offers demonstrations of pottery making, weaving, and bingata - an Okinawan brand of fabric dyeing. The village includes mills tread by water buffaloes & several shows about Okinawan cultural not to be missed.
- Zakimi Castle - the ruins of Zakimi are all that remain of the castle originally built about 570 years ago. During World War II this historic site was used by the Japanese Army as a missile base before it was destroyed in battle. In 1972 the Japanese government formally recognized it as a National Treasure. It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000.
- Hiji Falls - is a National Park and very popular tourist destination for nature lovers. It is located in the northern part of the island, approximately 20 kilometers north of the city of Nago. The area the falls and the ensuing river flow through is tropical most of the year. It is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, as the path from the start to the finish at the falls themselves is not far (about 2 miles), but there are many steep steps along the way.
- Forest Adventure Park - is a zip-line obstacle course and it is very popular because of its high flying zip-lines, obstacle courses using ropes, but most importantly they offer an adventure high in a forest with the benefit of experiencing this outdoor activity surrounded by Okinawa's spectacular natural beauty of trees, hills, cliffs and crystal clear blue ocean.
- Bullfighting - is quite the spectacle - unlike typical bullfighting in Spanish speaking cultures, there is no Matador to face the bull; it is one bull challenging another and neither die or are seriously injured.
In the ring, one bull has a red ribbon wrapped around its tail to let everyone know which is which. At a typical bullfighting event, 20 bulls are paired into ten matches, with each bull fighting only once during the four-hour event.
At each of the 14 bullfighting rings in Okinawa, the objective for the bulls - each weighing more than a ton (1,000kg) - is to strike or intimidate each other into quitting. The bullfight ends when one bull stops fighting or simply runs away.
Bullfighting in Okinawa takes place year round and is held only on Sundays, a long established custom. Some bullfighting events are held in conjunction with local festivals. Tickets to watch these massive bulls in action are sold at the entrance to the bullfighting rings for 2,500-3,000 yen - the most famous bullfighting ring in Okinawa is inside the Ishikawa Dome.
Okinawa Facts and Information
Okinawa is a unique prefecture in Japan with a distinctive history, culture and atmosphere.
From the beautiful subtropical landscape, turquoise oceans, to the resilient spirit of it's people, Okinawa has plenty to offer you during your time studying and interning here.
Here we will introduce various sites that give you more insight into the daily life and climate here in Okinawa.
GoandRoam Okinawa Webcam
Sunabe Beach Webcam
Vpike.com Virtual Trips
We will add more, but in the meantime follow us on our blog