An archipelago of 113 islands, Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture in Japan. Historically the region was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom and had ties to China and later to Japan. This history has given Okinawa its own distinct culture and language and is the where karate has its roots. When the Ryukyu Kingdom was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1879 many inhabitants moved to mainland Japan and took the martial art with them, allowing for it to become a staple of Japanese culture and sport. However, karate is only one part of Okinawa. These island offer an abundance of unique culture, incredible diving spots, beautiful island geography, varied histories, and tasty food experiences.
The main island groups of the prefecture are the Okinawa Islands, the Yaeyama Islands, and the Miyako Islands. The capital city of Naha is located in the south of Okinawa Main Island and is the prefecture’s gateway to the region. Home to an international airport, it is the most popular place to start a sun-kissed trip to these islands. A vibrant city with top-notch shopping; historic and world-heritage sites; an abundance of restaurants, izakaya bars, cocktails bars, and pubs; and the gateway to the smaller islands of this group, Naha will no doubt keep you busy. If you’d like to slow the pace down then perhaps a visit to the southernmost Yaeyama Islands is what you seek. The main island of Ishigaki is a lush green sub-tropical paradise. A perfect spot for some amazing diving and snorkelling where you can encounter manta rays, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles (5 different species)and an abundance of coral reefs. The Shiraho Reef on the souther shores of Ishigaki is where you will find the largest amount of blue coral in the northern hemisphere. And the sunsets are known to be spectacular. The Miyako Islands are another sunny beach locale that is popular in Okinawa, if not the most popular. Clear waters and sandy beaches beckon for you to unwind and take in the sun and enjoying local fruits. Glass-bottom boat rides, diving through underwater caverns, and snorkelling the surface to see corals and fish sounds truly inviting. Visit some of the other beaches at nearby islands by driving many of the interconnected bridges. In fact, Irabu Bridge is the longest toll-free bridge in the country and spans 3.54 km / 2.2 miles.
I can say that I have definitely put Okinawa on my list of places to see in Japan. It sounds beautiful and intriguing with the added bonus of warm sunny weather. Do you agree?
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