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Trailing off the tip of Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu are more than 100 islands that make up the prefecture of Okinawa. Balmy temperatures, unspoiled beaches and natural habitats, a fascinating hybrid culture with distinct cuisine and crafts are among the obvious attractions. The largest island of this subtropical archipelago, which back in the 15th century was the separate Ryukyu Kingdom, is Okinawa Honto, home to the prefectural capital of Naha. Here you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage listed Shuri-jo, the beautifully reconstructed palace of the Ryukyu kings. Also on this island is the sobering Okinawa Prefectural Peace ...

Trailing off the tip of Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu are more than 100 islands that make up the prefecture of Okinawa. Balmy temperatures, unspoiled beaches and natural habitats, a fascinating hybrid culture with distinct cuisine and crafts are among the obvious attractions. The largest island of this subtropical archipelago, which back in the 15th century was the separate Ryukyu Kingdom, is Okinawa Honto, home to the prefectural capital of Naha. Here you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage listed Shuri-jo, the beautifully reconstructed palace of the Ryukyu kings. Also on this island is the sobering Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, commemorating the sacrifices made by islanders and soldiers during the bloody battles that capped off World War II, as well as the wonderful Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – the next best option to diving as a way of seeing Okinawa’s abundant sealife.

Off the far southern island of Yonaguni-jima it’s possible to dive around enigmatic sunken rocks that are perhaps the remains of a lost civilization. Easier to fathom are the beautiful beaches of idyllic islands such as Miyako-jima, Taketomi-jima and Zamami-jima. For the ultimate adventure, Iriomote-jima is about as untamed as Japan gets, offering treks through dense jungle and rare wildlife.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. It comprises hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain more than 620 miles long. The Ryukyus extend southwest from Kyūshū to Taiwan.
  • Language: Japanese
  • Currency: Japanese Yen
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The island's biggest festival is the Eisa festival held around mid July.