Introduction of Okinawa
Okinawa Prefecture is made up of the Ryukyu Islands, which at their southern extremity begin at Nansei Island, and lie between Kyushu, the most southwesterly of Japan's four main islands, and Taiwan. Okinawa consists of 160 islands of various size scattered across a vast area of ocean. The temperature in winter is about the same as that of springtime in Tokyo and Osaka, making it warm and comfortable throughout the year.
With Okinawa being in the subtropical zone, you can enjoy beautiful flowers in any season. Taiwan Cherries, which bloom earlier in Okinawa than anywhere else in Japan, red Deigo flowers, colorful bougainvilleas, pure white Easter lilies, and beautiful yellow tabebuias – it is like a party of tropical flowers! Another highlight is the inhabitation of many rare species of plants and animals, such as the Iriomote wildcats (declared a protected species) on Iriomote-jima Island. The crystal blue sea, with white sand beaches and colorful fish dancing through coral, attracts vacationers as a holiday resort area with many diving spots.For about 450 years, from the 15th to the 19th century, Okinawa prospered as the Kingdom of Ryukyu, a state independent of Japan's central government. Cultural characteristics and conventions born through the relations with foreign countries in those days still survive in such interesting forms as artifacts and festivals, giving additional charm to Okinawa. Especially Shuri Castle (the castle of the King of Ryukyu) in Naha City, which reopened in 1992 after being reconstructed. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, and attracts many visitors.
Okinawa still preserves its traditional entertainment, such as Ryukyu-buyo, an elegant dance expressing a woman's emotions and feelings for someone special, such as her husband. It is performed by women in traditional dress made of bright-colored Bingata cloth. The Shishi-mai, a dance of 'shishi' lions with colorful manes, and Eisa, danced in groups to the sound of heroic drums and a three-stringed musical instrument called a 'sanshin,' are other traditional dances still performed today.
Various festivals and events are held in Okinawa throughout the year. You can enjoy flowers and whale watching in winter and spring, marine sports and traditional performing arts in summer, and cultural events and field sports in fall. Some traditional festivals and events include the Hari Dragon Boat Race in May, an Eisa dance competition during the summer Bon Festival period, as well as tug-of-war competitions held each summer and fall.
Below are the attractive places in Okinawa:
Ruins of Nakagusuku Castle
Nakagusuku Castle (Nakagusuku-jo) stands on the summit of a mountain with commanding views. It is considered one of the most famous castles in Okinawa. It is not known when it was first built. It is said that Gosamaru (the most prominent expert on castle building in Okinawa), who became the last governor of the castle in the middle of the 15th century, moved into Nakagusuku Castle and carried out repairs and built additions to it. The castle walls are built up high following the contours of the land, and their outlines draw gentle curves. The walls are built neatly using natural rocks, and have withstood over 400 years of wind and weather. The arched gate stone displays the beauty of stone buildings unique to Okinawa.
Admission Fee: 300 yen
Operation: Open throughout the year
Access: Naha Airport/Bus/10 min./Naha Bus Terminal/Toyo Bus No.30/50 min./Nakagusuku-Shogakko Elementary School Bus Stop/On foot/50 min.
Address: 503 Oshiro, Kitanakagusuku-son, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa
Shuri Castle (Shuri-jo) is believed to have been built in the 14th century by King Satto, who ruled here. Major repairs were subsequently carried out and it was used for many years as the castle of the kings of Ryukyu. The castle grounds measured roughly 410 m east to west and about 270 m north to south, and there were eight Chinese-style gates. Everything was destroyed in 1945 during WWII bombing. Shurei Gate, reconstructed in 1958, has red-colored tiles on the two-layered roofs, which are set in white lime, retaining a beauty unique to Okinawa. Many tourists visit the castle as one of the most important buildings in Okinawa.
Admission Fee: 800 yen
Operation: First Wednesday of July and the next day
Access: Naha Airport/Bus/30 min./Shurijo-koen-mae Bus Stop/On foot/10 min; Naha Airport/Yui rail (Mono rail)/30 min./Shuri Station/On foot/15min.
Address: 1-2, Shuri-Kinjo-cho, Naha-shi, Okinawa
Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum
Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum was opened in Omoromachi, Naha as a cultural-art complex in 2007. The cultural museum was once in Shuri and moved to the new site doubling in size. The art museum is the first prefectural art museum in Okinawa.
The cultural museum mainly intends to research, study, collect, preserve and to exhibit the materials related to the nature, history, folklore culture and arts and crafts of Okinawa. The permanent exhibition consists of “general exhibition" and “sub exhibition." Visitors approach to the general exhibition room as if they are coming ashore to an island looking at the extended coral reefs in “Ino (lagoon)" at their feet. Visitors can learn about life with nature on the islands of Okinawa with the large-scale diorama. At the sub exhibition, the collection of materials is displayed by the following categories: natural history, archeology, arts and crafts, history and folklore culture.
Centering on the works by the artists related to Okinawa, the art museum focuses on making a collection of works of modern and contemporary art from two-dimensional art to three-dimensional art as well as image art.
Okinawa is a region which has very unique history and culture. If you want to learn about Okinawa, it is recommended to first visit Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum.
The Permanent Exhibition <Museum> ：400 yen、<Art Museum>：300yen
Closures: Every Monday; However, if Monday is a National Holiday, the day after a National Holiday, or Okinawa Memorial Day, the museum will be open, but will close the following Tuesday instead. New Year’s holidays (December 29th to January 3rd)
Operation: 9am-6pm (week day); 9am-8pm (Fridays and Saturdays)
Buses: Get off at Kenritsu Hakubutsukan-mae Station and then walk 1-min
Subway: Get off at Omoromachi Station, and then walk 10-min
Address: 3-1-1, Omoromachi, Naha-shi, Okinawa
Okinawa Kenritsu Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan (Okinawa Prefectural Peace Prayer Museum)
In World War II, Okinawa was the only part of Japan to experience fighting on the ground, and not only soldiers but also a great many civilians were sacrificed in the battle for the islands. Okinawa Kenritsu Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan (The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Prayer Museum) was established to perpetuate the memory of this tragic experience of war and to preserve this lesson in history properly for future generations. The Heiwa-no Ishiji (Cornerstone of Peace) is inscribed with the name of everyone who lost their lives in the battle for Okinawa. This is not just a memorial but a place designed to make visitors understand the value of peace above all else. It is also a place for children, who are to lead the next generation, to study and take an interest in peace issues.
Admission Fee: 300 yen (regular fee)
Operation: New Year holidays (Dec. 29-Jan. 3)
Access: Naha Airport / Bus / 1-hr. 15-min. / Okinawa Kinendo Stop / 5-min. walk
Address: 614-1 Mabuni, Itoman-shi, Okinawa
Miyako Traditional Crafts Research Center
Miyako-jofu is hemp cloth made by weaving flax known as choma, and is characterized by a fine weave and elaborate splashed patterns. The cloth is known to last for three generations. Some 400 years ago, a ship en route for China from the Ryukyu Kingdom (present-day Okinawa) was in imminent danger of shipwreck in a storm, when a man from the island of Miyako-jima who happened to be on the ship jumped into the sea and fixed the damaged section. The Ryukyu king rewarded the man by taking him on as a retainer, and the man’s wife, overjoyed, presented the king with the cloth. This is said to be the beginning of regular production of Miyako-jofu, which is now produced in the city of Hirara, Shimoji-cho and other locations. In 1975, Miyako-jofu was designated a traditional craft by the Japanese government.'
Access: Hirara port/10-min. walksAddress: Miyako Traditional Crafts Research Center, 3 Nishizato, Hirara-shi, Okinawa