Thursday, January 1, 2015

Okinawa, Japan

Executive summary by darmansjah

Why Go? 

Okinawa is the largest of the Japanese Southwest Islands, home to the prefectual capital, Naha, and the historical seat of power of the Ryukyu dynasty. A place where cultures collide: think ryukyo, Japanese, American, Chinese and Korean, Okinawa is home to excellent beaches, delicious food and a friendly people.

When To Go

Okinawa’s subtropical climate means the rainy season lasts from May to June. Summer is hot and humid with temperatures reaching highs of 35`C and September brings fierce typhoons. March, April, October and November are good months to visit.

How To Go’
Naha International Airport has services to Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. From Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, fly into the mainland Japan airports of Tokyo or Osaka before connecting with All Nippon Airways ( or Japan Airlines (


Best For Museum

Okinawa Prefectural Museum’s comprehensive exhibition traces the island’s history from ancient times of the Minatogawa man, through the time of the ryukyu kingdom, the Battle of Okinawa, and up to present day; a great introduction to the island history and culture (81 98 941 8200;; 3-1-1 Omoromachi, Naha City; US$5).

Best For Theme Park

The Okinawa World theme park houses a snake museum, the massive gyokusendo Caves and an old Ryukyu village, showcasing various Okinawan crafts. Catch the daily performance of traditional Eisa dancing and sanshin music (81 98 949 7421;; 336 Tamgusuku Maekawa, Nanjo-city; US$20).

Best For Marine Life

Okinawa’s marine splendor is on display at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Its massive Kuroshio tank is home to whale sharks, manta rays, bull sharks and plenty of different ray species (81 98 048 348;; 424 ishikawa, Motobu-cho; US$23).

Best For Views

Okinawa’s best views are found driving along the dramatic coastline. Cape Manazamo is famous for its rock formation that looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the azure waters.

Best For Castles

Reconstructed in 1992, the Shurijo Castle served as the administrative centre and royal residence of the Ryukyu Kingdom until the 19th century. Its architecture reflects influences from mainland Japan, China, and Korea (81 98 886 2020;; 1-1 Shuri Kinjo-cho Naha City; US$10).

Eat & Drink

Head to Okinawa Soba Ishigufu to sample one of the island’s cuisine staples, Okinawa soba. Unlike the common buckwheat noodles found elsewhere in Japan, Okinawa soba is made from wheat and carries more bite. Choose to have your soba topped with either broiled or stewed pork ribs ( 81 98 858 0881; 3-21-5 Gushi, Naha city; soba from US$8).

The owners of Kuruma Ebi Shokudo, an eatery housed in a non-descript shack, do prawn farming at the Yakaji Island. Kuruma ebi, literally translated into ‘car prawns’ are served up coated in a light batter and deep-fried to perfection (81 98 047 7888; 2434 Izumi, Motobu-cho; from US$17).

Ganso Umi Budo Honten is renowed for tis umi budo, or seagrape, dishes. A seaweed, umi budo resembles a bunch of tiny green grapes, bursting and releasing slightly sea-salty flavours in the mouth with each bite. Have it served atop rice or ramen (81 98 966 2588; 6091 Aza Minami Onna, Onna Village; from US$15).

Inside Ichibahon-dori, one of the covered shopping arcades that branch off Kokusai in Naha, Daichi Makishi Kosetsu Ichiba covered food market offers an amazing range of fresh seafood and produce. On the second floor are many eateries dishing up the exact seafood found downstairs (2-10-1 Matsuo; dishes from US$8).

If you’re looking for some excellent grilled meat washed down with great awamori, Gen is the perfect yakinku place. If you can’t speak Japanese, ask your accommodation owner to call and order the yakinku course (US$45) as it must be ordered in advance (81 98 861 0429; 2-6-23 Kumoji).


Getting Around

The Yui-rail monorail is perfect for exploring Naha Ciity and local buses run from Naha to destinations all over the island. A rental car is handy since major attraction are spread out across the island. There’s a rental-car counter in the arrivals hall of Naha Airport.

Typical Costs

A bowl of soba US$7.50; Mid-range meal US$7-Us$25; Mid-range hotel US$100-US$250; High-end hotel from US$250


About 10 minutes walk from the main shopping street Kokusai, Hotel Sun Palace is a step up from a standard business hotel. Spacious rooms have interesting design touches and some have balconies (81 98 863 4181;; 2-5-1 Kumoji; from US$100).

Popular with Japanese families, Southern Beach Resort & Spa Okinawa offers not only 495 comfortable rooms and a buffet restaurant that seats up to 350 dinners, but also a spa and plenty of beach-side activities such as kayaking and wakeboarding (81 98 992 7500;; 1-6-1 Nishizaki cho, itoman city; from US$130).

Okinawa Harborview Crowne Plaza’s 352 rooms are spread out across seven room categories, each bringing welcoming comfort and elegance in a bustling city. The hotel also has five dining establishments (81 98 853 2111;; 2-46 izumizaki, Naha City; from US$140).

All the rooms at Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa offer great views overlooking the East China Sea. They have a private beach where you can take in glorious views of the sunset, a restaurant serving up Ryukyu Japanese cuisine, and a spa (81 98 051 1000;; 1490-1 Kise, Nago City; from US$220).

Nestled among the lush trees and white sands of the picturesque Cape Busena in Nago, The Busena Terrace boasts 401 rooms and 18 atmospheric cottages. Guests can make use of the 760-metre private beach, get discounts off glass-bottomed boat tours and entrance to the Underwater Observatory at he adjacent Busena Marine Park (81 98 051 1333;; 1808 Kise, Nago; from US$550).

More Recommendation

Village Walk

A walk in fishing village of Bise, near the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, is highly atmospheric. Most of the nearly 250 houses in Bise are surrounded by thickly grown Fukugi trees, used as windbreaks around Okinawa since ancient times, protecting locals from seasonal typhoons.

Castle Ruin
On the east coast of the island and just south of Okinawa city are the castle ruins of Nakagusuku-jo. Commanding an enviable position overlooking the coast, Nakagusuku-jo predated stone construction of this type on the mainland by at least 80 years. Although the castle was destroyed in 1458, the remaining foundation hints at its former grandeur.

Side Trip – Diving

Blessed with crystal clear waters, a genial subtropical climate, a diverse range of marine life and corals, Okinawa is a veritable paradise for divers. The coral reefs flourishing around the Kerama islands, in particular, are renowned for their beauty. Diving operator Marine House SEASIR has English-speaking instructors and makes daily trips to Kerama Islands (81 90 8668 6544;; 2-3-13 Minatomachi, Naha City; from US$130).

Find Out More

For more information, see Lonely Planet’s Japan guide or download the chapter on Okinawa and Soutwest Islands from  Visit the main torusim website for more planning information.

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