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Okinawa Prefecture

Okinawa Prefecture in Kyushu DistrictOkinawa PrefectureOkinawa Prefecture is positioned at the Japan's southwestern edge, and there is Taiwan to the west.

Between Kyushu Island and Taiwan, many small islands lie in a crescent shape.
The northern half belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture, and the southern half belongs to Okinawa Prefecture.
In Okinawa Prefecture, the largest island Okinawa Island, which is the center of politics and culture in the prefecture.

The islands west of Ishigaki Island is often called "Yaeyama Islands".

The whole area of the prefecture is located in the subtropical zone, so it is very warm and it has much rain.

This area was called "Ryukyu" in the old days.
Okinawan (people in Okinawa) is slightly different from Japanese in the mainland in race.
But the ancestor of Okinawan was same as Japanese, and it is said that the race has changed in the isolate area for a long time.
And Ryukyu language close to Japanese language has been spoken in Okinawa Prefecture.

In 1429, Ryukyu Kingdom was founded by King Sho Hashi. He constructed the castle in Shuri (current Naha) and Shuri became the capital.
In 1609, Satsuma Domain in Kagoshima invaded, and Ryukyu lost out.
Ryukyu had a tributary relationship with Satsuma Domain, but the unique culture was kept.

And in 1879, after the foundation of Japan's modern government, Ryukyu Kingdom was changed to Okinawa Prefecture.

In the Pacific War (World War II), Okinawa was attacked first in Japan. Naha was destroyed by air laids of US forces in October, 1944.
And from April to June in 1945, the grueling ground battles were waged on Okinawa Island. It was the only ground battle in Japan.

After the end of the war, Okinawa was placed under U.S. rule. And many military bases were constructed in Okinawa Island.
In 1960s, here became the front-line bases of Vietnam War. So many accidents and incidents by U.S. army occured.
The United States wouldn't return Okinawa to Japan first, but a few cases by American soldiers made Okinawan angry and developed into a riot in 1970.
At last, Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972.

But there are still many U.S. military bases in Okinawa, so fundamental solution hasn't been achieved.

In Okinawa Prefecture, we can see Ryukyu culture different from the mainland.
And the subtropical climate and many islands make nice resort areas.
Of course, we can learn the hardships of Okinawa.

Naha is the prefectural capital, and is located at the south part of Okinawa Island.
There are Naha Airport and Naha Port, and Naha is the entrance to Okinawa Prefecture.
Shuri Castle was set up in this city.

Okinawa Prefecture has no railroad.
Only a monorail in Naha runs from Naha Airport through central area of Naha to Shuri Castle.
To tour around Okinawa Island, we can use frequent route buses.
And some regular sightseeing bus tours are operated from Naha.

To Naha, airplane is very convenient.
There are many flights from Haneda (Tokyo), Nagoya, Itami (Osaka), Kansai, Kobe, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, and many other cities.
And Naha Airport has the flights to several main islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
Additionally, it has the international flights from Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau official website

The climate in Naha
Highest Temperature (deg C) 19.5 19.8 21.7 24.1 26.7 29.4 31.8 31.5 30.4 27.9 24.6 21.2
Lowest Temperature (deg C) 14.6 14.8 16.5 19.0 21.8 24.8 26.8 26.6 25.5 23.1 19.9 16.3
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 107 120 161 186 232 247 141 241 261 153 110 103

The climate in Ishigaki island
Highest Temperature (deg C) 21.2 21.6 23.5 25.8 28.3 30.4 32.0 31.8 30.7 28.7 25.8 22.7
Lowest Temperature (deg C) 16.5 16.9 18.5 21.2 23.6 26.1 27.6 27.1 25.8 23.7 21.1 18.0
Mean monthly rainfall (mm) 131 139 132 155 207 207 130 262 258 205 159 126

Tourist spots in Okinawa Prefecture

Map of Okinawa island

Okinawa Island

Naha city /1/
Shuri Castle /2/
Shikina-en garden /3/
Former Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters /4/
Okinawa Senseki Quasi-National Park /5/
Gyokusendo cave (Okinawa World) /6/
Seifa-Utaki /7/
Nakagusuku Castle /8/
Katsuren Castle /9/
Zakimi Castle /10/
Cape Zanpa /11/
Ryukyu Mura Park /12/
Cape Manza (Manzamou) /13/
Ocean Expo Park /14/
Nakijin Castle /15/
Cape Hedo /16/

Other islands map of Okinawa Prefecture

Other islands

Ie Island /21/
Kerama Islands /22/
Kume Island /23/
Miyako Island /24/
Ishigaki Island /25/
Taketomi Island /26/
Iriomote Island /27/
Hateruma Island /28/
Yonaguni Island /29/

Scenic or Nature / Park or Garden / Resort / City, Town or Village / Quarter or Street /
Temple or Shrine / Museum or Laboratory / Market or Commercial facility / Factory /
Other Building or Construction / Historic place / Remains / World Heritage Site

Main events in Okinawa Prefecture

Naha HaariiNaha Haarii (Early May)

It is one of the greatest festivals in Okinawa Prefecture.
Haarii is the festival of dragon boat races to pray for catching many fish and navigation safety.
It is said that this festival was introduced from China about 600 years ago.
The festival has been held in many areas of Okinawa Prefecture, and Naha's festival is the biggest.
Three large dragon boats race.
Each boat is about 15 meters long, and 32 rowers, 3 steerers, 2 ringer, and 5 other crewmembers are on board.
During the festival, many other Haarii races and parades are held despite of the main race.

EisaaEisaa (Late August)

It is the Bon dance held in Okinawa Prefecture.
Since the early 17th century, the dance with only Buddhist invocation had been held during Bon season for commemoration of the ancestors.
In the 19th century, young people added folk songs and drums to the dance.
Additionally, showy performances and costumes have been added, and it has developed as the major event of Okinawa.
The festival is held in many cities and towns in Okinawa.

* Above photos by Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Local foods and products in Okinawa Prefecture

Okinawa sobaOkinawa soba

It is a popular noodle in Okinawa Prefecture.
Japanese "soba" is the noodle of buckwheat. But this noodle is made of wheat flour, and the process is more like Chinese noodle.
The dish looks like Japanese udon. The soup is Japanese dashi with pork.
And sliced cooked pork back ribs, sliced kamaboko (minced and steamed fish) are topped on the noodle.


In English, it is called "bitter melon".
It has been one of the popular cooking ingredients in Okinawa area, but it is going to be popular in the mainland of Japan recently.
The fruit is filled with soft pith and seeds, and the outside is used as the food.
It has bitter taste and light crunchy texture.
It is used in the various dishes.


It is the popular dish in Okinawa.
Various vegitables, pork, egg and tofu are fried at the same time. And it is seasoned with salt or shoyu (soy sauce) simply.
The main vegitables are goya, cabbage, bean sprout, carrot and so on.
Also, papaya and loofah are sometimes used.
And luncheon meat is sometimes used instead of pork.


It is the distilled spirit in Okinawa.
It is made of fermenred rice. But, because the local unique mold is used, the flavor is different from Shochu (the distilled spirit in mainland of Japan).
General Awamori is about 30% alcohol.
The spirit aged for over 3 years are called "Koshu" (Old spirit), and becomes 40 to 60% alcohol.


It is a traditional sweet in Okinawa, and it looks like a cookie.
Originally, this sweet was invented by cook of the Ryukyu king in the 18th century. And only royal family was able to eat.
After Ryuku became under control of Japan, the cook began to sale the sweet to the public.
Since that, it has been a popular sweet in Okinawa.


It is a traditional resist dyed cloth in Okinawa.
Since around the 14th century, the dyed clothes had been used as the costume of the royal family and noble family.
The colors are bright, and when the base color is used, the cloth had been for the royal family.
Bingata is still created for beautiful kimono and obi (sash), and we can get the fancy goods of Bingata for souvenirs.


It is a traditional cotton cloth, and has been created in Yaeyama Islands (the west part of Okinawa Prefcture).
It had been woven as obi (sash) by young lady, and it was given to her fiance for a present.
Minsaa has two patterns, five squares and four squares.
By a play on Japanese words, they say "Please be with me for all time".
We can get the fancy goods of Minsaa for souvenirs.

Ryukyu GlassRyukyu Glass

It is the glassware produced in Okinawa Island.
Okinawa had been under U.S. rule after World War II. Naturally, the materials to make glassware were in very short supply.
So the artists made the works using the empty bottles of cola and beer discarded at U.S. military base.
But the original color and mixing air bubbles created an unique charm.
It has been a traditional craft in Okinawa.

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