Japan, Travel Guide

11 Surprising Reasons Why Okinawa Will Captivate You

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Aside from being the birthplace of Karate-do, Okinawa is a stunning destination that is dotted with sakura trees, serene islands, summer festivals, and historical attractions. With a number of sights and sounds you can experience, it’s about time we shift the focus on Okinawa right now!

Credit: giphy

If you’re contemplating on adding Okinawa into your Japan travel itinerary, here are eleven reasons why you must visit this captivating city☺️

1. Be the first to experience the cherry blossom season

Credit: Pedro Cambra on Flickr

While Tokyo and Kyoto’s cherry blossom season begin in late March or mid-April, the pretty sakura in Okinawa bloom as early as January!

Credit: Pedro Cambra on Flickr

The cherry blossoms here are called the Hikan-Zakura and are mostly found in Yanbaru on northern Okinawa. Unlike the softer shades of sakura in other parts of Japan, the Hikan-Zakura carries a brighter shade of pink and a bell-like shape.

Plan your cherry blossom chase with this 2017 official cherry blossom forecast in Japan! You wouldn’t want a wasted trip to Japan😉

2. Unwind at their stunning beaches

Credit: Ikusuki on Flickr

With a wealth of islands surrounding Okinawa, it’s hard to resist planning a beach vacation here. Coupled with lapping waves and white sands, let its beauty wash your worries away😌

Credit: Laika ac on Flickr

Busana Beach, Miyakojima, Manza Beach, Okuma Beach, and Mibaru Beach are some of the amazing paradises you should visit when you’re here!

Credit: @marinon41 on Instagram

Remember to pack some snacks and sushi for a lovely seaside picnic – you’d definitely want to soak in the water and bask in the sun all day☺️

3. Explore their famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Credit: Shig ISO on Flickr

If you have a secret goal to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible, Okinawa has eight sites! Beaming with cultural and historical values, spending some time to explore these sites will definitely reward you immensely.

Credit: Connie Ma on Flickr

Plan accordingly and discover the stories behind Shuri Castle, Gusuku, Nakagusuku Castle, Katsuren Castle, Zakimi Castle, Tamaudun, Nakijin Castle, and Sefa-utaki.

4. Buy vintage clothes from Okinawa’s Little America

Credit: @gigishou on Instagram

Whisk yourself to the Land of the Free at Okinawa’s life-sized version of Little America. Called the Mihama American Village, this charming spot is surrounded by American military bases, which explains the unusual pop-up of this little town in Okinawa.

Credit: Connie Ma on Flickr

Walk around the boulevard on any good day and escape to the American vintage and retail shops, hip restaurants, and movie theater. The highlight of Mihama is the giant ferris wheel that shadows the town as well as the Sunset Beach that is located a stone’s throw away.

Address: 15-69 Mihama, Chatan-cho, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa-ken 904-0115, Japan
Opening hours: Mon-Sun: 11AM-9PM

5. Go island-hopping for a change of sceneries
Kerama Island

Credit: SteFou! on Flickr

If the sun, sand, and sea are the three loves of your life, you will definitely love what Okinawa has to offer. With approximately 20 islands to explore, every single paradise offers a scenery different from the rest.

Credit: @fuji69_osk on Instagram

Take a boat ride and cover as many scenic islands as possible in Okinawa. Anywhere from Kume Island to Kerama Island and Minnajima – the soft sand and warm turquoise waters will surely take your breath away😍

6. Rejuvenate your soul at the Purified Place of Utaki

Credit: @annale.campbell on Instagram

Backed by the glorious panorama of Kudaka Island, Sefa-utaki (Purified Place of Utaki) is a sacred shrine where the locals go to perform their worship.

Credit: @hippopoyuka107d on Instagram

As part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, every tourist who pays a visit (and you’re likely to be one of them) would seek for photo opportunities amidst the caves, slanted rock formations, and looming trees.

Address: Sefa-utaki, Okinawa Prefecture, Nanjo, Chinen
Operating hours: Mon-Sun: 9AM-6PM (last entry at 5:30PM)
Fee: 200 yen
Directions: Sefa-utaki is a 45-minute drive from central Naha

7. Explore the mysterious underwater pyramid in Yonaguni

Credit: @yippee_x on Instagram

Till this very day, the mystery surrounding the underwater pyramid in Yonaguni is very mystifying. Hence, it becomes a magnet for locals and tourists who would travel all the way just to catch a glimpse of it.

Credit: @diveplanit on Instagram

Apart from exploring this natural formation, which geologists believe to be shaped by humans in the past, Yonaguni is also a well-known diving site and divers are likely to spot hammerhead sharks in this area😮

[Do you know that there are other secret islands to discover in Southeast Asia?]

Address: Yonaguni, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, 907-1801, Japan
Directions: Take a 4-hour ferry ride from Ishigaki Port to Kubura Port on Yonaguni Island

8. Move to the beat of the Eisa drum dancers

Credit: @nagarazoku_in_japan on Instagram

One of the best times to visit Okinawa is in July when you can catch the Eisa drum parades in Naha. While the event moves from one venue to another, the past years have seen this event held in Kokusai Street.

Credit: @wattentiontokyo on Instagram

Combining high-pitched chants and upbeat dances, the parade is part of the age-old tradition of ancestor worship. Various eisa drums such as odaiko, shime daiko and paranku are used to produce different beats.

Address: Kokusai Street, 3 Chome-11-17 Makishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0013, Japan
Admission: Free
Website | Facebook

9. Appreciate the way the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium looks like a live wallpaper

Credit: @doctorho on Flickr

Situated within the family-friendly Ocean Expo Park, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquariam earned the title as the largest aquarium in the world and rightly so!

Credit: @cotaro70s on Flickr

Filled with unique sea creatures, tropical fishes, manta rays, sharks, and corals, the main attraction is the Kuroshio Sea tank which has a huge panel for the crowds to catch a full view.

Address: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, 905-0206, 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture
Operating hours: Mon-Sun: 8:30AM-8PM (last admission: 7PM)
Fee: 1,850 yen (Adult), 1,230 yen (High school), 610 yen (Elementary), Free (under 6 years old)
Contact: +81-980-48-3748
Website | Facebook 

10. Learn martial arts in the birthplace of Karate

Credit: ThisParticularGreg on Flickr

Karate is a form of martial arts that is widely practiced on the Ryukyu Islands (now known as Okinawa). It combines the art of intense punching, fast elbow strikes, and unexpected high kicks😮

Credit: ThisParticularGreg on Flickr

If you are a martial arts enthusiast, it will be a thrilling experience for you to master the basic fighting stances, straight punches, and uppercuts in the birthplace of Karate.

11. Try to outrun an Okinawan in a Local Marathon

Credit: @luv_my_chu on Instagram

The locals in Okinawa are known for their healthy practices and active lifestyle. Hence, it’s not surprising to find a variety of marathons to fill up the entire calendar year!

Credit: @eunsong1124 on Instagram

If you’re particularly interested in joining, look out for the more popular marathons such as the Okinawa Marathon, Naha Marathon, Nago Half Marathon, Ishigaki Marathon, and so much more. As with most sporting events, it’s best to register early to avoid disappointment☺️


Okinawa is filled to the brim with sightseeing opportunities that will surely enliven your great adventure in Japan. From exploring the mysterious underwater pyramid in Yonaguni to catching the first sight of cherry blossom season, let Okinawa make its way into your must-travel destinations this year!

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Cheng Sim

Cheng Sim

Living in Subang Jaya, Cheng Sim pens about travel, lifestyle, and any topics under the sun. Before chasing any deadlines, this Malaysian wordsmith counts on caffeine-free tea and Spotify to fuel her writing inspirations.
Cheng Sim
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