Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan—a place unto itself

by Simon Vaughan
Intro Photo by Ajari

From its ancient history to its unique culture, vibrant arts to time-honoured traditions, enigmatic Japan has been enticing travellers almost since time began! Yet even for those in the know, one of its many mysteries and hidden gems has been less revealed over time than others.

The Okinawa Islands are Japan’s southernmost prefecture, located closer to Taiwan than Tokyo.

Lined by pristine beaches and surrounded by crystal blue waters, the region’s hundreds of subtropical islands sweep southwest like a caressing finger deep into the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea.

With temperatures that rarely dip below the high teens, the idyllic islands have long been cherished by the Japanese as their private paradise from which to escape the world. Once part of the prosperous ancient Ryukyu Kingdom, Okinawa still boasts its own customs and dialects, and a culinary, artistic and musical tradition unique even within Japan.

Embraced by year-round warmth and breathtaking vistas, and a lifestyle dedicated to wellness of body and spirit, it’s no surprise that Okinawans not only enjoy greater longevity than most people in the world but are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality.

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Hirara Azanikadori, Miyakojima-shi, Okinawa Prefecture
Photo by Vitorio Benedetti

With its white-sand beaches and world-class cuisine—the Okinawa diet is long considered one of the best!—Okinawa is an ideal spot to just kick back and relax.

History buffs can visit ancient ruins and World Heritage sites, search for evidence of Stone Age settlements, or enjoy an unforgettable dive to an unspoiled Second World War shipwreck.

Nature lovers can stroll a secluded beach occupied only by nesting turtles, snorkel some of the planet’s finest coral reefs, swim with whale sharks and manta rays, search for dugong or spy one of the most endangered wild cats in the world—the Iriomote cat—amid subtropical forest.

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Naha-shi, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Photo by Doctor Ho

Known as the Island of Festivals there are numerous celebrations to discover as well as local studios to visit for fine textiles, pottery, lacquerware, glass and other handicrafts. The more adventurous can take a karate lesson in the very place where the ancient martial art was born, or sample some Awamori, the oldest distilled spirit in all of Japan.

While Okinawa may still be a mystery to some, warmhearted Okinawans are eager to share their island paradise with all its secrets with travellers from across the world. Recently, six people were invited from all corners of our planet to open their hearts, be themselves and discover this ancient paradise. Their experiences will surprise, entice and allure—just as Okinawa has done for centuries.

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