The Ryukyu Archipelago consists of approximately 39 inhabited islands with over a hundred smaller islands, sandbars, and rocky outcroppings. The islands stretch from southern Japan to Taiwan and are located in the sub-tropical zone. Okinawa's climate is characterized with very mild winters and hot, humid summers. Okinawa used to be an independent kingdom so its culture, social customs, and history differ from that of mainland Japan.
History and Culture
The Ryukyu Kingdom Era spanned almost five centuries from 1429 until 1879 upon which Japan annexed the islands. During this time, Okinawan culture flourished as it independently traded with China, the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), Korea, and other Asian nations. Even today remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom Era can be seen around the island at such places as Shuri Castle, the palace of Shikina-en, and Tamaudun. Colorful festivals that occur throughout the year also provide a window into the island's ancient past.
The crystal waters surrounding Okinawa's islands hold approximately 380 different species of coral - one of the richest diversities in the world. Just one hour away by ferry from Naha Port lay the Kerama Islands, where some amazing snorkeling and diving sites can be found. Further south, visitors will find the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote, where jungles and mangrove forests wait to be explored. On Okinawa Island, guests can relax on nice beaches or head north into the lush sub-tropical rainforests of Yanbaru.
Besides stunning nature, Okinawa is also the home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are theme parks for families, fantastic shopping, and plenty of great food ranging from local to international cuisine. Okinawa offers something for everyone.