Okinawa is a group of islands located south of Kyusyu with a unique culture, food, and history. It is a part of Japan that doesn’t feel japan with its laid-back attitude and tropical weather. Here is our choice of places in Okinawa you must visit to get the full unique Okinawan experiences.
#1. Churaumi Aquarium
Photo Credit: sinnosuke uchida@wikimedia
One of the most popular destinations in Okinawa is an aquarium famous for gigantic tank with whale sharks in it. The aquarium is a part of Okinawa expo park which has other popular exhibits like a dolphin show and Manatee pool. There are also other places to visit around it such as Bise village. If you are in Okinawa, don’t miss out on this world famous aquarium.
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Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0206
Access: 2 hours by car from Naha Airport/ About 3 hours by bus from Naha Airport (Naha Airport to Nago bus terminal on bus 20, 120, or 111, bus 65, 66, or 70 from Nago bus terminal to Churaumi Aquarium)
Fees 8:30am ~ 4:00pm (After 4:00pm fees):
・Adult 1,850 yen (1,290 yen)
・High school students 1,230 yen (860 yen)
・Middle school students and younger 610 yen (430 yen)
Opening Hours: 8:30am ~ 8:00pm
Website: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
#2. Shuri Castle
Shuri castle was the palace of the kings of Ryukyu kingdom which prospered as a trading hub in East Asia. This Okinawan castle has different features from other Japanese castles and shows the unique culture of Okinawa. Although the original building was burned down during WW2, however, it was rebuilt in the early 1990s. Since then, it has again become the symbol of Okinawa. It is also registered as a world heritage site as a part of ‘Gusuku sites and related properties of the kingdom of Ryukyu’.
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Address: 1-2 Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 903-0812
Access: Take Yui rail to from Naha Airport to Shuri station, take bus 7 or 8 to Shurijo-mae bus stop
Open Hours: April ~ June and October ~November/8:30am ~ 7:00pm, July ~ September/8:30am ~ 8:00pm, December ~ March/8:30am ~ 6:00pm (ticket must be bought 30 minutes before the closing time)
・Adult 820 yen
・High school students 620 yen
・Middle school students and younger 310 yen
Phone: + 81-98-886-2020
Website: Shuri Castle
#3. Taketomi Island
Photo Credit: ajari@flickr
Taketomi island located south of the main island is famous for having kept the look of the good old days of Okinawa. The contrast of the red tile rooftops and green against the clear blue sky and the ocean is absolutely beautiful. This is a perfect get away place far from big cities, where times goes by slow and you are in your perfect dream.
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#4. Katsuren Castle
Though the palace and other buildings have been long lost, the magnificent stone walls of the old Ryukyu castle still stand solemnly. This is also a part of ‘Gusuku sites and related properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu’. On a sunny day, the view from the old castle wall is just amazing.
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Address: 3908 Haebaru, Katsuren, Uruma, Okinawa prefecture
Access: 1 hour by car from Naha Airport, 2 hours by bus from Naha bus terminal (bus 27 or 80 to Nihihara bus stop, 10 minute walk to Katsuren castle/bus 52 to Katsuren-joshi bus stop, 1 minute walk to Katsuren castle)
Opening Hours: open 24 hours
Website: Katsuren Castle
#5. Sefa Utaki
Photo Credit: Hyougushi@flickr
There are many Utaki, places of worship in Okinawa, however, Sefa utaki is the most sacred of all. It is believed to be a place where the highest ranked god visits. In the times of Ryukyu kingdom, kings would visit to pay their respect to this place.
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Address: Kudeken Chinen Nanjo, Okinawa prefecture 901-1511
Access: 50 minutes by car from Naha airport/take bus 38 from Naha bus terminal to Sefa-utaki-mae bus stop
Open Hours: 9:00am ~ 6:00am
・Middle school students and younger/100 yen
Website: Sefa Utaki
#6. Cape Hirakubo-zaki
Located at the north tip of the Ishigaki island, Hirakubo-zaki is one of the most beautiful scenery in this island famous for the blue ocean and coral reefs. When you get there, don’t just stop at the lighthouse. You can get the best view from atop of the nearby hill.
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Address: Hirakubo, Ishigaki, Okinawa prefectue 907-0331
Access: 1 hour by car from Ishigaki air port/take Hirano line bus from Airport to Hirano bus stop, 15 minute walk to the Cape Hirakubo-zaki (There is no bus service on Sundays and holidays.)
Website: Cape Hirakubo-zaki
#7. Makishi Public Market
Photo Credit: jetalone@flickr
Makishi public market is an energetic market where you can find local’s favorite fresh seafood and other food. Here you’ll find many things you would not see in other Japanese markets. Upstairs is a food court where you can send up your fish you bought downstairs and they’ll serve you the most fresh local seafood cuisine.
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Makishi Public Market
Address: 2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa prefecture 900-0014
Access: take bus 25 or 120 from Naha airport to Makishi bus stop/take Yui rail from Naha airport to Makishi station or Miebashi
Open Hours: 8:00am ~8:00pm
Website: Makishi Public Market (Japanese)
#8. Yachimun Street
Yachimun (pottery) street is in an area which prospered as a center of Okinawan pottery called Tsuboya-yaki. Tsuboya-yaki is characterized by its earthy feel that perfectly matches the laid-back atmosphere of the Okinawa. There are a lot of Tsuboya-yaki shops on the street and it’s a perfect place to find your favorite piece as a reminder of your trip to Okinawa.
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Access: 1-21-14 Tsuboya, Naha, Okinawa prefecture 902-0065
Access: take bus 120 from Naha airport to Makishi bus stop/take Yui rail from Naha airport to Makishi station
Website: Yachimun Street ( Japanese)
#9. Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
Okinawa memorial park built in remembrance of the tragedy of the battle of Okinawa during WW2 includes a museum and thousands of monuments for the people who lost their lives in Okinawa during the war.
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Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
Address: 614-1 Mabuni, Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture 901-0333
Access: take bus 89, 33, or 46 from Naha bus terminal to Itoman terminal, transfer to bus 82 at Itoman bus terminal, Itoman bus terminal to Heiwa-kinen-koen (Peace memorial park) bus stop
Opening Hours: 9:00am ~ 5:00pm
・Adult 300 yen
・Children 150 yen
Website: Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
Yabiji is a paradise of coral reefs located north of Miyako island. Miyako island is famous for gorgeous coral reefs but this one is just another level. It’s a carpet of corals stretches out everywhere you see. The only access to this place is by boat from nearby Miyako island or Ikema island on a tour with local diving shops, but it is worth the trouble.
#11. Yonaguni Monument
Yonaguni monument is a diving spot near Yonaguni island, the most southern island of Okinawa. This gigantic stone object wasn’t known to the world until local divers discovered it quite recently. Some believe it is man-made while others think it is a creation by the mother nature. Whether it is ruins of a mysterious ancient civilization or natural beauty, this is a must see thing if you are a diver.