Japan is a nation with countless beautiful sights. Hokkaido to the north and tropical Okinawa to the south. Okinawa is a cluster of numerous islands and is a premier location for tourists. Here are the top 15 things to do in Okinawa. So when planning your next trip to Japan, make sure to pack some warmer clothes because Okinawa should definitely be on your itinerary. From the warm climate, rich culture, and endless activities and sights, it would be a crime not to see this part of Japan.
#1. Shuri Castle
If you brushed up on Japanese history before visiting, you may know that Okinawa was formerly the Ryukyu Kingdom. At the head of the kingdom stood the palace, Shuri Castle. Although most of it was destroyed during World War II, it was reconstructed at the original site in 1992. There is no different between the castle today and the castle that once stood in the same place decades ago.
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Address: 1-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa
Access: 15 minute walk from Shuri Station
April – June 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM
October -November 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM
July – September 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM
December – March 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Adult 820 yen
Children 620 yen
Phone: + 81-98-886-2020
Website: Shuri Castle
#2. Kokusaidori Street
Kokusaidori Street or International Avenue is known as Naha’s entertainment district. Traveling to Okinawa will probably have you arrive in Naha, which is the prefecture’s capital. This 1.6 km street cuts through the city, there are hundreds of shops that are perfect for picking up a great souvenir.
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Address: 1-1 Makishi, Naha, Okinawa
Access: 5 minute walk from Kenchomae Station
Website: Kokusaidori Street (Japanese)
#3. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
This aquatic wonderland used to be the world’s largest aquarium. With large scale tanks and great interactive exhibits, it is the perfect stop to appreciate aquatic life around Okinawa.
This aquarium is four stories tall and there are exhibits with deep sea creatures, coral, tropical fish, and sharks. Whale Sharks and Manta Rays are the main attraction. This is a must see destination and it is great anyone!
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Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa
2 hour drive from Naha Airport
2.5 hour to 3.5 hour bus ride from Naha Airport
8:30 AM ~ 6:30 PM (October – February )
8:30 AM ~ 8:00 PM (March – September)
*Closed on the first Wednesday and Thursday of December
Adults 1,850 yen
Children 1,230 yen
Website: OKinawa Churaumi Aquarium
#4. Eat Okinawa Soba
Photo Credit: Banzai Hiroaki@Flickr
Noodle dishes in Japan are everywhere from ramen to udon, the Japanese enjoy it all. While on this tropical island one can enjoy Okinawa soba, pronounced “suba” in the Okinawan dialect. This type of noodle soup resembles the standard soba, but has a much thicker buckwheat noodle. Depending on the area, the noodle will either be rounder or flatter.
#5. Makishi Public Market
Photo Credit: Hajime NAKANO@Flickr
Exploring Makishi Public Market is truly a cultural experience, even for those of you who have been to Japan before. Also in the capital city of Naha, this market is a gathering place for cuisine from around Asia. You won’t find fresher seafood sold anywhere in the area. If you are looking for a bite to eat, head to the second floor where there are restaurants and other eateries serving local foods.
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Makishi Public Market
Address: 2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa
Access: 10 minute walk from Miebashi Station
Website: Makishi Public Market (Japanese)
#6. Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
This memorial was built to represent peace. Following the Battle of Okinawa, there was over 100,000 civilian casualties. It was established on June 11, 1975. This memorial was built so that people will never forget and the lessons learned from the Battle of Okinawa.
The exhibits describe Okinawan history, the events that led up to the battle, and the causes of the battle. The park has numerous exhibits and is definitely worth visiting.
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Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
Address: 614-1 Mabuni, Itoman, Okinawa
Access: 40 minute taxi ride from Naha Airport
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Adult 300 yen
Children 150 yen
Website: Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
#7. Taketomi Island
On the Yaeyama Islands, Taketomi Island has a population of fewer than 400 people. This tiny island is only 5.42 square kilometers big and is well known for the traditional Okinawan structures such as houses, stone walls, and sandy roads.
Here you can enjoy snorkeling and even take a ride in a cart pulled by an ox.
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Address: Taketomi, Taketomi-cho, Yaeyama-gun, Okinawa
Price for ox tour:
Adults 1,200 yen
Children 600 yen
Website: Taketomi Official Tourist Information (Japanese)
#8. Miyako Island
In comparison to Taketomi Island, Miyako Island is about 158.7 square kilometers big. This is another haven full of culture. If you are here, make sure to try the native Okinawan drink Awamori. Awamori is a type of alcohol and it is made from long grain indica rice. The scenery here is certainly another selling point and every where that can be seen in picture perfect.
#9. Ishigaki Island
Ishigaki is a city in Okinawa on Ishigaki Island. The city actually includes the island as well as the infamous and land-disputed Senkaku Islands. There is rainfall all year around and it is actually considered to resemble a tropical rain-forest. While here, make sure to try the fresh pineapples!
#10. Eat Jimami Dofu (Peanut Tofu)
Jimami Dofu is a tofu dish unique to Okinawa. Regular tofu uses mainly soy beans as the base, Jimami Dofu incorporates peanuts. Adding peanuts creates a grainier texture and a unique taste best described as, “simply Okinawan”.
#11. Goya Champuru
Photo Credit: ymrl@Flickr
Another dish originating from Okinawa, Goya Champuru is an Okinawan stir fry that usually includes Goya (bitter melon), tofu, eggs and sliced pork or spam. This dish is on the menu at most family restaurants in Okinawa, and you may even find it on the menu in restaurants on mainland Japan.
#12. Ryukyu Glass Creation
The Ryukyu Glass Creation company is the largest glass factory in Okinawa. This factory features all handmade glassware in any sort of shape and size. Known for the color and quality, any glass bought here is sure to last. You can even sign up for a glass making class and experience it for yourself! Prices and times vary by age and what you want to make. Be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time because there is limited space.
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Ryukyu Glass Creation
Address: 169 Fukuji, Itoman City, Okinawa
Access: 30 minute bus ride from Naha airport to Namihira Iriguchi
Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Price: prices vary depend on tour, about 1,600 yen to 3,000 yen
Phone: +81 120-471-616
Website: Ryukyu Glass Creation
#13. Blue Cave
Probably one of the most picturesque water spots in Okinawa, Blue Cave will certainly be a highlight for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. This spot is always recommended in guide books and has is ranked as a must see spot. The colors and aquatic life on display here are truly unique and there are not too many other places similar to Blue Cave.
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Address: 469 Maeda, Onna, Kunigami, Okinawa
Price: Prices vary based on tour, about 2,500 yen to 9,000 yen
Website: Blue Cave (Japanese)
#14. Ryukyu Village
Photo Credit: ryukyumura.co.jp
Ryukyu Village is kind of like a theme park to experience and see the history of Okinawa. You can enjoy traditional foods, see traditional architecture, learn folk songs, and even enjoy a cultural performance.
Photo Credit: ryukyumura.co.jp
This is a great place to start your Okinawan adventure. Dive right into Okinawan culture.
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Address: 1130, Yamada, Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa
Access: 60 minute bus ride from Naha Bus terminal to Ryukyumuramae station
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Adults 1,200 yen
Children 600 yen
Phone: +81 98-965-1234
Website: Ryukyu Village
#15. Maehama Beach
Crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, it is no wonder this beach ranks as one of the best beaches in Japan. Stretching out for miles along the southwestern coast of Miyako Island, the fine white beaches and warm water makes it the best spot to relax on your international island getaway. The vibrant colors will really leave you breathless.