Okinawa's main island is home to 1,3 million people and has lots of smaller islands nearby. Okinawa is around 640km south of Japan's main island, closer to Taiwan actually. Here are twenty reasons I think Okinawa is a place worth visiting:
Okinawa is the southern-most part of Japan. In addition to the Okinawa main island, there are other islands nearby as well! The biggest ones are Ishigaki, Iriomote and Miyako islands. Ishigaki and Miyako islands are popular destinations for holidays and are easily reachable. Then there are Taketomi and Yonaguni islands.
Although geographically far from other parts of Japan, from Tokyo it's only a 3 to 3.5 hour flight to Naha, the biggest city of Okinawa, and if you can avoid peak season tickets can be amazingly cheap.
Whether or not you like swimming, the sea is absolutely gorgeous. You can collect shells and other treasures from the beach too. Evening time, sea acts as a peaceful element. How about watching a sunset?
4. Sea Life
Okinawa has one of the best aquariums in Japan, Churaumi Aquarium!
Okinawa is warm even during the winter! The best seasons are autumn and spring in my opinion, but summer is also a bit cooler than in the mainland.
The atmosphere on the island is peaceful and relaxed! You can escape crowded and busy city life, and easily relax in a hassle-free laid back environment. No rush anywhere, even locals walk with a slow pace.
The food culture in Okinawa is a bit different from mainland Japan. Try Okinawan soba (of course!) and tofu or goya champuroo. Why not Okinawan tempura too? Special vegetables include purple potato (beni-imo), bitter melon (goya), yellow Okinawan carrot, and okra. The local fruits are also super yummy!
Okinawan people are said to be one of the longest-living people in the world. See first-hand how people live and what they eat here.
Okinawa has Shisa! These are legendary guardians in a shape of lion-dogs. You can see many statues and figures of them around the island. Remember to buy your own too, as a pocket size memory.
Discover Okinawan music, dance and sanshin! What a lovely combination they all make!
11. Friendly Locals
The locals are friendly and laid-back. You might hear the Okinawan accent or even the Okinawan language, if you are lucky!
Okinawa has many beautiful nature areas, forests and waterfalls, especially in the northern part of the island.
13. Ocean Activities
You can participate in numerous marine activities, including scuba diving, whale watching and fishing. There are nice boat rides too, such as glass-bottom boat cruises where you can admire the fish swimming below you! There are coral reefs too!
14. Beautiful Flowers
An amazing array of pretty flowers, such as hibiscus, bloom throughout the year.
15. The American Village
In Chatan, you can take a ride on a Ferris wheel and eat American food such as steak and tacos.
Okinawa used to be the Ryukyu Kingdom. Due to that, historical places, such as Shuri Castle look really different compared to Japan's other islands.
Okinawa has awamori, a rice-based strong alcoholic beverage. Okinawa has its own beer too: Orion Beer.
18. Okinawan Desserts
Shortbread like Chinsuko, purple potato tarts, purple potato ice cream and lovely Blue Seal ice cream which is officially Okinawan. Try great looking parfaits too and ice slush.
These are some lovely items with Ryukyu designs, such as fabrics. Ryukyu glass is also beautiful. Or you could get some weird but cool souvenirs (like habushu = snake sake and awamori).
You can shop brand goods at the Outlet Mall Ashibinaa (which has great bargain prices at times) or at tax-free shopping mall T-Galleria.