Okinawa is a historic island located south of Japan, in the center of East Asia. Indigenous Ryukyuan people who live there carry on the tradition of the language called “Uchināguchi”. Okinawa consists of the main island of Okinawa, as well as many small islands. The wildlife of this region is diverse. The islands are surrounded by crystal clear ocean, and there are rare creatures that live only in this area, including Iriomote cats and Okinawa rail (known as the “Yanbaru Kuina”). Okinawa has beautiful nature that does not exist elsewhere.
Okinawa is a geographically and strategically important location, located at a distance of about 1.5 hours from Taipei in Taiwan, and about 2 hours from Shanghai in China. Since Okinawa is Asia’s hub for trade and has a significant military position from the 15th centuries, the final battle of the World War II brought terrible disaster and distress to the region.
Okinawa was once a kingdom called the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was founded in 1429 and lasted 450 years. As a result, many historic buildings are preserved in Okinawa. The flourish of the Ryukyu Dynasty is demonstrated by the historical building called “Shuri Castle”, which was built at the end of the 14th century. Shuri Castle was destroyed repeatedly in history, including before and after World War II. The greatest damage happened during World War II, but it was later restored, and UNESCO recognized the Gusuku sites and related properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, including the Shuri Castle ruins, as World Cultural Heritage sites. In the 21st century these sites operated as a national park, but Shuri Castle was burned down again in October 2019 (for unknown reasons), and many donations have been collected for reconstruction efforts.
Charms of Okinawa
Okinawa has many charms. The language carried on from the Ryukyu Kingdom era called “Uchināguchi”, a court dance developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom period, Okinawa’s ethnic costumes, as well as indigenous songs and musical instruments make Okinawa very special. If you visit Okinawa, you will definitely be captivated.
In terms of food, Okinawa’s unique cuisine such as Goya Chanpuru and Okinawa Soba, and food that took root during the U.S. occupation such as Taco Rice and Pork Egg, are now Okinawan specialties. Okinawans have developed their own food culture. For example, various places in Okinawa feature branches of A & M restaurants which do not operate on the main island of Japan. In addition, Ryukyu Awamori, a unique Okinawan liquor, is exquisite. For meat, dishes using pork and goat are famous. Sweets such as Sata Andagi and Chinsuko that use sugar from sugar cane are also very delicious.
In terms of sports, basketball is very popular in Okinawa due to the influence of the United States. The Ryukyu Golden Kings, a member of the Japanese professional Basketball league B.LEAGUE, is one of the most popular teams in the league, and the strongest team that has won the regional league competition for the last two years in a row. Once you have attempted cheering using Sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument, you will never forget the experience. Also, Okinawa Karate (Ryukyu Karate), which has a history extending back to the 15th century, is still a popular sport.
Lastly, Okinawa has beautiful nature. It features Japan’s largest mangrove in Iriomote island, and the beautiful sky is filled with stars at night that cannot be seen in the city. Animals such as the Iriomote cat and the crested serpent eagle, which are known as endangered species, also inhabit the area.
The virgin forest called Yanbaru, located in the north part of the Okinawa island, is home to many rare species such as Okinawa rails (Yanbaru Kuina), Okinawa woodpeckers (Sapheopipo Noguchii), and Ryukyu turtles (Geoemyda Japonica), and is a candidate for a Natural Heritage site.
The fantastically beautiful sea called “Churaumi Sea”, meaning “the Beautiful sear” in the Okinawan language, in Henoko-Oura Bay, is blessed with the forests of Yanbaru. The sea is still inhabited by dugongs, which is an endangered species and has already become extinct in the sea near Taiwan.
The Henoko Sea was authorized as the first Hope Spot in Japan in October 2019. The Hope Spots are seas that are designated by Mission Blue as the most important to be protected, a project launched by marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle. Plans are underway to reclaim that precious and beautiful sea and build a military base. The purpose of our efforts is to stop this from happening.