Okinawa City

by Guest

Japan, The Land of the Rising Sun, is an otherworldly place which is a rare mix of a high intensity ultramodern lifestyle and a rich and ancient cultural tradition. It is astounding how these two almost antithetical ways of life thrive together on this island nation. Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago consisting of 6852 individual islands, big and small. The four largest islands of Japan are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up for almost 97 percent of Japan’s land area. Evidence of inhabitation in Japan goes back all the way to the paleolithic period. Throughout its history, Japan has often had a close and sometimes turbulent relationship with China, India and other southeast asian islands. Today, Japan stands as one of the most urbanized and industrialized nations in the world, with an industrial sector that has witnessed a meteoric rise after the great atom bomb tragedy of 1945.

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Japan is divided into 8 regions made up of 47 prefectures. Of these, the prefecture of Okinawa lies on the southernmost point of Japan. Okinawa literally means ‘rope into the open sea’, owing to its thin shape that is made up of a long stretch of islands of which 49 are inhabited and 111 uninhabited. Okinawa is fast becoming a major tourist destination in Japan, with the number of both Japanese and foreign travellers rising every season. Due to its detachment from mainland Japan, Okinawa has developed its own language and culture that is distinct from the rest of the nation, and Okinawans proudly represent them as such on a national level. Okinawans proudly refer to themselves as uchinanchu or the sea people, and talk of the way things are done on the shima or island as opposed to the yamato or the mainland. Travellers to Okinawa will be immersed in the rich cultural heritage that is not just different from the rest of the world, but becomes a world in itself within the nation of Japan.

okinawa city

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History - Okinawa City

Historically, Okinawa has been a trading bridge between the island nation of Japan and mainland China, owing to its location in the East China sea. The island was ruled by the Ryukyu Kingdom, which had a tributary relationship with the Chinese Empire beginning from the 15th Century. The islands changed hands in the 17th Century and were annexed by the Japanese state during the Meiji period in 1872. It is also interesting to note that the post-World War II US occupation lasted till 1972 in Okinawa, which played a critical role during the American occupations of Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Culture - Okinawa City

Okinawan culture is quite distinct from the rest of Japan, owing to its turbulent history and diverse influences. Perhaps the greatest cultural export of Okinawa is the martial art of Karate, which was developed during the Ryukyu reign in the 13th Century. Karate began as a mix of different fighting styles brought to the island from Fujian and other provinces in China, but soon developed into a full-fledged martial art relying on one’s bare hands and feet to fend attackers.

Okinawans speak a different language from the mainland Japanese, which again owes its roots to the trade with China and other neighbouring island nations. Okinawa also has a rich local cuisine, and dishes like the goya champuru (bitter melon stir fry) and tonkatsu (tenderized, breaded pork cutlet) are still considered staples. The soba is the signature dish of Okinawa, and is made up of wheat noodles in hot soup, usually with pork rib or belly. The US influence over Okinawa has also resulted in such pan-global dishes as taco rice among others.

okinawa city market

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How to Get to Okinawa City

The easiest way to get to Okinawa is by air. The airport at Naha is the most popular for this purpose, but flights also arrive at other Okinawan islands such as Miyako and Ishigaki. The other way to get here is by ship, but this mode of transport has been witnessing a drop in terms of popularity and service. Still, cruises going to Taiwan often stop at Naha, Miyako and Ishigaki.

The most popular cities on the Okinawa island are Naha, the capital and Okinawa City. Okinawa City is an industrial and commercial hub, and can be accessed from Naha by road using cars or the local bus service, which takes about an hour.

What to See in Okinawa City

Most tourists come to Okinawa to experience its sunny beaches. Even in winters, temperatures here rarely dip below 15 degrees Celsius, making the island a perfect spot for a winter getaway. Many islands in Okinawa are a haven for watersports, including snorkelling, deep sea diving, sailing and fishing. The uninhabited island of Iriomote is an explorer’s paradise as it is completely covered by a dense forest full of unknown treasures. The reefs of the Kerama islands, the manta rays inhabiting the waters of Miyako and Ishigaki and the hammerhead sharks and underwater ruins of Yonaguni and must-see attractions in Okinawa.

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