Are you still in Okinawa?

Okinawa - the other Japan

Once a kingdom, then a theater of war and now a tropical holiday destination: Okinawa, the archipelago in Japan's southwest, not only has an eventful history, it is also enchanting on water and on land. Above all, the clocks run a little slower here than in the rest of Japan. Perhaps that is why there are so many centenarians in Okinawa

Okinawa at a glance

Where is Okinawa located?

Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture. It is located in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan.

When is the best time to travel?

Good travel times are spring from late March to May and autumn Late September to early December - then it is pleasantly warm, but not too hot. However, there are also a number of Japanese holidays in late April and early May so it can get crowded.

How do I get there?

The airport of the archipelago is called Naha - it is located on the main island. It's about a three-hour flight from Tokyo. The easiest way to fly from Frankfurt is with a stopover in Taipei, Shanghai or Seoul.

"At 70 you are a child, at 80 a teenager, and at 90, when your ancestors call you to heaven, ask them to wait until you are 100." It says so on a stone block in the village of Ogimi in the north of Okinawa's main island. Around a third of the 3400 inhabitants are older than 65 years. This makes Ogimi top class among the on Okinawa anyway particularly long-lived people. For the approximately 1.3 million inhabitants there are over 900 people who a hundred years and older are.

The secret, not only in Ogimi, is believed to be the local cuisine: lots of fruit and vegetables, sea fish and algae. In Okinawa, it's small, green citrus fruits, shikuasa, and a warty bitter cucumber. It is said that you should consume a lot of it ... However, movement (the martial art karate was invented on the island) and traditions such as social cohesion should also play a role.

The ancient kingdom of Ryūkyū

The Japanese prefecture of Okinawa is more than 1000 kilometers long and consists of around 160 islands. 49 of them are inhabited. Naha Airport, on the main island also called Okinawa, is only a three-hour flight from Tokyo, but it still belongs the islands to another world.

They formed that until the 19th century independent kingdom Ryūkyū. The Ryūkyū dynasty played an important role in East and Southeast Asian sea trade from the 14th century. Have a particularly large number of traditions the people of Okinawa who call themselves "Uchinanchu", therefore not in common with the rest of Japan. There are even Ryūkyū languages ​​of their own that are still used by older residents. Basically, the people of the Ryūkyū Islands, as Okinawa prefecture is also called, are simply the more relaxed Japanese. Nippon has a bit of Hawaii here. The islands are particularly popular with Japanese vacationers and American GIs. Foreign tourists are less common.

The main island of Okinawa, the Kerama and Kume Islands as well as the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands are particularly interesting for travelers.

Dive into Miyako and the Yaeyama Islands

The most famous and largest island is Okinawa-hontō (translated main island), the former center of power of the Ryūkyū dynasty. Today the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, Naha, is located here. Those who do not go directly to one of the secondary islands usually arrive in Naha first. The highlights include:

  • The Shuri fortress on a hill above the city. The administrative center of the Ryūkyū originally dates from the 14th century, but was then destroyed and rebuilt in 1992. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside there are impressive silks and an exhibition about the Okinawa kings.
  • A visit to the Tsuboya Pottery Street. Ever since a royal decree approved kilns on the Ryūkyū Islands in the 17th century, the popular Okinawa pottery has been fired here.
  • The Daichi Makishi Kosetsu Ichiba, a covered market with a huge range of groceries that is almost overwhelming. Who the typical Okinawa cuisine want to get to know, should definitely visit the restaurants on the upper floor. Just take a look at the locals' plates, order what looks good and feast!
  • South of Naha are Relics from the recent past to visit.
  • When Europe was at peace in 1945, there was a rage Okinawa was the last battle of World War II with heavy losses on both sides. The islands were Japan's bulwark to prevent a US invasion of the "mainland". Only in June was there peace; however, Okinawa was occupied by the United States. In May 1972, Japan got all of the islands back, but more than a fifth of the territory remained US military territory.
  • Among other things, this is a reminder of the horrors of war Okinawa Prefecture Peace Museum, Peace Park, and Former Subterranean Headquarters of the Japanese Navy. Part of the tunnel maze is open to visitors
  • who Swimming would like to go best on the Motobu Peninsula in the northwest or go island hopping right away. About the only 30 kilometers away Kerama Islands. Here the water is so blue that it has its own name: "Kerama Blue". Also just a short crossing away is the very quiet island of Kume, which impresses with particularly white powder sand. Both islands offer beautiful snorkeling and diving opportunities.
  • The Miyako Islands can only be reached by plane (from Naha to Hirara about 45 minutes), absolute The beaches are the highlight. Here you can go gondola to the next for days, snorkel and admire the marine fauna.
  • A little further off the beaten track, pretty much off the coast of Taiwan, they are Yaeyama Islands. Japan's top diving spots, especially famous for manta rays. You can hardly get closer to paradise than on Ishigaki and Iriomote. While Ishigaki scores with coral reefs and an observatory, the neighboring island is overgrown by rainforest and offers some great hiking trails. Ferries operate between the islands, including the smaller islets of the Yaeyama Islands, so that they can also be visited on a day trip.

Whichever island visitors choose, the Okinawa's people make it special out. If punctuality, order and performance are actually the order of the day in Japan, the "Uchinanchu" take it slower. The mainland Japanese also speak of "Okinawa Time". As I said, it is probably not just bitter cucumber and Shikuasa that give people a long life. And maybe you can even take a little "Okinawa Time" home with you as a souvenir.