Okinawa – Detailed information

Located at the most southern part of the country, Okinawa has totally different culture from mainland. Okinawa had their own dynasty called Ryukyu (琉球) and their history has been cultivated under the influence of Japan, Taiwan and China. The prefecture had been governed by the United States until 1972, so even the Japanese needed to carry their passport to go to Okinawa during this time, which is the reason why even Japanese can enjoy tax-free shopping.

Okinawa is a great vacation place not only for Japanese but also for foreign tourists. Their beautiful clear blue ocean and sky will relieve stress, and their tropical warm weather warms up our mind, too.

World heritage site

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (琉球王国のグスク及び関連遺産群)

As mentioned, Okinawa had been another dynasty so that there are unique and diverse culture. All these monuments where we can see the history of Ryukyu dynasty are now nominated as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

There are some monuments throughout the prefecture, but the most impressive monument is in Naha, the dynasty’s castle called Shurijo castle (首里城). However, it has been burnt down in 2019. The castle itself is still under reconstruction.

Castle itself is not a heritage site.
Castle itself is not a Heritage Site.
Shikinaen garden (識名園), where they have treated ambassadors from other countries.
Shikinaen garden (識名園), where they have treated ambassadors from other countries.

Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island (奄美大島、徳之島、沖縄島北部及び西表島)

As explained in the Kyushu article, most of this site belong to Kagoshima prefecture, but there are some spots in Okinawa prefecture, too.

They are Yambaru National Park that exists in northern Okinawa, and Iriomote island (西表島). Both sites are rich in nature, with a deep forest in Yambaru and the mountainous Iriomote island with valuable animals and plants.

Yambaru National Park, with a view of Hedo Cape (辺戸岬).
Yambaru National Park, with a view of Hedo Cape (辺戸岬).
Iriomote island (西表島), the forest of mangroves.
Iriomote island (西表島), the forest of mangroves.

National Park

Yambaru (やんばる国立公園)

Description available in the above World Heritage article.

Kerama-shoto islands (慶良間諸島)

Okinawa is a resort, along with amazingly beautiful beaches and islands. There are around 20 small islands, about 40 km away to the west of Naha city. The islands have a clear blue ocean which is said to be the World’s top class, people come to these islands to enjoy whale watching or scuba diving.

It takes only about 1 hour to get to the island from Naha, which is so convenient for the tourists who are on a one-day trip, too.

Akashima (阿嘉島)
Akashima (阿嘉島)
Scuba diving in Kerama is a must-do.
Scuba diving in Kerama is a must-do.

Iriomote-Ishigaki (西表石垣国立公園)

Iriomote islands has been nominated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but at the same time it is Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park. Both of them are islands, and Ishigaki is another popular touristic resort island. The access to Ishigaki island is only by a flight.

Just like other islands in Okinawa, Ishigaki is famous its beaches and nature. There are many luxurious hotels, too, so that even though you are not a beach person, it is worth visiting.

Kabira bay (川平湾)
Kabira bay (川平湾)
Traditional Okinawa houses.
Traditional Okinawa houses.

Advice for Muslims

Okinawa is touristic, yet it is better to check on the restaurants before visiting. This is because the main meat consumed in Okinawa is pork, so you may encounter so many dishes with pork.

Even though it looks like the food is halal, in many cases, they may have used pork oil to cook or fry food, such as Sata andaghi (サーターアンダギー), Okinawa style doughnut or Chinsuko (ちんすこう), traditional cookie. Never try these snacks as these recipes contain pork oil, lard.

Their traditional seasoning called Kore Gusu (コーレーグース), is another thing that you have to be careful of, as they are made from Shochu alcohol.

Muslim friendly local dishes

  • Jimami Tofu (ジーマミー豆腐)
  • Umi budou (海ぶどう)
  • Goya champuru (ゴーヤチャンプルー)

How is the Access?

From Tokyo and Osaka
Take a flight. There are numerous flights flying to Okinawa from these main destinations. It usually takes up to 2-3 hours to arrive. Please be reminded that as the flight is the only option to go to Okinawa, in a busy summer vacation or typhoon season, the flight can be easily overbooked or cancelled.

Within the area
Except for the main city center, there is no train service in Okinawa, so the bus will be the only public transportation.

To go to the other islands, then ferry or a flight may be the option. The number of them, however, could be limited or not as convenient as other big cities in Japan so check well before going.