Though their headquarters are in Chatan Village in Central Okinawa, Reef Encounters operates marine excursions all over Okinawa prefecture, from the northern tip of the island at Cape Hedo all the way down to Yongauni Island in the Yaeyama Region. Both experienced and novice divers can choose between snorkeling, diving and fishing, and can even become certified scuba divers. The staff is fluent in both English and Japanese, and the company also offers all-inclusive tour packages. Visit the website to make reservations.
Located in Peace Memorial Park, the exhibits at the Okinawan Prefectural Peace Museum are separated into five rooms, three of which focus on the Battle of Okinawa in which at least 200,000 people were killed, and two of which focus on pre- and post-war Okinawa. The museum has films, photos, and personal testimonies regarding the tragedies that occurred, in the hope that the pain endured during that time will not be repeated.
This little strip of land jutting out into the azure waters is one of the most picturesque sights in Onna. The area round Cape Maeda is a popular diving spot in the region and attracts adventure enthusiasts. For those who simply want to enjoy the scenery, the plateau-like features of the cape offer sweeping views and leisurely hikes. Don't miss the spectacular sunset from here.
At a time when the island of Okinawa needed protection from the vicious Lord Amawari, legendary Ryukyuan commander Gosamaru built the Nakagusuku Castle. Gosamaru was one of the leaders of the army that served Ryukyu Kingdom in the mid-1400s. The castle was built in 1440, and was attacked in 1458, when it fell to the attacking warlord. Many centuries later, the famous British explorer Matthew C. Perry visited the castle and was impressed by the sturdy walls that seemed able to resist cannon fire. Sadly, the castle has since fallen into disrepair, though its impressive stonework is as imposing today as when it was constructed. The ruins have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site and draw crowds each year that come to explore the parts of the castle that remain.
One of the first areas to be rebuilt after World War II, Kokusai Street was hailed as the "Miracle Mile" for its great shops, restaurants and bars. Many hotels can be found along this 1.6-kilometer stretch as well, and you'll find tourists and locals alike looking for the latest trends and fashions in the boutiques. Some notable souvenirs include bottles of star-shaped sand, or snakes steeped in jars of awamori (Okinawan sake). The summer festival also takes place on this road.
Designated a World Hertiage Site, this is the first site a Ryukyu King visited after ascending to the throne, and also where Ryukyu's supreme priestesses were ordained and performed rituals. In legend, the ritual site was created by Amamikiyo, the goddess who created the Ryukyu Islands. Prayers are made facing Kudaka Island, the place where Amamikiyo first descended from the heavens. Two giant stones form the entrance to the prayer area.
Home to a municipal head from the 18th Century, the Nakamura Family Residence contains the most iconic features of Okinawan architecture, namely the red tiled roofs and the shisa (lion-like statue that wards off evil). Stone walls and tall trees protect the house from Okinawa's frequent typhoons. Visitors to the residence should also consider visiting Nakagusuku Castle, which is close by.
A place for all kinds of disport in Chatan Town, Mihama, or better known as American Village, can be seen from miles away thanks to the towering Ferris wheel that has become the trademark of this shopping district. American eateries, international food restaurants, and a cinema that plays both Western and Japanese films, all make up a place where travelers can get a sense of what it means to be American, from a Japanese perspective. One of the biggest shopping attractions at the American Village is Jusco, an upscale one-stop megastore, popular among tourists and locals alike. In addition to the aforementioned areas, there are plenty of other venues in the American Village such as Seaside Square and Dragon’s Palace, which offer more entertainment choices (karaoke, games, bowling, etc.) and of course, more shopping.
Built on land reclaimed from the US military, this museum was founded by Michio Sakima as a place for peaceful mediation on the lasting effects of World War II. A piece entitled "Figure of the Battle of Okinawa" shows visitors an artistic interpretation of the ravages of the war, impacting viewers in a way that perhaps history museums cannot. Futenma Air Base can be viewed in its entirety from the roof. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and holidays.
Built around the 12th Century, the ruins of Katsuren-jo (Katsuren Castle) sit atop a hill in Uruma, east of Okinawa City. It is an example of a gusuku, or traditional Okinawan castle. Because it lies on a peninsula bounded by the Pacific Ocean, it is also called the "Ocean Gusuku." Lord Awamari was wise, promoting trade and introducing overseas techniques and cultures to increase the prosperity of his domain. However, he was overthrown by the kings of Shuri in 1458 for plotting to usurp the throne. Many fine pieces of tile and Chinese porcelain have been excavated from the building, and it is now a World Heritage Site. The park is closed every Monday and from December 29-January 3.