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 Amawari played an instrumental role in promoting trade and introducing overseas techniques and cultures to increase the prosperity of his domain. However, he was overthrown in 1458. Many fine pieces of tile and Chinese porcelain have been excavated from the structure, and it is now a World Heritage Site.
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.
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.
The subtropical climate of Okinawa allows for a fantastic botanical garden where you can examine tropical and subtropical plants and beautiful blossoms. The main aim of the South East Botanical Gardens is to provide knowledge and research about the plants and environment through its two gardens; namely botanical and aquatic. One of the features you can't miss is the pond that flows amidst the garden and the carp fish that swim right up to the surface for feeding. The two gardens also offer their venue for private parties and events.
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.