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.
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.
What is now the massive Okinawa Prefectural Museum and the Okinawa Prefectural Art Museum began humbly in 1945 as an effort to acquaint the United States military with Okinawan culture, and served as a replacement to the museum that was lost during the battle. Now, this museum houses extraordinary exhibits regarding everything Okinawan, focusing particularly on the impact of the ocean on Okinawa's distinctive culture. Fossils of ancient sea creatures and the 18,000-year-old Minatogawa Man are also on display. Kids will love the Touch and Experience Room, where they can study and touch items that are linked to the main exhibits. Rooms in the museum can also be rented out for events. The museum is closed on Mondays.
In Ishikawa near Uruma, visitors can walk through the fern-filled park, kayak, ride in a water buffalo cart, or go on a 25-minute jungle cruise, though tickets for the rides are not included in the entrance fee. The beautiful wild orchids growing in the park and the adjacent Bios on the Hill Garden Center, the largest orchid greenhouse in Japan, provide a perfect backdrop for a romantic outing as well. Wheelchairs and strollers can be rented at the front desk.
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.
Located just outside Kadena Gate 2 at the Kadena Airbase in Okinawa City, 7th Heaven Koza provides the area with its fix of hard, punk and alternative rock. Find a seat at the bar or one of the tables, or see your favorite artists up close from the standing space right in front of the stage. Headliners here include Mursaki and 8Ball, though DJs also spin house and reggae on occasion. The venue is only open on the weekends, so be sure to check the website if you plan to visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The cover charge generally includes a drink.
Located in a renovated movie theater in Okinawa City, Rock Theater is another addition to Okinawa's rock scene. Rock Theater can hold up to 420 people for their indie rock performances. Shows generally take place on Saturdays, and ticket reservations can be made via email. See the website for prices and details.
When driving on the Okinawa Expressway between Northern and Southern Okinawa, take a break at the Okinawa Comprehensive Athletic Park to stretch your legs and play with the kids. Offering a view of the azure ocean, the park features a ton of fun for both children and adults. The park houses a water park of sorts, replete with slides and pools. There are also a few walking trails for those who wish to admire the scenery. Other facilities include a mini-golf and tennis courts. Every February, the Okinawa Marathon begins here.
Perfect for a relaxing family outing, adults can walk around the gardens admiring the view while kids make crafts like kaleidoscopes and painted figurines to take home as a keepsake. The park as its own currency called the "slow," a product of the ivory-nut palm tree. 500 slows are given to adults upon entry, and more can be purchased at the rate of 1 slow per yen. Slows can be used to buy goods and food in the park.
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.
Near MOD'S in Chatan, Salt & Pepper Performance Venue adds to the concert experience with a full bar on the second floor and an expansive stage where performers can rock out. The third Monday of each month is known as Monday Lovers nights, where singles and couples can come and mix to the sounds of reggae and soul. Go to the website to purchase discounted advance tickets to events and to check the schedule.