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.
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.
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.
Okinawa is an important prefecture that is located to the South of Japan. It features several islands, towns, villages and cities like Okinawa, Miyako Islands, Nakijin (Nachijin), Yonaguni (Yunaguni) and so forth. Okinawa offers a multitude of activities, events and touring spots to visitors and accommodates everything from short weekend getaways to a full-fledged vacation.
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.
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.