Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan that is composed of nearly 150 individual islands. These islands are scattered in a wide area encompassing over 350 miles of ocean. The region is in a very important geographical and strategic position between Japan, China, Korea and Southeast Asia. This location has made it a point of interest throughout history.
The largest of the islands in Okinawa island, and it is home to the capital city of Naha. Naha is roughly two and half hours travel from Tokyo and Osaka. Naha has many hotels and beautiful beaches. It is a popular tourist location for mainland Japanese people as well as foreign visitors.
Okinawa has a completely separate history from the rest of the Japanese prefectures. In the 15th century, Okinawa was an independent kingdom called Ryuku. In 1609, after several invasions, it came under the power of China. However, by 1879 the islands were integrated in Japan and the regionâ€™s name was changed to Okinawa.
Okinawa is a familiar name to most Americans, since it was the only ground battle location during World War II between Japanese and American forces. After the war, Okinawa was under American control from 1945 until 1972. Although it is now part of Japan, there are still many US military bases located on the islands. Over 15,000 marines are stationed there to this day. Although there have been some qualms about the amount of US soldiers in the area, both the US government and Japanese government agree that the military presence there is beneficial to both nations.
Because of this separate history, Okinawa residents have many unique traditions. Their culture is much different from the rest of Japan, due to carrying the language, arts and music from the Ryuku kingdom.
There are many surviving Ryukuan languages that are completely distinct from Japanese. The Japanese government has encouraged the use of Japanese, and these languages are considered to be dying out. There is actually an Okinawan accent that is used with traditional Japanese that makes it distinct.
The islands of Okinawa offer much for visitors to explore. The main island is home to dozens of cultural and historic locations that tourists find interesting. For example, the Gyokusen-do Cave is one of the largest caves in Japan. At 3 miles long, it is home to more than 200,000 stalactites. There are also restored houses from more than 100 years ago, local crafts and a snake park in the area. This is just one of the many unique places of interest on Okinawa.