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Okinawa City Escapades: Explore the Rich Culture and Stunning Beauty

Karina IkedoKarina Ikedo
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June 17, 2023
American Village, an outdoor mall 25 minutes from Okinawa City.

Okinawa City is the second largest city in Okinawa Prefecture. This area is home to Japan’s most famous beach and summer destination, attracting millions of visitors annually. But Okinawa offers a lot more than just beaches. Visitors can enjoy fantastic sightseeing spots, from unique traditional culture to outstanding landscapes. 

An archipelago of immense beauty, Okinawa has to be one of Japan’s best places. In this article, we will introduce you to the top five places to go in Okinawa. Plan your trip with this Okinawa City (and vicinity) bucket list if you consider visiting Okinawa soon!

Shuri Castle (South of Okinawa City)

The medieval Shuri Castle should be near the top of the list of Okinawan attractions. It boasts a history that goes back to the Ryukyu Kingdom and more modern history during WWII. 2000 it became a World Heritage site as part of the Gusuku Sites. 

The entrance to Shuri Castle, a landmark north of Okinawa City.
Shuri Castle was once home to the Okinawan Royal Family. Image via Shutterstock

The main reason to come here is to enjoy the gusuku (castles) built in the traditional Okinawan style. The famous Shureimon Gate and the World Heritage Sonohyan Utaki Stone Gate are also worth seeing here.

Shurijo Castle sits on a hilltop overlooking Okinawa, so that you can enjoy the beautiful scenery around the castle. It’s one of the most visited tourist sites in Okinawa today. So try to arrive earlier in the day to avoid the significant tourist crowds. 

Churaumi Aquarium (North of Okinawa City)

One of the best family activities in the area, this aquarium sees hundreds of thousands of visitors every day! Get ready for some crazy sea creature close encounters as you explore this magical deep sea world. 

A whale tank at Churaumi Aquarium.
Churaumi is a large aquarium in Okinawa. Image via Shutterstock

Forget your regular aquarium visit! This water wonderland will whisk you away and transport you into the wild, mysterious world of the ocean’s depths. With 10,000 incredible marine creatures and 740 divine species, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the ultimate paradise.

The best highlight of the aquarium is the Kuroshio Sea, considered the largest water tank in the world. From mesmerizing manta rays to giant whale sharks, every corner of this place will have your jaw dropping with awe. 

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Cape Manza

Cape Manza is a spectacularly scenic spot around Onna Village in northern Okinawa. The 20 meters tall scenic cliff facing the East China Sea offers a breathtaking view. It’s trendy to visit during sunset time.

Cape Manza in Okinawa
Cape Manza is one of the best getaways you can ask for! Image via Shutterstock

From there, you can enjoy the sea and the sky, overlooking the coral reefs under the cliffs and the magnificent view of the waves crashing on the shore. The iconic scenic spot is also famous for being shaped like an elephant’s trunk. 

There are a few better ways to chill out than lying back and feeling the refreshing sea breeze. On the coastline, you can look for native Okinawan plants such as Okinawan purple and Kanakomi-kanboku while taking a stroll.

Okinawa World

Okinawa World is a Japanese amusement park dedicated to Okinawan culture located south of the main island. The park is themed as a traditional Okinawan village, with traditional architecture, food, crafts, music, and hands-on activities. 

The entrance to Okinawa World theme park, a location not in Okinawa City
Okinawa World is the theme park of the Ryukyu Islands. Image via Pixta

At Okinawa World, there is much to see and do, including the chance to experience their crafts and watch an eisa (folk dance) show. But the park’s highlight is the Gyokusendo Cave, the 300,000 years old limestone cave. Visitors can enter this mysterious cave and stroll on the walkway for 890 meters.

Kokusai Dori

If you want to try local specialties or get gifts for your family, visit Kokusai Dori in Naha. This lively main street is home to superb restaurants, souvenir shops, and galleries selling fine glassware. Feast on traditional Okinawan food and watch dancers and fire-eaters perform on the streets!

Kokusai Dori, a major commercial area in Okinawa.
Kokusai Dori means “International Street.” Image via Shutterstock

You can also stop for lunch at a roadside café and ask for one of the many Okinawan delicacies. Beniimo (a purple variety of sweet potato) is a local favorite. Generally, it’s in everything from pastries and stews to yogurt and ice cream.

It can also be fun to experience Okinawa’s culture by checking out local festivals. For example, the Eisa festival occurs the weekend after the Okinawa Obon (annual Buddhist event) holiday. Young people wear traditional Okinawan clothes and dance to traditional drums. Kokusai Dori is a must-visit when you are in Okinawa!

Okinawa is arguably Japan’s best-hidden gem and the perfect place to spend the summer in Japan. With its warm and comfortable climate year-round, you can enjoy Okinawa in any season.

If a change of pace and some fantastic outdoor scenery is what you are after, then visiting Okinawa is an excellent choice! Have you visited Okinawa before? Do you have a favorite place in Okinawa? Let us know in the comments below!

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