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A beach during a sunny time in Okinawa.
A beach during a sunny time in Okinawa.

Time in Okinawa: Best Things to Enjoy This Summer!

Thalia HarrisThalia Harris
Published Time
Posted on July 02, 2024
Modified Time
Updated last July 16, 2024

Okinawa, Japan’s tropical paradise, offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and fascinating history. This island prefecture, famous for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, also has fantastic food and activities to enjoy! So, let’s check out some ways you can have a fantastic time in Okinawa!

What can I eat and drink in Okinawa?

When exploring Okinawa, you’ll discover a unique food scene that blends traditional Japanese cuisine with local island flavors. One intriguing beverage you might hear about is snake wine or habushu. This unusual drink combines strong awamori liquor with a real venomous snake. While it’s a local specialty, it’s an acquired taste!

Another must-try dish is Okinawa soba. Unlike the thin buckwheat noodles you might be familiar with, Okinawa soba uses thick wheat noodles in a flavorful broth. It’s often served with tender pork belly, fish cake, and green onions. This hearty meal is so beloved by locals that it’s considered the “soul food” of Okinawa.

A bowl of noodles from Okinawa.
These noodles are chewy! Image via Shutterstock

Don’t miss out on the local watermelon to refresh yourself in Okinawa’s tropical climate. The island’s warm weather and rich soil make Okinawan watermelons known for their sweetness and juiciness. It’s a perfect way to cool down after a day of sightseeing or beach activities. You can also smash it open with your friends with a fun game of suikawari

These foods and drinks represent a tiny sample of Okinawa’s diverse culinary offerings. The island’s unique history and geography have shaped its cuisine, creating flavors and dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Japan. If you’re an adventurous eater, Okinawa’s food scene has something to satisfy every palate.

Was there a time in Okinawa when they had a royal family?

Yes, Okinawa had a royal family known as the Ryukyu royal family. This monarchy ruled over the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1429 to 1879, spanning 450 years. The kingdom was centered on Okinawa Island and extended to the Amami and Sakishima Islands, forming a significant maritime trading power in East and Southeast Asia.

The courtyard of Shuri Castle, the former home of the Ryukyu Royal Family.
There was a time in Okinawa when they had a royal family. Image via Shutterstock

The Ryukyu royal family, known as the Sho dynasty, came to power when King Hashi unified the three principalities of Okinawa – Hokuzan, Chuzan, and Nanzan – in the early 15th century. They established their capital at Shuri, building the impressive Shurijo Castle, which became the center of Ryukyuan politics, diplomacy, and culture.

Under the Sho dynasty, the Ryukyu Kingdom flourished as a trading nation, acting as an intermediary between China, Japan, and various Southeast Asian countries. The kingdom was known for its “spirit of courtesy” and was crucial in facilitating regional cultural and economic exchanges.

However, the Ryukyu royal family’s power waned when the Japanese Satsuma clan invaded the islands in 1609. While the royal family continued to reign for another 270 years, they were forced to balance their traditional allegiance to China and Japan’s growing influence.

The interior of Shuri Castle, the former home of the Ryukyu royal family.
The kingdom dissolved in 1879. Image via Shutterstock

The Ryukyu Kingdom was formally annexed by Japan in 1879, marking the end of the Ryukyu royal family’s rule. Today, descendants of the royal family still exist, though they live as ordinary citizens. Prince Tsuguru Sho, for instance, owns a bar in Tokyo, a far cry from the lavish lifestyle his ancestors once enjoyed.

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What else can I do in Okinawa?

Beyond the stunning beaches and marine activities, Okinawa offers a rich cultural experience that includes the opportunity to explore the birthplace of karate. As the origin of this world-renowned martial art, Okinawa provides unique chances to learn about and practice karate in its ancestral home.

A young man practicing Kyoto on a beach.
Have you ever done karate before? Image via Shutterstock

Many dojos in Okinawa offer short-term classes or demonstrations for visitors interested in experiencing traditional Okinawan karate. These sessions can range from basic introductions to more intensive training, depending on your interest level and time commitment. Some cultural centers and museums also showcase karate’s history and significance in Okinawan culture.

Those interested in local history can visit the ruins of Tamagusuku Castle, one of Okinawa’s many historical sites. Alternatively, take a guided bicycle tour of Naha City to discover its hidden gems and learn about its past from knowledgeable local guides. These activities offer diverse ways to experience Okinawa’s culture, from artistic traditions to historical landmarks, providing a deeper understanding of the island’s unique heritage.

How else can I enjoy the summer?

If you’re looking for a fun way to get into the summer spirit, why not watch some anime beach episodes? They’re a pretty cool part of Japanese animation that captures all the fun of summer without you having to leave your house!

A person chilling on a beautiful anime beach.
Watching an anime beach episode is a great way to enjoy the summer! Image via Wallpaper Cave

These episodes usually show characters from your favorite series taking a break from their usual adventures to hang out at the beach. You’ll see them playing volleyball, building sandcastles, or chilling under beach umbrellas. It’s like a mini vacation for the characters and you, too!

What’s remarkable about anime beach episodes is their mixing of familiar characters with these different settings. You might see a usually serious character getting competitive over a game of beach volleyball or watch how the group dynamics change when everyone’s in swimsuits instead of their everyday outfits.

Why should I enjoy my time in Okinawa?

Nago City Hall in Okinawa. It's made of stone with many trees growing through.
Have you ever been to Okinawa before? Image via Trip Advisor

You should enjoy your time in Okinawa because it has many cool things to do and see. You’ve got beautiful beaches where you can swim in clear water, old castles to explore, and yummy food. The best part is that everything moves slower here, so you can enjoy each thing you do without feeling rushed. Whether making pottery, learning karate, or just chilling on the beach, Okinawa lets you have fun however you want! What would you do if you spent some time in Okinawa? Let us know in the comments below! 

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