The Okinawa Archipelago is certainly one of the most popular destinations in Japan for Japanese people. Composed of a main island of the same name, the archipelago is located in southern Japan near Taiwan. The many islands that make up the archipelago attract many tourists every year, both foreign and Japanese.
The Okinawa region was originally the kingdom of Ryûkyû. This independent kingdom had diplomatic relations with the Chinese Empire and traded with many surrounding countries including Japan. In 1623, the kingdom was defeated by the Shimazu clan (a large Japanese family) and was used primarily as a cover to establish commercial relations with the Qing. In 1879 the archipelago was annexed by Japan, and became the Okinawa prefecture as we know it today. During the Second World War, the island was the scene of a bloody battle with the United States that ended with its control by American forces. In 1972 the United States finally returned the island to the Japanese, although American forces are still present today.
From a tourist point of view, the island is best known for its paradisiacal landscapes that can be seen on postcards. Turquoise blue water, corals, desert beaches, the island is often considered as the “Japanese Hawaii”. But it is not only famous for its idyllic natural scenes; the local culture is also very popular! The local cuisine that will confuse the most adventurous tourists, its dialect that differs completely from traditional Japanese and the history of the Gusuku sites will offer a very distinctive cultural approach. Finally, you should know that this is where the world’s longest life expectancy is found, a record that is certainly due to the eating habits and heredity of the people of Okinawa. After all, a life in the sun with an average of 23° all year round can’t hurt.
The people of Okinawa still claim their cultural differences with Japan since the local culture is a mixture of Chinese and Japanese cultures. We can compare this with Corsican culture, which stands out from the culture of the continent because of its insularity and which has received a strong Italian influence. A visit to Okinawa on your trip to Japan will offer you a completely different atmosphere than on the main island. Part of its heritage is also part of UNESCO’s world heritage. A destination not to be missed!