of 161 islands and is situated far south of Japan, like stepping
stones between Kyushu and Taiwan. The clear turquoise seas,
subtropical climate and plenty of fine beaches mean that the islands
are a holiday favourite among the Japanese. Recently, however, many
of the islands have also begun to become popular as eco-destinations.
Numerous coral reefs offer outstanding
diving, with several resorts catering to enthusiasts.
Okinawa Island, the main island of the group, has
many famous resorts such as Manza Beach and Onna
Beach, with white sands and water sports. The amazing
formations of the Gyokusendo Caves are also a well-liked
attraction. Naha, the relaxed Okinawan
capital, is well known for its pottery and textiles and
remarkable Shuri Castle, former seat of the Ryukyu
kings. The vast US bases nearby help to fuel its vibrant nightlife.
The island has many reminders of the intense fighting that were
fought there during World War II, therefore the southern
coastline is dotted with war memorials.
Ishigaki Island has excellent diving,
snorkeling and folkcrafts and
is a great base from which to explore the more remote islands. Iriomote
Island is well known for its mangrove swamps, jungle interior
and rare animal life such as the Iriomote Wildcat,
while tiny Taketomi still has its rural charm.
Occurring all through the islands, Okinawa’s ancient Ryukyu festivals are among Japan’s most colourful
and feature distinctive performing arts.