Cape Manzamo in Okinawa Island, Japan. Photo: 123rf.com
Located south of the rest of Japan, Okinawa is famed for the longevity of some of its people and unique culture. It stands out from other parts of Japan with a distinct culture of its own – from the style of the Okinawan kimonos to the flavours of its local cuisine.
Here are some of the top spots to visit.
1. CAPE MANZAMO
Located at a spot where it faces the East China Sea to the west, Cape Manzamo ranks as one of the top spots for scenic photography. People flock here to have their pictures taken with the dazzling sun setting in the background, or scuba dive in its crystal-clear waters.
The cape is also famous for its rock formation which reveals itself during low tide.
2. MAKISHI PUBLIC MARKET
A favourite haunt among locals, the Makishi Public Market sells a delectable array of fresh produce that range from preserved vegetables and meat to freshlycaught seafood. The people here call the market the “locals’ kitchen”, and it is common to see people take their fresh purchase to one of the many eateries in the area and have it cooked in the way they want.
3. SHURI CASTLE
A Unesco World Heritage Site, Shuri Castle was the home of the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and restored in 1992.
There is much to explore and do among its many halls and courtyards. Some of these include ringing the traditional bell, drinking fermented rice beverage, flag hoisting and watching performing arts and other grand ceremonies.
4. OKINAWA WORLD
This theme park centres around the culture and ecology of Okinawa. It is broadly divided into three zones – Kingdom Village, Gyokusendo Cave and Habu Centre.
The Kingdom Village is replica of a traditional Okinawan village that gives you a glimpse into the life of Okinawans before the 19th century. Try your hand at local arts and crafts, or savour traditional delicacies like the sugarcane rice and soki soba.
Gyokusendo Cave is the second-largest cave system in Japan. The geological formations here were formed over the course of 300,000 years.
The Habu Centre is a display of a venomous snake species called the habu, which is native to Okinawa.
5. OCEAN EXPO PARK
Find out about the rich biodiversity and maritime history of Okinawa Island. Expect to see wild marine species and local flora and fauna at the myriad of wildlife enclosures and arboretum located here. Drop by the Oceanic Cultural Museum and witness the evolution of maritime history in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The park is also home to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which was once the world’s largest aquarium.
Fun facts about Okinawa Island
Languages spoken: Japanese and local Okinawan dialect.
Best times to visit: Spring (Mar to May) or autumn (Sep to Dec).
Top activities to do: Snorkelling, scuba diving, beach vacation, scenic photography or tucking into fresh seafood and locally crafted Okinawan beer.
This article was first published in The Straits Times Classified.
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