Okinawa is quickly becoming a major destination for divers from across the globe. Its 70-80 degree waters make exploring the area's lush underwater landscapes a pleasure to both novices and seasoned pros. The Yonaguni Monument, Okinawa's peculiar underwater pyramid and rock formations, is one particular locale that has divers coming back, if not for the Ryuku Archipelago. Ryuku not only hosts some of the most diverse marine life in the region, but underwater ruins and World War II wrecks serve as somewhat of a sub-marine history lesson, fully explorable for anyone to discover.
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When the idea of Japan comes to mind, island getaways may not be the first thing one would think of. Okinawa is an archipelagic paradise featuring a dense group of small islands that host some of the world's most abundant coral reefs.
Not only do the ancient ruins of Okinawa reside below the sea, but 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites are also scattered across the island for those interested in the historic and religious legacies of Japan. Several "Gusuku", or castle-like structures that resembled the power and prosperity of 12th century dictatorships still remain standing today. These religious-affiliated structures were later unified into the Kingdom of Ryukyu in the 15th century, assuming the symbol of the penultimate Shuri-Jo castle that overlooks Naha city. Featuring meticulously detailed accents and designs, the Shuri-Jo castle exemplifies the Chinese influences present at the time of its construction.
Research has shown that residents of Okinawa are some of the healthiest in the world. So visit Okinawa not only to discover why it has steadily become one of more desired island destinations in the world, but perhaps even learn about their secrets of longevity. Plan an excursion to Okinawa's Makishi Public Market, affectionately nick-named "Okinawa's Kitchen", the largest marketplace on the island. Here, you may explore Okinawan history and culture through the 400 shops and vendors that sell anything from fresh fish to beautiful cookware.
Discover the Remote Island of Taketomi
The beautifully quaint island of Taketomi off the southern island of Okinawa may only have a population of around 400 people, but remains to be a choice locale for many tourists looking for a leisurely getaway in Japan. White sandy beaches, traditionally built island-style houses, and ox carts transporting goods line the streets of this tiny island, offering a relaxing and secluded atmosphere. Here visitors may participate in the many activisities Taketomi has to offer, including diving, snorkeling, and various watersports.
A short 10 minute ferry ride form the neighboring island of Ishigaki, Taketomi is one of several beautiful Yaeyama islands; a wonderful place to experience the local island culture of Okinawa. Kondoi and Kaiji beaches are the main attractions for visitors looking to relax and soak in the summer sun. Preserved as a historical site, many sightseeing opportunities lie on the island, most notably Takidonguchi underwater park, Nagomi Tower, and the Nbufuru Observatory, which offers a 360 degree view of the Yaeyama islands.
Once a year, the residents of Taketomi take place in the Tanadui festival, which celebrates the fall harvest in November. Here, visitors can watch the villagers dance, sing, and stage performance battles. The family-run shops and restaurants of Taketomi also give visitors a feeling of tranquility, quaintness, and seclusion. Try a plate of the locally grown shrimp at restaurant Taruriya, which serves fried shrimp with a tartar sauce that is paired so well that the shrimp will melt in your mouth. Travel to Taketomi as an island retreat and bask in the sun as you explore the local island flavor, beautiful wildlife and insects, and its friendly, welcoming locals.
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