Okinawa Prefecture is made up of the Ryukyu Islands, which at their southern extremity begin at Nansei Island, and lie between Kyushu, the most southwesterly of Japan's four main islands, and Taiwan. Okinawa consists of 160 islands of various size scattered across a vast area of ocean. The temperature in winter is about the same as that of springtime in Tokyo and Osaka, making it warm and comfortable throughout the year. With Okinawa being in the subtropical zone, you can enjoy beautiful flowers in any season. Taiwan Cherries, which bloom earlier in Okinawa than anywhere else in Japan, red Deigo flowers, colorful bougainvilleas, pure white Easter lilies, and beautiful yellow tabebuias – it is like a party of tropical flowers! Another highlight is the inhabitation of many rare species of plants and animals, such as the Iriomote wildcats (declared a protected species) on Iriomote-jima Island. The crystal blue sea, with white sand beaches and colorful fish dancing through coral, attracts vacationers as a holiday resort area with many diving spots.
For about 450 years, from the 15th to the 19th century, Okinawa prospered as the Kingdom of Ryukyu, a state independent of Japan's central government. Cultural characteristics and conventions born through the relations with foreign countries in those days still survive in such interesting forms as artifacts and festivals, giving additional charm to Okinawa. Especially Shuri Castle (the castle of the King of Ryukyu) in Naha City, which reopened in 1992 after being reconstructed. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, and attracts many visitors. Okinawa still preserves its traditional entertainment, such as Ryukyu-buyo, an elegant dance expressing a woman's emotions and feelings for someone special, such as her husband. It is performed by women in traditional dress made of bright-colored Bingata cloth. The Shishi-mai, a dance of 'shishi' lions with colorful manes, and Eisa, danced in groups to the sound of heroic drums and a three-stringed musical instrument called a 'sanshin,' are other traditional dances still performed today. Various festivals and events are held in Okinawa throughout the year. You can enjoy flowers and whale watching in winter and spring, marine sports and traditional performing arts in summer, and cultural events and field sports in fall. Some traditional festivals and events include the Hari Dragon Boat Race in May, an Eisa dance competition during the summer Bon Festival period, as well as tug-of-war competitions held each summer and fall.
Sunhills Tabaru 2F, 1-4-1 Tabaru, Naha-shi, Okinawa 901-0156
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