Okinawa was once an independent kingdom, called Ryukyu Kingdom, which actively traded with various East and Southeast Asian countries at that time. And it was also under the administration of the United States. Such experiences have given Okinawa a unique history from other regions of Japan. Okinawa has developed its own mixture of diverse culture influenced by China, Japan and other Asian and Western countries.
There are numerous archaeological sites in Okinawa dating from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Of these, nine sites were inscribed as World Heritage sites in 2000. The castle sites have distinctive beautiful stonewalls gently curving around elevated positions on top of hills. The other related properties are magnificent structures symbolizing the kingdom’s history, including a garden, the royal family’s tomb and sacred sites.
One of Japan’s leading martial arts, Karate, is said to be rooted in the art of self-defense that the samurai of the Ryukyu Kingdom learned as part of their education. Karate, which originated in Okinawa and has today spread throughout the world, was adopted as an official sport of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. At the Okinawa Karate Kaikan, visitors can learn and experience the essence of traditional Karate through exhibitions or workshops.
National parks have been established in three areas of Okinawa Islands. People enjoy trekking, canoeing, watching animals and other aquatic activities in Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park in the Yaeyama Islands and Yambaru National Park in the northern part of the Okinawa Main Island. The latter of the two holds Japan’s largest subtropical forest and is home to a great variety of unique flora and fauna as well as rare species. The Kerama Shoto National Park has some of the clearest waters anywhere in the world and its beautiful sea is home to abundant corals and fish populations. Visitors may experience scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching and other marine activities there.
Okinawa was once an independent kingdom maintaining a flourishing trade with various East and Southeast Asian countries and at one time after World War II, in which the precious lives of more than 240,000 civilians and soldiers were lost. At the Peach Memorial Park, stone monuments have been erected, which are engraved with the names of all of the people who lost their lives during the Battle of Okinawa. Many visitors come to this park to pray for repose of the souls of war victims and everlasting world peace.