Once you see it, you will be enamored with the ocean of “Chura”, beautiful islands.
Okinawa, where cherry blossoms bloom in January, first in Japan, consists of a vast stretch of ocean, 1,000km east to west and 400km north to south, and islands surrounded by over 300 coral reefs. The colorful contrast of the deep blue ocean and the emerald green shallow water of coral reefs, and the beauty of the highly transparent ocean where you can see as deep as 50m under the water on a sunny day, are what makes this place truly “Churashima”, beautiful islands . Every ocean lovers will fall in love with this place.
The season when you can play at the beach in Okinawa starts from the beginning of April, which is the start of the swimming season, until around October. There are plenty of means of transportation such as airplanes and ferries, so if you want to fully enjoy marine sports, you should visit isolated islands such as the Yaeyama area and Miyakojima island, where you can enjoy a variety of marine sports to the fullest in the vast ocean.
The ocean of Yonagunijima Island where “ruins” lie under the water
Yonagunijima island in Yaeyama area is an island with rich nature where wild horses live as well. In the surrounding ocean lie huge mysterious structures. The size of its central part is about 100m long, about 60m wide and about 25m high. It has an atmosphere as if it was built by human beings such as an opening resembling a corridor a person can walk on and round holes that seem like there used to be a pillar standing in them. Research has been conducted many times since its discovery in mid-80s to find out whether it is a ruin of an ancient civilization or it is a natural landform, but it still remains a mystery.
The “ruin” lies in a spot about 50m offshore from the southern tip of the island and about 20m deep where advanced divers can visit. You can have a glimpse of it from a glass-bottom boat from the surface of the ocean on a sunny day.
“Manta Scramble”, a must see for divers all over the world
There are many spots in Yaeyama area which are popular with divers from all over the world. Among all the spots, the offshore of Kabira Bay, located in the northwestern part of Ishigaki island, is famous as the ocean where you can see Manta rays, the biggest ray in the world, up close. The figure of Manta rays swimming as if they are flying is dynamic and graceful. You will be able to experience unforgettable moments seeing Manta rays opening their mouth wide to swallow krill and plankton and swimming right over your head. The best season is from August to October when the wind blows from the south and the chance to see Manta rays reaches nearly 90%.
“Inoh” is a live aquarium
In Okinawa, the ocean on the inner side of the coral reef is called “Inoh”. Rough waves from the open sea are stopped at the outer edge of the coral reef and therefore Inoh has shallow water and gentle waves. It is a natural aquarium where a variety of life including tropical fish and sea alga live together.
Snorkeling, which requires only a simple lecture to learn, enables beginner divers and children to fully enjoy the “natural aquarium”. Let’s go see colorful tropical fish when you visit Okinawa!
Have some of the most popular beaches in Japan all for yourself
From a private beach of a high-class resort facility to a simple unattended beach, all the beaches in Okinawa are beautiful without any hype. A relaxing time at the beach watching the ocean beautifully glittering reflecting the sunshine is what many visitors look for and enjoy. 8 out of the “Top 10 Beaches in Japan” in TripAdvisor are in Okinawa.
Miyakojima Island where 3 out of the Top 10 Beaches are located.
3 beaches in Miyakojima Island are ranked in the Top 10. The best one is “Yonaha Maehama Beach”, a 700m-long white sandy beach. It has a reputation as the most beautiful beach in the East.
Sunayama Beach located in the northeast part of Miyakojima Island is also a popular spot. You may get a little bit out of breath going up and down walking the long way to the beach, but your breath will be taken away as soon as you see the ocean stretch out before your eyes. The smooth sandy beach of coral chipped into fine pieces feels good on the back of your feet when you walk barefoot.
You can also enjoy a stroll on the ocean in Miyakojima Island. Irabu Ohashi, a bridge that connects Miyakojima Island and Irabujima Island next to it, has just opened on January 31, 2015. It is 3,540m long, the longest of all the bridges in Japan that can be crossed by foot.
Experience the ocean of Okinawa in your traveling clothes
The northern part of the main island of Okinawa called “Yanbaru” is an area with rich nature inhabited by deep subtropical forests and unique creatures such as Okinawa rails, birds that cannot fly and are designated as a protected species. What you cannot miss in this “Yanbaru” are the spots where you can experience the ocean of Okinawa in your traveling clothes.
One of the spots is “Busena Marine Park” located at Cape Busena which boasts the highest degree of transparent water in the main island of Okinawa. You can see up close schools of fish swimming in the water from the underwater observatory floor located on the sea 170m away from the coast and 5m deep in the water. You can have a 360 degree view of the underwater scenery of the ocean through the 24 consecutive windows.
“Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium” also in Yanbaru is one of the biggest aquariums in the world where you can experience the whole ocean of Okinawa including “the Ocean of Kuroshio” where you can see fish living in the ocean of Kuroshio migrating and “the Deep Sea” which reproduces the deep sea of Okinawa. 3:00pm and 5:00 pm are the meal times for whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, and you can enjoy seeing their dynamic way of eating.
Okinawa co-existing with coral
The coral reefs in Okinawa are said to have been born about 400 thousand years ago. The ocean of Okinawa is an ideal place for coral that prefers warm ocean with a good tide. Of the about 800 kinds of coral in the world, 200 kinds have been confirmed in Okinawa, which makes Okinawa one of the most famous spots in the world to view coral.
Coral absorbs carbon dioxide, just like plants, and produces oxygen purifying the ocean and plays a role as a natural breakwater as well. Although the coral reefs were once badly damaged when sea water temperatures rose too high due to global warming, actions to protect and regenerate the coral reefs are being taken in many areas of Okinawa. The ocean of Okinawa is an ocean filled with coral reefs, and the ocean and coral reefs have been co-existing from long ago until today.
There are over 90 direct flights per week to Okinawa from 7 cities in Asia
More than 900 direct flights per week are in service between Naha Airport in the main island of Okinawa and 24 airports in Japan including Narita Airport and Haneda Airport and 7 cities in Asia including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Seoul. The number of tourists visiting Okinawa is about 7 million a year and it continues to rise every year.
There are even more appealing points in Okinawa where you can feel the light, the wind and the glitter of the ocean of “Churashima”, beautiful islands, with all 5 senses. We will introduce the culture of this wonderful Okinawa in detail in the next September issue!
“Multilingual call center”, reliable when in trouble
Okinawa Prefecture provides “Multilingual call center”, a telephone service for visitors from overseas. 3 languages, English, Chinese and Korean, are available and they provide service including tourist information for Okinawa and interpreting while traveling in Okinawa on the phone or by e-mail. The service is provided for free and when you use the service on the phone, you will only be charged for the call. See here for details.