Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture, consisting of a few dozen, small islands in the southern half of the Nansei Shoto, the island chain which stretches over about one thousand kilometers from Kyushu to Taiwan. The Prefectural capital is Naha with a population of about 321,400 people.
Some of the most visited sightseeing spots in Okinawa.
The Churaumi Aquarium is widely considered Japan's best aquarium. It is the main attraction of the Ocean Expo Park on the former grounds of the 1975 International Ocean Expo in northern Okinawa Honto. The aquarium was completely redesigned and reopened in 2002. The highlight of a visit to the Churaumi Aquarium is the massive Kuroshio Tank, one of the largest in the world. The tank takes its name from the warm Kuroshio current which plays a large part in the variety of Okinawa's of marine life. The tank contains a wide variety of species, the most striking of which are the giant whale sharks and manta rays.
The Yanbaru Express Bus directly connects the airport and city center of Naha with the Churaumi Aquarium. The one way trip takes a little over two hours and runs six times per day.
A city district of Naha today, Shuri is the name of the former capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Shuri Castle served as the administrative center and residence of the Ryukyu kings for several centuries until Okinawa became a Japanese prefecture in 1879. The castle is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom sites. Shuri Castle was originally built in the late 1300s, and played an integral role in the political unification of the island. Wars and fires destroyed the castle multiple times over the centuries, most recently in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The current buildings are beautiful reconstructions dating from 1992. The approach to the castle's central buildings leads through multiple gates, including the well known Shureimon Gate. The castle's hilltop location allows for nice views over Naha along the way.
Shuri Castle can be reached in a 15-20 minute walk or a five minute bus ride from Shuri Station on the Okinawa Monorail. Take bus number 7 or 8 and get off at Shurijo-mae. Alternatively, take bus number 1 directly from central Naha to Shuri Castle, getting off at Shurijo Koen Iriguchi. The one way trip takes about 15-20 minutes.