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Okinawa: Life and culture on Japan's southern islands

Duration

7 Days , 6 Nights

Physical Level

Start / Finish

Naha Airport / Naha Airport

Technical Level

Okinawa:Life & culture on Japan's sothern islands is a fully guided trip suitable for anyone who can walk for more than three to four hours in comfort. Please read more on Tour Levels here.

 

A 7 day, 6 night tour starting and finishing in Naha. Walk Japan adapts its trips for group size and age and welcomes groups of any size and students of any age. Currently, for our school trips the groups vary in size from 8 to 60 students and in age from 12 years to post-graduate university students.

 

Walk Japan’s Okinawa School Trip takes students on a journey to the Ryukyu chain of islands found at Japan’s most southerly reaches. Stretching almost to Taiwan, these islands divide the East China Sea from the Pacific and are home to a people with customs, a culture and history distinct from the rest of Japan. Our journey takes us from the era of the Ryukyu nation when the islands’ kings paid fealty to both Japan and China, through Okinawa’s annexation by Japan and the deadly battles of the Second World War, and up to the present day.

 

Our tour is centred on Honto, the main island, where we begin admist the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of Naha, Okinawa’s capital. From here we journey into the surrounding sub-tropical, lush and much quieter, rural countryside, and also over the sea to Izena, a little-visited but idyllic island. En route we visit sites of spiritual and historical interest including Shuri-jo, the castle of the Ryukuyu kings, and the poignant Peace Memorial Museum. We also delve into Okinawa’s unique religious beliefs, are entertained with performances of the local’s energetic music, and turn our hand to making pottery and also delicious traditional sweets.

 

Izena’s crystal-clear waters provide us with the perfect environment for snorkelling and, weather permitting, kayaking. Returning to Honto we visit the acclaimed Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which allows us a deeper look at the life found in the surrounding seas.
The itinerary for the Okinawa: Life & Culture on Japan's sothern islands is ground only beginning and ending in Naha Airport. After finalising details for the trip and receiving a deposit we will provide a pre-trip information pack detailing how the school and students join the trip, clothing checklist, itinerary, etc.

 

Day 1 Naha Airport - Naha


The school tour group is met by the Walk Japan Tour Leader mid-afternoon on Okinawa’s Honto island at Naha Airport. From here we transfer together by monorail to down-town Naha and our accommodation, a clean and comfortable business hotel and our home for the next three nights. The Tour Leader provides a briefing over dinner, which is held in a local restaurant where we are also entertained by a live performance of Okinawa’s very distinctive and uplifting sanshin music.

 

Accommodation: Western-style business hotel.
Meals: Dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

Day 2 Naha - Shuri - Naha


After breakfast at our hotel, we ride the monorail again to nearby Shuri-jo, once the castle home to the monarchy that established and ruled the Ryukyu Kingdom for some 450 years. Independent in name but effectively subservient to both Japan and China for much of this time, Ryukyu survived until 1879 when the islands were formally incorporated into Japan as Okinawa Prefecture. Although Shuri-jo was almost completely destroyed in the ferocious Battle of Okinawa during the Second World War, the site has been fully restored to its former glory and is an impressive symbol of Okinawa’s distinctive culture. In the grounds of Shuri-jo we find Tamaudun, a stone complex housing the tombs of eighteen Ryukyu kings.

 

After lunch we stroll back into central Naha, where we come across some local crafts including Tsuboya-yaki pottery and Bingata dyeing. Some free time follows for further exploration, shopping and the chance to sample Okinawan delicacies found in the area before reconvening for dinner.

 

Accommodation: Western-style business hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

Day 3 Naha - Itoman - Tamagusuku - Naha


After breakfast, we travel to the southern tip of the Honto to learn of Okinawa’s tragic past in the last months of the Second World War. The Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum, located on a picturesque coastline, provides a sober, if thought-provoking, introduction to the battles that raged here from April to June 1945. A local resident-guide describes the events that led to the demise of 100,000 Okinawan civilians. The museum is located near to caves that provided refuge from the battles raging above and also housed a makeshift hospital partially staffed by high school students.

 

On our journey back to Naha we visit Seifa Utaki, which is one of the most important sacred sites associated with Okinawa’s indigenous religion. Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seifa Utaki consists of a series of caves amongst monumental rock formations located on a densely forested promontory overlooking the ocean. Legend relates the Amamikyu, the goddess of Ryukyu’s creation, made landfall here.

 

Accommodation: Western-style business hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

Day 4 Naha - Izena


After an early breakfast, we journey to Unten Port to board a ferry journey Izena, an idyllic island. Known for its crystal clear waters and unique biodiversity, it is also the birthplace of Sho En, an early king of the Ryukyu Kingdom. We begin our exploration of Izena by venturing to one of its white sandy beaches where, weather permitting, we snorkel in and kayak over the marine-blue sea.

 

Our accommodation is in the centre of the island, which unusually for Okinawa, is surrounded by paddy fields. Dinner is in a neighbouring restaurant that serves island cuisine.

 

Accommodation: Western-style business hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

Day 5 Izena


Today, we continue our exploration of Izena, first by foot to the remains of Izena-jo, the remains of a castle believed to have been established as early as the 10th Century. The site has long been revered as sacred by the local residents and is used for gatherings such as harvest festivals. During our walk we are afforded tremendous views over the ocean to surrounding islands and Honto.

 

In the afternoon, we divide into small groups to meet local families, with who we stay this evening providing us with the opportunity to learn about Izena’s daily life and culture at first hand.

 

Accommodation: Home-stay.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.
 

Day 6 Izena - Churaumi Aquarium - Naha


After breakfast, we gather with our families for a farewell ceremony before boarding the morning ferry back to Honto. Upon arriving, we transfer to Churaumi Aquarium; Chura meaning beautiful in Okinawan and umi meaning ocean in Japanese. Although it was the largest aquarium in the world until 2005, it remains the largest in Japan and it is one of only a few anywhere in the world where whale sharks are kept in captivity. These can been seen swimming aside a plethora of other fish including manta rays. Later we return to Naha for our final evening of the tour together.

 

Accommodation: Western-style business hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

Day 7 Naha - Naha Airport - Home


After breakfast we visit the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and shop for souvenirs before heading to the airport for our flight home.

 

Accommodation: N/A.
Meals: Breakfast provided.
Total walking: N/A.

 

This itinerary is subject to change.

 
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