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The Ryūkyū Kingdom ruled most of the Ryukyu islands between the 15th and 19th centuries and was a prosperous trading nation due to it's tributary relationship with Ming Dynasty China. During this period many Gusukus (castles) were built. The Kingdom was invaded by Japan in 1609 and found itself in a period of dual subordination to Japan and China until 1872 when the Japanese government abolished the Kingdom and renamed it Ryukyu Han (Ryukyu Fief). In 1879, Japan annexed the islands and Ryukyu Han became Okinawa Prefecture.
During WWII, the Allies planned to use Okinawa as a base for air operations during their invasion of the Japanese mainland.
The 82 day long Battle of Okinawa (April - June 1945) was the largest amphibious assault and one of the most intense battles in the Pacific war. A quarter of Okinawa's civilian population was lost in the battle.
Okinawa was under US administration from the end of WWII until 1972 when the US government returned the islands to Japanese administration. The US has maintained a large military presence in Okinawa, leading to controversy and some resentment.
The Okinawa Prefecture encompasses the southern two thirds of the Ryukyu Archipelago which consists of approximately 160 islands (48 of which are inhabited) of varying sizes stretching for 1,000 kilometres from east to west and 400 kilometres from north to south in between the Philippine Sea and the East China Sea - from Kyūshū (in the southwest of Japan) all the way to Taiwan.
Okinawa is a place of natural beauty with white sand beaches, enticing clear blue water and vibrant coral reefs. Old-growth forests untouched since ancient times and mangrove jungles are home to precious rare animals and plants such as the Iriomote cat, one of the world's rarest and most endangered cat species.
Arts and culture are very important in Okinawa. Okinawa has 9 World Heritage Gusuku Sites from the Ryūkyū Kingdom, the most visited being the beautifully restored Shurijo Castle in Naha. You can also shop for attractive craftworks of crisp and colourful Ryukyu glass and laquerware, hand-created Okinawan pottery; visit the Prefectural Museum and Art Museum and roam around the malls, public market, streets and arcades soaking in the sites and sounds of Naha. Food is also an integral part of Okinawan culture and there are many local izakayas to try traditional Okinawan dishes.
In the less populated north of Okinawa Island is one of the world's largest aquariums, Churaumi Aquarium, Hiji Falls and Cape Hedo.
Okinawa supports plenty of water activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, spear fishing, surfing, sailing and simply enjoying the many beautiful beaches around the islands. For snorkelers and scuba divers stopping on Okinawa Island a trip to the Kerama Islands is a must!
Okinawa has a sub-tropical climate and experiences warmer weather than mainland Japan. The winter months from November to March has smaller crowds and fantastic visibility. However the seas can be choppy due to the strength of the dominant winds. Winter temperatures range from a minimum of 10°C to 20°C and the water temperature rarely drops below 19°C. Inter-island ferry services are much less frequent in winter.
The more crowded, hotter and humid summer starts in April and extends into September. Temperatures hover around 34°C and the water is about 29°C. The wettest period is from early May to early June. Typhoons may hit the area in July and August and sometimes extend into October.
Humpback whales breed in the area between December to March. February is the best month to snorkel with the whales. Manta rays and dolphins can be seen between May to November. Fish life is particularly abundant between August to December.
|Marine House SEASIR Akajima
On Aka Island
Onsite Shop: No
Onsite Dive Centre: Yes
Okinawa's surrounding waters are fed by the warm Kuroshio current running north from the Philippines, bringing a huge variety of marine life to the islands. The warm sub-tropical climate facilitates diving year round. Species of reef fish, marine mammals and sea turtles that inhabit Okinawan waters total more than 1,000, while reef building corals exceed 200, making Okinawa amongst the larger coral habitats in the world. The underwater topography varies between the islands.
There are over 80 dive sites around Okinawa and the surrounding islands. Visibility can sometimes reach over 40 metres and currents can be strong at some sites. The Kerama Islands have some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling options.
The main island has dive sites in the north, south and mainly on the western side where there is a drop off. Some sites are beach dives but most are accessible by boat.
Easily accessible by snorkelers and divers. This famous, half submerged cave is named for the blue water created by the sunlight reflecting off the sandy white bottom. Find rock shrimp, pipefish and moray eels inside.
A hole in the reef with the entrance at 5 metres before opening onto a reef wall at 26 metres. A wall of fish surrounds the exit. For advanced divers.
A beach entry dive over a rich soft coral reef home to anemone fish, damsel fish, cuttlefish and sea snakes. Depth: 5 - 25 metres.
A 90 metre long WWII shipwreck destroyed in an attack by Japanese kamikaze aircraft and reportedly sunk by the US to avoid the danger of drifting towards Japanese territory. Best accessed during summer months.
Three small uninhabited islands located approx 30 minutes southwest of the main island. Features some drift dives and drop offs, green sea turtles, reef sharks and schools of tropical reef fish.
A large dive area where you could easily lose your way amongst the maze of rock formations, white sand rivers, finger reefs, swim throughs and good visbility.
A 1 hour boat ride from the main island, a group of 20 islands famous for their stunningly blue waters and clear visibility, unparalleled coral reefs and raw limestone rock formations. Drift dives take you over a giant sea fan paradise and multi-hued schools of fish.
The swirling current around the two pinnacles covered in sea fans, hard and soft corals brings dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, sharks, eagle rays and huge schools of fusiliers and anthias.
"man rock" is one of the best sites in the Keramas for advanced divers. The steep cliffside of Ugan drops to 40 metres in some place. Riding the current around the rock, you may be able to spot several crevices with lots of lionfish in them. Large schools of pyramid butterfly fish, mountains of orange coral cups, blue fusiliers, and colourful anthias dart on the edge of the dropoff and along the wall. Sightings of dogtooth tuna, napoleon wrasse, turtles and sharks increase with the current.
Has sea fans up to 2 metres in diameter. Often has visiting manta rays.
Japan (often referred to as the "Land of the Rising Sun") is an archipelago of 6,852 islands in the Pacific Ocean in East Asia, lieing to the east of North and South Korea, China and Russia.
The international country code for Japan is +81.
Japan is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
(subject to change)
Australian and New Zealand passport holders are issued a "Temporary Visitor" entry status stamp on arrival for a stay of up to 90 days for non-remunerative activities. Check with your closest Consulate-General of Japan for up-to-date entry requirements.
The currency of Japan is the Yen. With a low crime rate, it is generally safe to carry cash. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at stores, restaurants and hotels in most major cities. Some smaller regional areas may only accept cash.
1 AUD = approximately 77 Yen (May 2016)
Japan uses 100-volt AC at 50 Hertz in eastern Japan and 60 Hertz in western Japan. Plugs are type A,B same as USA and Canada - 2-flat-pin plugs. Australian appliances can be used in Japan as long as they have a travel adapter.
(For further details refer to http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/ ).
Foreign exchange banks and authorised money exchangers sell Yen. Travellers' cheques are accepted by leading banks, hotels, ryokan and stores in major cities. Japan Post and Seven-Eleven Banks' ATM's accept most international credit and debit cards, however withdrawal fees apply. Shinsei Bank and Citibank ATM's do too but are harder to find.
Banking hours are Monday – Friday 9am to 3pm.
Ensure that all equipment is serviced and in working order prior to departure. You will need to bring a DIN converter for DIN regulators. 3-5mm wetsuits are recommended (check season). Dive operators supply tanks, weight belts and dive guide services. There will be an extra charge if equipment hire is required.