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Ryukyu Islands

Travel Guide Asia Japan Kyushu Ryukyu Islands

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Introduction

GW2008 - Shuuri Ryukyuan dancers2

GW2008 - Shuuri Ryukyuan dancers2

© All Rights Reserved agc_cwm

The Ryukyu Islands are a chain of islands in the southwest of Japan, southwest of the island of Kyushu, the region it is in.

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Geography

The islands consist of the Satsunan Islands to the north, belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, and Ryūkyū Shotō to the south, belonging to Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Yoron Island is the southernmost island of the Satsunan Islands, and Yonaguni is the southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands. The largest of the islands is Okinawa Island.

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Cities

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Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full.

Other Events and Festivals

  • O-Bon (Festival of the Dead) - Usually held in August, this festival is observed nationwide in Japan. Buddhist tradition dictates this is the day the dead return to earth to visit their relatives. Lanterns are hung outside homes and offerings to the spirits are made. In the evening, people float the lanterns on the river to help guide the deceased back to their resting place.
  • Hanami and Cherry Blossom Festivals - A tradition all over Japan, Hanami literally means viewing flowers. Picnic under the beautiful flowing trees in any public park during this special season. Usually lasting for only two weeks in March, the sakura (cherry blossom) schedule changes a bit every year, so it’s hard to nail down exactly when to come.

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Getting There

By Plane

Naha Airport (OKA) is the main gateway to Okinawa and thus the Ryukyu Islands. Destinations include all of the major Japanese cities and international destinations include Seoul Incheon International Airport, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taipei, Hong Kong International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

To/from the airport

  • Rail: The Okinawa Monorail carries passengers from the airport station to the centre of Naha, and to the terminal at Shuri Station, which is closest to Shuri Castle.
  • Bus: Bus service is available to many parts of Okinawa Island.
  • Car: taxis and rental cars are widely available, and there are many parking places available, both for short-term as well as long-term parking.

By Boat

International
The weekly ferries between Keelung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Ishigaki and Miyako in the Okinawa Prefecture have been suspended since 2008. The trip took about 18 hours and boats left Taiwan on Mondays and Okinawa on Thursdays or Fridays. There is talk of new ferries between Japan (either Okinawa or 'mainland' Japan) and Taiwan, but up until now (October 2009) there is no ferry.

Domestic
Ferries connect Naha with a number of ports on Kyushu and Honshu, including Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Kobe, Osaka and Kagoshima. A one way trip from Tokyo to Naha takes around 44 hours and is only one ferry per week. From Kagoshima on the southern tip of Kyushu, ferries depart for Naha every day though and this is probably the better option if you want to go to Okinawa by ferry as it takes about 25 hours.

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Sleep

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This is version 2. Last edited at 13:09 on May 4, 16 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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