Ryukyu Islands
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June to November

Ryukyu Islands

LAST UPDATED 03/01/2008
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Shizhao: Location Ryukyu Islands; 11 May 2006

Ryukyu Islands is a chain of 55 islands in the western Pacific southwest of Japan, which were returned by United States to Japan in 1972. The islands have a subtropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very high, and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons.

The largest of the islands is Okinawa Island. Japanese is the main language spoken on the islands although Ryukyuans did traditionally use their own language.


yonaguni Photos: Last sunset in Japan, Ryukyu Islands; 2008

Waves are being discovered all the time along the chain of islands that make up this southernmost region of Japan. Okinawa is the largest island in the group and the best known for surfing. Reefs and atolls dot the entire chain however, all sensitive to the correct combination of wind and swell. The Ryukyu islands form an effective border with the Pacific that creates the East China Sea to the west of them. Accordingly, these points of land are absolute swell magnets for anything in the area.

Explore and be rewarded. 


Announcement board listing the next two trains (from

Japan has one of the world's best transport systems, so you will really enjoy travelling around the country. Transportation can be quite expensive, but fast and safe. Train is definitely the most popular option. Japanese railway system covers the majority of the country and trains nearly always depart and arrive on time, so you can rely on the schedule. Just remember that most trains don’t operate 24 hours, so plan a backup if want to be out late. The first and most confusing aspect of the system is the overlap of several private railway networks with the JR network, plus Tokyo also has two separate metro systems. So just be aware of that. Also note, that private railways are often cheaper than JR for an equivalent journey.

Another option is to travel by plane with the majority of domestic flights leaving from Haneda (HND) in Tokyo, Itami (ITM) in Osaka and Kobe’s airport. Book tickets in advance, which may allow you to get a significant discount, otherwise it will be quite expensive; and allow 3-4 hours to transfer. If you are 22 or younger, check the Skymate Card for special prices.
Boats are a surprisingly uncommon means of transport, mainly because the major islands are linked together by bridges and tunnels. There are some long-distance ferries linking Okinawa and Hokkaido, but it will be cheaper to travel by plane/train.

Long-distance highway buses are much cheaper than trains, but prepare for the longer journey and less comfort. Local buses are common in smaller towns and have the idiosyncratic payment system, where you board from the back of the bus and grab a little numbered slip as you enter. You pay at the end of your trip after pressing a stop button. You should deposit the slip and corresponding payment in the fare machine next to the driver (there is an electronic board there displaying numbers and prices below), just make sure before the trip that you are nor short on change.
Taxis are a bit expensive, but they are clean, completely safe and can be found everywhere in Japan, even in the country. 

where to stay

Kurefile: Shinjuku PRINCE HOTEL; 31 December 2006

As you already know, Japan is quite expensive. Okinawa Port Hotel offers very stylish and comfortable accommodation. Located close to the Kokusai-dori entertainment district, this hotel is 1.5 km from Heiwa-dori shopping area, 5 km from Shuri-jo Castle, and 3.5 km from Naha Field Airport. Another option is Busena Terrace Resort in Nago City - a very good resort hotel of Okinawa, but again, quite expensive.

what to pack

Fir0002: Canon-Deluxe Backpack-200-EG; 26 June 2005

The islands have a subtropical climate with warm winters and hot summers. So take trainers and loose clothing, cotton will be the best.

Definitely take along some bug repellent spray, good sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses! Better take your medicines with you (esp. anti histamine tablets), as the brands can be unfamiliar and cost more. By the way, getting medical insurance would be a good idea.

Don’t forget to take waterproof clothes/gear/backpack for the rainy season.

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