Cruisers’ Guide to Japan

Cruiser’s Guide to Japan

Regions of Japan

There are several different ways to label the geographical regions of Japan. For the purposes of cruising, we will break down Japan into ten regions: Hokkaidō, Tōhoku, Hokuriku, Kantō, Chūbu, Kinki, Chūgoku, Shikoku, Kyūshū, and Okinawa. We hope the information will help the reader prepare for their cruises to Japan.

Okinawa REGION

Traditionally speaking, Okinawa has been included in the Kyūshū region.

However, due to the physical distance separating the two—not to mention the historical and cultural differences—it merits its own category.

Okinawa was a separate nation until 1879, so its language and culture differ in many ways from that of mainland Japan. Okinawa Prefecture is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. It comprises hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) long. The Ryūkyūs extend southwest from Kyūshū to Taiwan. Okinawa Prefecture encompasses the southern two thirds of that chain. Naha, Okinawa's capital, is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island. It also includes the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Near the end of World War II, in 1945, the US Army and Marine Corps invaded Okinawa with 185,000 troops.

It is estimated that between 1/4 and 1/3 of the civilian population perished during the 6-week Battle of Okinawa alone. It remained under the control of the US military until it reverted back to Japanese control in 1972. The majority of U.S. troops deployed in Japan are based in Okinawa even though the prefecture constitutes only 0.6% of Japan’s land area. This disproportionate presence has provided jobs for the local community, but it has also disrupted their way of life in many ways. Crimes committed by servicemen against locals have triggered many protests.

Okinawans are known for their longevity—especially Okinawa women.

Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as in the rest of Japan, and Japanese are already the longest-lived ethnic group globally. According to research, their longevity is the result of a combinations of factors including their diet, low-stress lifestyle, supportive community, activity, and spirituality. The Okinawan diet consists of low-fat, low-salt foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, tofu, and seaweed.

Okinawa is a major producer of sugar cane, pineapple, papaya, and other tropical fruit. It is also the birthplace of karate.

One UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Okinawa Region:

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu including Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle, accessible from the port of Naha, was the palace of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, it was almost completely destroyed. Beginning in 1992, it was reconstructed on the original site based on photographs, historical records, and memory.

Okinawa is home to Naha, Japan’s number two port of call for 2016, Naha, which is expected to receive 185 cruise ship calls by the end of the year.

The Okinawa region is host to four different port cities, listed below with important cruise ports noted with an asterisk:

  • Ishigaki*, Okinawa prefecture (2016 population - 47,260)
  • Hirara in Miyakojima City, Okinawa prefecture
  • Motobu in Kunigami, Okinawa prefecture
  • Naha*, Okinawa prefecture (2016 population, 321,829)
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