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Depending on the suffix used, Okinawa (沖縄) can refer to the prefecture (-ken, 県), its enclosing archipelago (-rettō, 列島), the main island (-hontō, 本島) or the eponymous city on the main island (-shi, 市); but when most visitors say they're 'going to Okinawa', they mean they're visiting the Southwest Islands.

Formerly the seat of power of the Ryūkyū dynasty, Okinawa-hontō is the largest island in the Nansei-shotō (Southwest Islands) and its capital, Naha, the busiest city. If Tōkyō were a pie, and you cut a tiny slice, dropped it on an island in the Pacific, and served it with a dollop of Florida, Naha might be what you'd get. Most visible traces of Ryukyū culture were obliterated in WWII, and there remains a huge US military presence on the island.

In spite of this, the Ryūkyū lineage remains strong and is evident in Okinawa's unique culinary, artistic and musical traditions.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Okinawa-hontō.