Southern Okinawa Main Island has a long history dating from the age of Ryukyuan mythology up to the present time. Sefa Utaki and Kudaka Island, home to many Ryukyuan myths, are worshipped as sacred places, and the prosperity of the Ryukyu Kingdom can be seen in historical sites such as Shurijo Castle and Shikina-En Gardens. Since the area was the primary site of the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, with its large numbers of casualties, there are many memorial cenotaphs and museums established to honor the victims and to express a desire for peace. Downtown Naha has Kokusai Street, called, “The Miracle Mile” because of its rapid recovery during the post-war era, and it is always crowded with shoppers looking for the perfect souvenir or a tasty bite to eat.
Naha / Shuri
Kokusai Street near the Okinawa Prefectural Government Building is the main street in Naha City. There are many souvenir shops and restaurants, etc. located here. Naha City is also home to T Galleria Okinawa, which is the only place in Japan to enjoy domestic duty free savings on the world’s leading luxury brands, while Tomigusuku City, adjacent to Naha City, is home to the “Ashibinaa” outlet mall. Here you can purchase famous domestic and overseas brand items at affordable prices. In addition, Shuri, which previously flourished as the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom and has many historic sites, such as Shurijo Castle Park which was partially restored in 1992, scattered about this area. The magnificent decorations known as Shureimon and Seiden of Shurijo Castle prove the castle is deserving of its designation as a World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, restored parts of Shurijo Castle were severely damaged by a fire in October 2019, destroying seven iconic buildings. Although it will take time, the Shurijo Castle will once again be restored to its former glory, and all Okinawans look forward to this day.
Southern Battlefield Site
The Main Island Southern Region was the site of a hard-fought battle between Japan and the U.S. in World War II. Today, there are many museums and monuments honoring the memory of those who lost their lives during this difficult time. Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park located on the hills of Mabuni is one such site. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum in the park displays rare photos, as well as the personal testimonies from Okinawans to remind us of the bloodiness of war. Moreover, A Cornerstone of Peace was erected to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa and World War II. Inscribed on it are the names of all those who died in the fighting irrespective of nationality. Even today, many visitors can still be seen placing flowers on the Himeyuri-no-to Monument and Himeyuri Peace Museum in honor of the Himeyuri Student Corps.
Sefa-utaki / Kudaka Island
In Okinawa, there was one area, Sefa-utaki, that has been worshipped as a sacred place since ancient times. Sefa-utaki is hallowed ground representative of Okinawa, and in Ryukyuan mythology is said to have been created by the creator, Amamikiyo. In the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom, men were prohibited from entering this place and inauguration ceremonies for Kikoe Ogimi, Ryukyu’s highest-ranking priestess were held here. There is a solemn air about the two massive rocks that symbolize Sefa-utaki. A panoramic view of Kudaka Island is also possible from Sefa-utaki. Kudaka Island is called the “Island of the Gods”, and it is said that Amamikiyo descended from heaven to this island. Sacred places still remain on the island to this day.