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Okinawa

When one hears of Japan, the images that first spring to mind sit in complete contrast to the bright white sand and vivid aquamarine waters of the piece of subtropical paradise that is Okinawa.

Located at the southernmost point of the country, this region of tropical islands is the largest in a chain of several hundred stretching from the mainland almost to Taiwan in the East China Sea. While this location puts it right in the path of summer typhoons, it does not stop the Japanese heading there in droves on their summer holidays to soak up the sun and beautiful scenery.

The south part of the island around Naha city is rather overdeveloped but taking the extra hour to go north is well worth it. Some excellent properties and beaches can be found scattered around in this half, with more space to play with, and some of the world's best diving is along this stretch of coast. Vivid coral reefs and a magnificent array of marine wildlife can be admired here, from exotic fish to more unusual species.

The northern half of the island also has some castle ruins of the indigenous Ryukyu kingdom which flourished here until Okinawa came under Japanese rule in the mid-19th century. The Ryukyu culture has a colourful vibrancy of its own with distinctive clothing, dances and lacquer-ware which is still in evidence for those seeking some cultural touring alongside the pristine sea and beaches. A lively food scene can also be explored here, thanks to interesting local delicacies melding together a variety of influences from China, Southeast Asia and the United States with traditional Japanese dishes.

This idyllic place is the perfect spot to relax during a culture-packed tour of this fascinating country, for the scenery really is picture-perfect and you will escape the tourist crowds that flock to the mainland: just bliss.

Features in the following itineraries

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