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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Japan Travel Destination: Okinawa
By:Josh Shulman

The birthplace of karate, home to rich culture and traditions and magnificent architecture, Okinawa consists of a 1000 kilometers long chain of hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands that can be divided into three main groups: Okinawa Islands, Miyako Islands, and Yaeyama Islands. Despite the controversy over the U.S. army bases scattered throughout the islands, there is plenty to explore and enjoy in this region; its sandy beaches and breathtaking coral reefs offer a both relaxing and lazy vacation and thrilling adventurous aquatic sports.

Okinawa is the home of the Ryukyuan people. The customs and traditions show influences of Chinese, Thai and Austronesian cultures. Karate is one the most infamous cultural gift to the world, developed originally in the Ryuku Islands. Eisa dance depicts the fun and frolic aspect of the culture. Okinawans do not follow Buddhism like most of the Japanese. Rather, they have their own religious beliefs and believe in ancestor worship, and are devoted to the gods and spirits of the natural world. Okinawa is rich with old and modern history, including the famous 82-day Battle of Okinawa that took place during WWII.

The Okinawan diet is very sparse on calories. The mineral and nutrient rich food, genetic inheritance and environmental factors have made Okinawa a place with one of the highest life expectancy levels in the world. Traditional diet includes of lot of green and yellow vegetables. Sweet potato is also among the main ingredients. Other well-known specialties include the Okinawa "Soba" (buckwheat noodles), mango, a bitter version of a melon called "Goya," black sugar, sea grapes, and much more. Okinawans eat a small amount of fish as well. The tastes you experience are quite different from what you would get in typical Japanese food.

In Japan, Okinawa is known for its optimal conditions to enjoy water sports. The archipelago in Okinawa is the best diving destination in Japan. Divers and snorkelers find heaven in the waters as they are home to more than 400 types of corals, five types of sea turtles, and numerous types of tropical fish, in addition to manta rays, hammerhead sharks and whale sharks. Surfing is another famous aquatic activity in Okinawa. Surfers come across some quite challenging waves. Offshore fishing can also be enjoyed in the region. Some of the fish species that can be spotted all year round in the waters are mahi mahi, tuna and marlin.

Josh Shulman, Author of "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen" [ www.allyoucanjapan.com]

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