Okinawa consists of 160 large and small islands including 49 inhabited islands over a vast ocean area ranging from approximately 400km south to north and 1,000km east to west. The coral reefs, crystal-clear blue seas, white sand beaches, and beautiful natural scenery combine to form different images on each island. You can also come face to face with the unique Ryukyu culture and legends.
From mid-15th century for approximately 450 years, there was a kingdom centering on Shurijo Castle in Okinawa. “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu” were registered as UNESCO’ s World Heritage Sites in 2000. The kingdom also developed its own culture and belief. By watching castle ruins and architectural style, you can learn about the historical background of Ryukyu Kingdom and the wisdom of Ryukyuan people.
In Okinawa, pottery is called yachimun. The quality of pottery improved through exchanges with neighboring countries such as China and Korea. In 1682, pottery kilns that were in three different places were brought together in Tsuboya, Naha, which then became the birthplace of Tsuboya-yaki, the pottery that represents Okinawa. In 1972, as a result of Jiro Kinjo, the Living National Treasure of Okinawa, opening a studio in Yomitan, many potters followed, and Yomitan became a place known for yachimun alongside Tsuboya in Naha.
Sanshin is the prominent instrument representative of the performing arts in Okinawa and said to have come from China, becoming a common musical instrument in Ryukyu around the 16th century. It is still used to perform Ryukyuan music, and you can still hear the sound of sanshin everywhere in Okinawa today.
Ryukyu dance is largely comprised of four variations, the classical dance, casual dance, creative dance of the modern day, and folk dance, handed down in various regions. It is performed with sanshin and singing as the main components, accompanied by harp, flute, drums, and fiddle. In 2009, it was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset of Japan.
© Okinawa Convention＆Visitors Bureau