Guide Book Review: Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands


I’ll admit it, I find beaches boring. Laying out in the sun all day just doesn’t really appeal to me. For that reason, the Okinawa region of Japan hasn’t really appealed to me. So I really wasn’t sure if I was going to find much excitement from the Tuttle guide book Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands.

As often happens, I was wrong.

The Okinawa Experience

Photo Credit: Ippei & Janine Naoi

Photo Credit: Ippei & Janine Naoi

Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands make up the southernmost prefecture of Japan. When the Japanese are looking for a sunny and warm spot to visit, these islands do not disappoint.

But this island chain was not always a part of Japan. It has it’s own unique history and people, which makes a visit to Okinawa all the more interesting.

The Ryukyu Kingdom had a tributary relationship with the Chinese Empire beginning in the 15th century and was invaded by the Japanese Shimazu clan in 1609. Although Japan maintained strong influence over the islands, the Ryukyu Kingdom maintained a considerable degree of domestic political freedom for over two hundred years. It wasn’t until 1879 that Ryukyu became the Okinawa Prefecture. For these reasons you will see a lot of history and design that could be considered non-Japanese.

Of course the Okinawa island is probably best known in the West for the World War 2 battle that occurred there. You will find plenty of plaques and spots commemorating those sad days, but the people, history, food and weather are definitely the best reasons to visit the islands.

What’s Inside?

Photo Credit: masaaki miyara

Photo Credit: masaaki miyara

The guidebook calls itself “the first comprehensive guide to the entire Ryukyu chain”, and I have to wholeheartedly agree. While I haven’t read many guides on Okinawa, I think you would be hard pressed to find a more detailed guide. There’s even a few paragraphs describing a private fenced in island that you can’t really visit but the author stuck his head over the fence and says there’s a substantial home and a heli pad on the property. Now that’s dedication! :)

Since there’s so many small islands in the Ryukyu chain, it’s not possible to devote a lot of space to the smaller ones. But there’s a ton of great information on the major sights and services on the larger islands and it feels like even the smallest bit of rock gets a shout out and directions on how to visit it if you are so inclined. I found myself reading the entire book because of these tiny details about such remote places that hardly anyone will visit.

The guidebook does a great job getting you from place to place. With so many islands strung out over such a wide area, it can be difficult to get to the places you want to visit. The guide takes away a lot of the stress in finding out which ferry goes where and when. I think you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you pack this in your travel bag.

And if hot weather, beaches and blue water are what you live for, you won’t be disappointed. The author not only details which beaches are best, but also which ones that are secluded and private. So if being alone in the sun is your thing, this book has you covered…even if you’re not :)

Probably the best recommendation that I can have for this guide book is – I had no real interest in visiting Okinawa before I started reading. Now I can’t wait to go :)

You can find a copy of Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands here. And if you have any of your own travel experiences or reasons to visit Okinawa, we’d love to hear them in your comments!

3 Responses to “Guide Book Review: Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands”

  1. Robert Walker  on May 15th, 2014

    I thank you for your comprehensive and well informed review. Only someone who has read the book can really appreciate some of the tiny details – you’ve done this, and I’m grateful. If you ever wish to visit any of the places mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. And if you come to Okinawa main island, let us know, we’ll be happy to show you around.

    most sincerely, Robert Walker

  2. Travis  on May 15th, 2014

    Great to meet you Robert! You certainly have an amazing knowledge of the islands that I may just have to take you up on :D

  3. Jeremy Rubier  on May 9th, 2016

    Fabulous book Robert…and I would like to talk to you about my next feature movie that will happen in one of this island! Please contact me if you have a minute :)

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