Naha is the largest city in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture -- and one of the country's most well-known. While visitors could spend a week or more exploring the city, there is also much to be seen in a day or two from busy public markets offering local foods to castle ruins to architecturally breathtaking temples, art museums and a historic mausoleum.
Okinawa has a fascinating history: As capital of the Ryukyu islands -- which stretch in a 700-mile arc from the Japan's southernmost large island, Kyushu, to within sight of Taiwan (on a clear day) -- the 55 islands were run as an independent kingdom for a hundred years, trading with China, Malaysia and China. As a result, the islands have a culture, cuisine and language distinct from the rest of Japan, with a vibe and a feel more similar to Hawaii (on the same parallel, though 1,100 miles to the east) than the rest of the country.
The best-preserved example of the time was the magnificent Shuri Castle, but it tragically burnt down in 2019. In more recent history, Okinawa is best known as the site of a massive Allied invasion in the closing stages of World War II, immortalized in countless books and films. A must-visit attraction is the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, which recounts the battle.
Okinawa is also famous as the birthplace of karate, and you can organize a visit to see a demonstration during your time here.
The climate is sub-tropical with year-round temperatures averaging 72 Fahrenheit, with hot, wet summers, while winters are dry and mild.
Naha, Okinawa has plans to become a turnaround port (where cruises begin and end) as it's well served by direct flights from Tokyo, Taiwan, mainland China and Hong Kong. A second berth to increase capacity is reportedly in the works, as well as a large cruise complex with shops and restaurants, due to open in 2021.
--By Adam Coulter, UK Editor