October 31, 2012

The Best Sunsets and Sunrises

Sunset on Okinawa
Okinawa Sunset

Watching the Sun Set or Rise on Okinawa 

Okinawa is an island, and as such, it has a beautiful uninterrupted ocean view in every direction. So whether you love waking up early to see a sunrise, or setting out in the evening for the sunset, you won't be disappointed on Okinawa.

Best Places to Watch the Sunrise or Sunset

Okinawa offers plenty of locations to view the sunset or sunrise. On one occasion I simply pulled off to the side of the road on a drive a long the coast to snap a few pictures of a perfect sunset.

But there are two types of locations that offer the best sunrise and sunset viewing; Castles and Beaches.

Castles on Okinawa offer the highest vantage points for viewing a sunset or sunrise with some providing a view of both the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea.

For a sunrise, look up castles closer to the east side of the island. Some possibilities include Katsuran Castle and Nakagusuku Castle.

For watching the sunset, try a castle closer to the west side of the island.

Watching the Sunset or Sunrise at a Beach

Okinawa is lined with beaches, so one can simple chose which part of the island to view the sunset/sunrise from and drive a long the coast until a beach appears.

But for those who are interested in specific locations, here are a few possibilities.

For a sunrise, one great location is the Comprehensive park located near Kadena AFB and Camp Foster. This park not only has beautiful paths and scenery, it also has a nice beach with a good view of the sunrise.

One of the most well known beaches for viewing the sunset is called, very appropriately, Sunset Beach. It is located on HWY 58 near the Mihama Jusco.

Sunset Beach offers a perfect view of the sunset and many people like to sit and enjoy watching the sun slowly slide down the sky. This beach is also very close to plenty of after dark activities, including shopping and restaurants.

There are several other options for viewing the sunset on the beach. Araha Beach, Tropical Beach and the Kadena Marina each offer perfect locations for sunset viewing.

No matter where you choose to watch the sunset or sunrise, just be sure to do it, it is worth waking up for, or taking the time to do.

October 22, 2012

What is the Weather on Okinawa Like?

Weather on Okinawa - What Clothes to Wear for a Visit

Okinawa is a subtropical Pacific island with many beaches and outdoor activities. But what is the weather like and what should people visiting plan to bring and wear?

The Coast of Okinawa - (c) Okinawa Travel Guide

Typical Weather on Okinawa

The weather on Okinawa is very different compared to most parts in the world, especially North America. There is very little fall season, and most people would scoff at calling the colder months on Okinawa, winter.

Generally speaking, the summertime is hot, and the wintertime is cool, but not cold. Here is a breakdown of the average temperatures during the year:

  • Summer - May, June, July, August, September, October - Temperatures in the 80's, with the hottest days reaching the low 90's. Lows in the 70's during these months.
  • Fall - November - Highs in the mid 70's, lows in the mid 60's.
  • Winter - December, January and February - Highs in the 60's and lows in the 50's, almost never below 50 degrees.
  • Spring - March and April - highs in the 70's with lows in the 60's. 
As one can see, the weather on Okinawa is never actually cold, but does cool off during the winter months. 

Okinawa does get plenty of rain year round, with the wettest months being May and June. Average rainfall for these months is around 10 inches per month. 

While the summer is obviously the best time to enjoy the Okinawa beaches, it is also right in the middle of typhoon season which runs from May through November. 

Some years Okinawa gets only a few mild typhoons, but other years I have seen it get hit by 5 or more typhoons in only a few months. To see more about Typhoons, and how to prepare for them, visit the Typhoon Tips Page.

What to Wear when Visiting Okinawa

As one can see from the average temperatures, the winter months do require a few layers and maybe a light jacket to keep warm. Jeans or other long pants are enough to stay comfortably warm.

The summertime, stretching practically from April through October, is warm and worth of shorts and a t-shirt. 

Okinawa tends to be a casual place, with a similar island feel as Hawaii, but without the huge beachfront hotels and excessive tourists. 

For those interested in vacations to Okinawa, I would suggest the fall months as the water temperature is still very warm, as well as the air temperature. But prices and tourists have both reduced from the summer months of June through August.

Water temperature on Okinawa is very comfortable, getting into the 80's in the summer, and down in the 70's in the winter at the surface. While a wet suit is recommended for Scuba Diving, it isn't necessary for snorkeling even in the winter. 

October 3, 2012

Okinawa Castles - Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku castle ruins on okinawa
Nakagusuku Castle walls

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

Nakagusuku castle is an Okinawan castle from the 14th century. 

It is a very advanced structure for the time period, made with cut limestone and perfectly fit together without the use of mortar or cement. 

Nakagusuku castle is one of many castles built by Okinawan lords in each of the major villages throughout Okinawa. 

Other castles on Okinawa include: Katsuren Castle, Nago Castle, and the fully restored, Shuri Castle in Naha.

Nakagusuku castle is located near the middle of the island in Nakagusuku village, a little south of Kadena Air Base. It is also very close to the Haunted Hotel.

view from nakagusuku castle ruins on okinawa
Nakagusuku Castle - View of surrounding area and ocean

Brief History of Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku Castle Gate on Okinawa
Castle Gate
The castle was built sometime around 1350 AD by a Ryukyan Lord who made it his residence, based on artifacts found at the castle. 

During the next 200 years, several different lords occupied the castle and continued to build on it, adding several outer walls, and inner enclosures

In 1853, Commodore Perry visited Okinawa and conducted a survey of the castle, even making note of the advanced and durable design.

During the 1800's and early 1900's the castle is used for a city office and school grounds. In WWII, the city office is destroyed and the castle suffers some damages.

After the WWII, Nakagusuku castle is designated as a park, and between 1950 and 2000 various work has been done to restore the castle and improve the park surrounding it.

In 2006 Nakagusuku castle was selected as one of the 100 most famous Japanese Castles. 

Visiting Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku castle well
Looking up from the castle well
Nakagusuku castle makes a fantastic afternoon adventure for almost anyone. Both kids and adults will find it impressive and fascinating. Walking around a structure that is hundreds of years older than anything in American History is a spellbinding experience.

The location of the castle more than 100 meters above sea level on top of a hill gives it breathtaking views of the surrounding villages and ocean. One can even see Katsuren Castle located several miles away on the Katsuren Peninsula.

The castle itself has several different enclosures, gates and walled off sections. Some sections of the walls are open for visitors to walk around on. But take note of any signs and follow their directions, because the castle is still in the midst of full restoration.

The bold architecture and beautiful views make for a fun photo opportunity for any kind of photographer.

Nakagusuku castle ruins castle wall
Section still in need of restoration
It is fascinating to explore every part of this sprawling castle visualizing what it must have been like hundreds of years ago. There are a number of informational stands scattered throughout the castle grounds which offer bits of information on certain areas.

Visiting Nakagusuku castle costs only 400 yen per person and this goes directly towards funding the restoration of the castle.

The castle is fairly large with lots of steps and rough ground so wear appropriate footwear.

Parking and vending machines are available at the entrance to the castle, which can be found using Google Maps - Nakagusuku Castle.

For more information about the history, directions or group prices, visit the Nakagusuku Castle Official Website