Many moons ago, the islands at the end of the Southern tip of Japan known as the RyuKyu Kindgom were not part of Japan. In 1609 the Japanese Satsuma clan invaded the islands presumably because they wanted a bit of the lovely emerald water. in 1879 following the Meiji restoration, Japan decided that they wanted to keep the RyuKyu kingdom for their own and from then on it became known as Okinawa prefecture.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Okinawa was under the administration of the United States - I think they wanted some of that emerald water too. During this time, the US established a few military bases which the locals have been complaining about for years. The US eventually responded by saying that they would relocate a particular base but that Japan would have to pay for the expenses - I cant remember the amount but it was enough to buy a small moon.
Okinawa was handed back over to Japan on May 1972.
Because we didn't book way in advance (we booked two days before we decided to go), the tickets and hotel costa few body parts. Do book well in advance if you decide to go. If you want cheap tickets though, you may want to risk going in Typhoon September season where ticket prices take a steep dive.
Woke up at 5AM, left at 6 and got to Haneda airport within an hour - before we knew it we were in Okinawa. While we were still in Japan, it felt like we were somewhere else. It kind of reminded me of Penang in Malaysia - the architecture, temperature, colors, typefaces used in signs, vegetation etc.
This was an unmanaged beach meaning no showers or nets - some beaches such as Emerald beach have nets to keep you safe from creatures such as giant pirates-of-carribean-type octopus and smaller less harmful creatures such as jelly fish - but then it does depend on the species.
You will encounter signs as you enter beaches of the "get-stung-by-this-fish-and-die-within-60-seconds-so-be-careful" type.
Emerald beach gets its name from the color of the water I guess as the water was truly so. The showers and nets here all for free. Manza beach was not free and cost something like 4000 yen for parking and admittance.
It was the first time I tried Shikuwasa (I have no idea what its called in English but its シークワサー in Japanese) which could be found all over Okinawa - it kind of tastes like a cross between orange and lime. I was addicted after a few sips and have been trying to get hold of it in Tokyo - cant find it anywhere ><
Went to have a look down town in Naha which is the city where the airport is. These are called Shisa - a pair of mythical lion/dog/dragon type beasts. One has its mouth open to ward off evil spirits while the other has its mouth closed to keep the good spirits in.
Some reasearch say they originate from Egypt.
Okinawa is featured on the Japan Tourism x Mirai Suenaga map of Japan which Japan Tourism is handing out at various places and events worldwide - if you are arriving in Narita Tokyo then look out for it!