|The Spell of Okinawa
Japan’s various regions all have their own distinctive characteristics, but Okinawa is the most exotic part of the country. This long island chain between the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea extends down from the Japanese mainland almost to Taiwan. The islands are characterized by stunning coral reefs, pristine white-sand beaches, lush semitropical vegetation, colorful marine life and transparent turquoise waters.
Okinawa is home to its own unique mystical culture. This can be traced back to the days when the islands formed the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, which as a result of extensive foreign trade combined influences from China, Japan and Southeast Asia to forge its own entrancing identity. That cultural identity is ever present on the islands today. Okinawans are known as warm, friendly, fun-loving people, and their positive attitude towards life finds expression in the fact that Okinawa is home to the longest-lived people in the world.
At the western tip of Japan’s biggest island of Honshu is situated the prefecture of Yamaguchi. Separated from the island of Kyushu by a narrow strait, Yamaguchi Prefecture acts as a gateway to both Kyushu and nearby Korea. With the Sea of Japan to the north and Inland Sea to the south, Yamaguchi Prefecture has a rocky, indented coastline that is one of its more attractive features.
Likewise attractive with its old-world character is the prefectural capital, also called Yamaguchi, which at one time because of its flourishing culture gained through trade with China and Korea became known as the “Kyoto of the West.” Education has long been stressed in Yamaguchi Prefecture, as evident in the fact that some of the men of talent it produced were a driving force in shaping the modern nation of Japan towards the end of the nineteenth century.