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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Seifa Utaki 斎場御嶽

The birthplace of Okinawa's spiritual past

Only an hour's drive from Naha, the Chinen Peninsula feels like a different world. Find yourself at the dawn of Okinawan history at Seifa Utaki, where small shrines mingle in harmony with the rocks and trees. There is plenty to see on and around the peninsula, including Okinawa's oldest castles, densely forested hillsides and the island of Kudaka. Plan your day trip of the area around the ferry times.

The triangular rock formation known as Sangui.

Don't Miss

  • Sangui - the archway of the goddess Amamikyu
  • The ruins of Okinawa's two oldest castles, Tamagusuku and Chinen
  • Kudaka Island - where kings went to pray

How to Get There

Take the 38 bus on the Shikiya Line headed for Shikiya from Kamiizumi, a one-minute walk from Naha Bus Terminal. Get off at Seifa Utaki Iriguchi. There are 53 stops and it takes about one hour.

By car, take Route 329 out of Naha heading east and connect to route 331. Seifa Utaki is just off Route 331 on the Chinen Peninsula. If you avoid the heavy traffic, it takes about 45 minutes.

A goddess descends

Seifa Utaki has been a sacred place to Okinawans throughout the ages. As you walk beneath the triangular rock formation known as Sangui, you are literally walking in the mythical footsteps of the gods.

According to the first written history of Okinawa, this is where the goddess Amamikyu came down to Earth to give birth, going on to populate the islands with her descendants. After the islands became part of Japan, the legends mingled with Shinto, the indigenous Japanese religion, but Seifa Utaki continued to be revered as a holy place.

Shrines among the rocks at Seifa Utaki

Look out for two clay pots beneath two great stalactites near the Sangui formation. They collect water that was used in the holy rituals. There are many more prayer spots to discover along the trail, and small shrines nestled among the rocks and trees.

Rising from the ashes

The second oldest castle in Okinawa, Chinen Castle, is just a short walk from Seifa Utaki. Built more than 700 years ago, the castle is now in ruins, but a rebuilding programme has been slowly bringing it back to life.

It's easy to see why the site was selected for the castle all those centuries ago. It commands a fine view of the Pacific Ocean, and of Kudaka Island about 3 kilometers out to sea.

Okinawa's oldest castle, Tamagusuku Castle, is just a 15-minute drive south on Route 331. These ruins are unrestored, which means you have to conjure up the picture of its past grandeur yourself, but there is plenty to fire your imagination.

Island fit for a goddess

According to legend, Amamikyu created the island of Kudaka after descending to the human realm. The kings of Okinawa had to visit the island in order to pray to the spirits of their ancestors. Now you can retrace their pilgrimage by high-speed ferry from Chinen. Visit the Chinen Marine Leisure Center and you can take tours of the coral waters as well as a ferry to Kudaka Island.

There is a festival called Izaiho in which all of the women on the island between the ages of 30 and 69 take part as shrine maidens. But while most traditional festivals are annual, this one only takes place in the Year of the Horse, which is once every 12 years. The most recent festival was held in 2014 so the next one won't be until 2026.

Sample the specialty dish of the island, irabu, or sea snake soup, while you are there. It is said to be highly nutritious and invigorating.