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Visitors to Okinawa are often surprised by how different the southernmost prefecture is from mainland Japan.

Rather than neon signs and bullet trains, this tiny island is often characterized by its relaxed pace, stunning ocean vistas, distinctive cuisine, and locals who live to 100. But Okinawa is more than a laid back vacation spot. It’s an island committed to its own cultural identity, celebrated and reinforced through community festivals like the Naha Tug of War, dragon boat races, and Eisa dance competitions.

Matador articles about Okinawa have been contributed by long term expats who’ve written about what it’s really like to live here. You’ll find photo essays celebrating obon, wildlife, and dance troops, advice for what NOT to do, and personal accounts of celebrating New Year’s Day Okinawan style.

From cherry blossoms to mountainsides on fire, crowds of men in loincloths to horseback...