How to get to Okinawa
The Okinawa archipelago is about 1600 km south from Tōkyō, 1100 km from Ōsaka and 600 km from the southern tip of the island of Kyūshū: these are important distances that require moving by plane (there are no regular ferry lines).
The main hub of Okinawa is the international airport of Naha, the main capital of the prefecture. From here it is possible to take connections to all the smaller islands. During the summer and the busy periods, also Tōkyō and Ōsaka may have charter or temporary flights to the southern islands of Miyako-jima and Ishigaki-jima.
Access from mainland Japan
Tōkyō is well connected with Okinawa, in particular the following direct flights are available:
Tōkyō Haneda HND – Naha OKA (main island) with ANA, JAL and Skymark in about 2 hours and 30 minutes
Tōkyō Narita NRT – Naha OKA with several low cost airlines, such as Jet Star Japan, Peach Aviation and others
Tōkyō Haneda HND – Ishigaki ISG with ANA and JAL in about 3 hours and 15 minutes
Tōkyō Haneda HND – Miyakojima MMY with ANA and JAL in about 3 hours
Tōkyō Haneda HND – Amami Ōshima ASJ (although it is part of the Kagoshima Prefecture) with JAL in about 2 hours and 15 minutes
Ōsaka Itami ITM – Naha OKA (main island) with ANA, JAL and Skymark in about 2 hours
Ōsaka Kansai KIX – Naha OKA with several low cost airlines, such as Jet Star Japan, Peach Aviation and others
Ōsaka Itami ITM – Ishigaki ISG with ANA and JAL (seasonal) in about 2 hours and 45 minutes
Ōsaka Itami ITM – Miyakojima MMY with ANA and JAL (seasonal) in about 2 hours and 30 minutes
Ōsaka Itami ITM – Amami Ōshima ASJ (although it is part of the Kagoshima Prefecture) with JAL in about 2 hours
Sapporo Shin-Chitose CTS – Naha OKA with ANA in about 4 hours (this is Japan’s longest domestic flight!)
Nagoya Chūbu NGO – Naha OKA (main island) with ANA, JAL, Skymark, Jet Star Japan, Vanilla Air, Solashido and other low cost carriers in about 2 hours and 10 minutes
Fukuoka FUK – Naha OKA (main island) with ANA, JAL, Skymark, Vanilla Air, Peach Aviation and other low cost carriers in about 1 hour and 45 minutes
If you want to go and return directly from / to Okinawa (Naha), you will find flights flying with Korean Air and Asiana via Seoul, with China Eastern via Shanghai, with Air China via Beijing, Eva Air or China Airlines via Taipei. Other directly linked destinations are Hawaii and Hong Kong.
Getting around within Okinawa
Some geography now!
The islands of Okinawa stretch for about 800 km (including also the Amami islands which, as we already stated, are not formally part of the Okinawa Prefecture, but being relatively similar in climate and environment, we treat altogether in this article) between the East China Sea and the Ocean Pacific, between Japan and Taiwan.
Basically the islands are distributed in three large archipelagos and a couple of offshore islands:
- The islands of Okinawa proper, in the North, which are sometimes divided into sub-groups: a) Amami Islands b) Okinawa main island c) Archipelago of Kerama
- The Miyako islands, to the south, focus on the core of Miyako-jima and including other islands, such as Irabu, Shimoji and Tarama
- The Yaeyama Islands, the most southerly, including the main island of Ishigaki, as well as Taketomi, Iriomote, Kohama and Yonaguni, the most southern of Japan
- The Daito Islands, two little islands located 350 km offshore, towards the Pacific, extremely isolated.
If traveling between the main islands (where Naha International Airport is located) involves taking a ferry or a hydrofoil (for those in a hurry, small turboprop aircraft are also available) to the more distant islands, like the Miyako or the Yaeyama, you necessarily need an airplane.
The Naha Airport has many flights a day to reach Miyako and Ishigaki, respectively in 50 and 70 minutes, at prices starting from 4, 5000 yen for the one way if you book in advance.
A couple of flights a day is available between Naha and Yonaguni, with about 1 hour and 40 minutes, as well as a flight between Naha and Kita-Daitō, one between Naha and Minami-Daito and a flight between Kita and Minami Daitō (this flight, only 15 minutes, is the shortest flight in Japan!).
Apart from these, you will find air links between Naha and Amami and several short flights to the smaller islands, for example between Miyako and Tarama, between Ishigaki and Yonaguni, or Hateruma. In the future, by extending the section, we will also deal with these islands.