Okinawa, Japan

Rifle Beach

Digging up WW2 guns at Rifle Beach

Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Archipelago, was originally a country in its own right but taken over by Japan in 1872. The region is most famous for the Battle of Okinawa which lasted for 82 days at the end of WW2 in 1945. Around 50 ships and over 4500 aircraft were lost in the battle, after which the Americans occupied Okinawa and set up a military administration lasting 27 years. After the war, weapons were dumped in one area and munitions in another, and though the mines were cleared, some still remain.

Okinawa Island is surrounded by cobalt sea fringed with coral reefs, and there are many excellent dive sites. The Kerama Islands have very healthy coral and great visibility, and you’re likely to see turtles and the occasional shark as well as plenty of fish life. There are passages where you may see whale sharks or manta rays, depending on the time of year.

Closer to the main island there are several sites where you can find weapons and ammunition that were dumped after the War. At Rifle Beach there are rifles and flame throwers. Several wrecks have been discovered, and many more are being found. The USS Emmons is a US destroyer that was sunk by kamikaze action during the Battle of Okinawa. In February you can snorkel with whales on the far side of the main island

Yonaguni

The Yonaguni Monument

The Yonaguni Monument

In 1987 Kihachiro Aratake was out looking for new dive sites and came across a huge underwater rock formation that resembles a pyramid. There is still heavily divided opinion about whether it is natural or man-made, but if it was man-made, then it was done during the last ice age, as that’s the last time the water level was low enough. Other dive sites in the area also have very interesting topography.

Yonaguni Island is less than 30km in circumference and has no traffic lights. The dive centre is located a short walk from the boat and the hotel. In between is a small general store where you can buy food and drinks.

The Yonaguni Monument

The Yonaguni Monument

During winter, an English-speaking guide lives at Yonaguni for 3 months. Outside these times, English may be very limited. The region is recommended for experienced divers only (100+ dives and AOW minimum) as the monument is a fabulous but physically stressful dive. Currents are generally very strong, and bubbles sometimes go horizontal here. Safety is a big priority, and no decompression diving is

allowed. All dives at Yonaguni are guided, this is compulsory as they are all drift dives and the group must stay together. There is usually more than one guide so if someone runs low on air, they can go up with a guide without affecting the rest of the group. The boat is very good with lots of space, seating at the edges, canopy cover and a large cabin for dry gear.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Entry Requirements

Australian passport holders require six months validity past their intended stay. A visa is not required for stays under 90 days. For more information and for holders of other passports, please refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for the latest travel advice.

Money

The Japanese Yen (JPY) is the unit of currency. One Australian dollar buys approximately 90 JPY. US Dollars are also widely accepted in Okinawa due to the large American military population. Not all shops accept credit cards and not all ATMs accept foreign cards. 7 Eleven always accepts foreign cards, and the dive centre can direct you to others nearby.

Language

Japanese is the official language; however the Okinawan languages Uchina-guchi are also widely spoken. English is not commonly spoken outside the American military bases.

Electricity

100V and uses an unearthed American plug type (2 pins only). In Australia you cannot buy an adaptor that goes from three pins to two pins so it is recommended to either use a universal plug adaptor, or take a European adaptor and buy a Europe to Japan adaptor when you arrive.

Time Zone

GMT+9 (1 hour behind Sydney)

Clothing

Casual clothing (not beach wear) is suitable for most restaurants and public areas.

Climate

Okinawa has clear seasons and air temperature ranges from 17°C in January/February to 30°C in August-September. The climate is pleasant throughout the year.

Water Temperature

Starts at 17°C in December and ranges to 30°C in July.

Departure Tax

None at 1 July 2012.

Tipping

Tipping is generally not expected or encouraged by the Japanese, however the dive operator is American and you may choose to give a tip of 10-15% if you experience excellent service.

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