Okinawa may well be a paradise of endless summer renowned for its daytime sunshine, but it also has unique charms after the sun sets. If you're an outdoors kind of person, try a night dive in the waters of the Kerama Islands or set out on a jungle expedition. For couples, we recommend viewing the illuminated Shuri Castle, taking photos under the stars, and enjoying the night views of Chatan Town's night market and American Village. If you're spending time in Naha, you can take your pick from a night of immersion in Okinawan culture with live island songs and Okinawan cuisine, or an all-nighter of dancing at local clubs until morning. Check out these top night spots from Okinawa's endless selection of attractions.

    1

    Night diving on Tokashiki Island

    • Photo
    • Adventure
    • Unusual

    Located to the west of the main island of Okinawa, the Kerama Islands are one of the best diving spots in Okinawa, known for the beauty of their coral, the transparency of the sea, and the unique deep "Kerama Blue" tones. The largest island in the chain is Tokashiki Island. One of the most intriguing ways to approach this island is to explore the sea at night, when it takes on an appearance that's completely different from the daytime image of the Kerama Islands. At night you can observe nocturnal creatures such as crabs and shrimp that are asleep during the day, and take a close-up look at sleeping fish. The "sea sparkle" plankton form what looks like a starry sky shining in the sea. Also, the coral spawning in June is a precious moment that can only be seen at night. This snow-like scene is also called "summer snow". Tokashiki Island is about an hour by diving boat from Tomari Port on the main island.

    Location: Tokashiki Village, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by tour company

    Map

    photo by Vincent C. Chen (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    2

    Listen to live songs by the Nēnēs group while dining on Okinawan cuisine at Shimauta

    Located right in the middle of the Kokusai-dori street, Shima Uta is a live music venue where you can catch performances from Nēnēs. Formed in 1990, Nēnēs is a female group that sings traditional Okinawan music. At Shima Uta you can enjoy Okinawan foods while listening to the group, dressed in traditional Okinawan outfits, play songs with the taiko and sanshin. A glass of Okinawa's classic Orion beer goes wonderfully well with Goya Chanpuru (bitter gourd stir-fry) and Okinawan Hirayachi pancakes. Also make sure you try the Tofuyo, a dish of Shimadofu (island tofu) steeped in Awamori liquor, together with a cup of Shima Uta's own "Golden Flower" Awamori. If you're struggling to choose from the menu, go for the Nēnēs Set option containing samples of all the classic Okinawan dishes. There's an all-you-can-drink option too, but obviously this is to be enjoyed in moderation...

    Location: 885 Nakadomari, Onna Village, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0415, Japan

    Open: Hall: daily from 8 am to 11 pm. Takeout counter: 24/7

    Map
    3

    Night walk in Southeast Botanical Gardens

    About an hour's drive north of Naha Airport, Southeast Botanical Gardens in Okinawa City offers night tours for a limited time during the summer. These tours feature illuminated tropical plants together with digital art using projection mapping. Southeast Botanical Gardens has a "water paradise" area as well as a botanical garden area, and you can see more than 30,000 tropical and subtropical plants covering about 1,300 species. Highlights include huge plants such as the baobab, with its uniquely upside-down look, the dragon tree, which is said to have the longest life of any tree in the world, and a row of 25-metre-high Yusura palm trees. From June to August, pink and white lotus blooms all over the pond, and bright red hibiscus can be enjoyed all year round on Akabana Street.

    Location: 2146 Chibana, Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture 904-2143, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Map

    photo by HKRMSK (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Starry Sky Photo Tour

    Fancy taking an unforgettable photo under a vast starry sky? Okinawa Starry Sky Studio offers private photo tours limited to one group at a time. This is a great opportunity to have a professional photographer take a special photo to commemorate your family trip or honeymoon. The tour takes around 60 to 90 minutes and the location is the seaside of Yambaru in the northern area of the main island of Okinawa, renowned for its untouched nature. Kouri Island is crowded with tourists during the day, but at night it's enveloped in complete darkness, except for the quiet sandy beach shining beneath the infinite stars in the sky. So how does it work? Simply find the perfect shooting location, pose, smile if you want to, and the professional photographer will take a beautiful picture of you under the starry sky. The finished photo will definitely be a keeper.

    Location: Location: Kouri, Nakijin village, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0406, Japan Okinawa Starry Sky Studio: No. 105 Riviere Hana, 1528-4 Umusa, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0006, Japan

    Open: Please confirm tour times when making your booking.

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    5

    Dance at the epica club

    The largest club in Okinawa Prefecture, epica is a resort-style dance club in Naha City that opened in the summer of 2015. The luxurious interior is a throwback to Japan's economic boom years in the 1980s, but it's equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system. Here you can dance the night away with various genres of music including house, hip-hop, R&B and pop. Entertainers and popular DJs who play throughout Japan are often invited as guests, so the best time to visit is when there's a renowned guest DJ. There are also menus of all-you-can-eat sweets, fruits, and ice cream, so you'll definitely want to drop by if you have a sweet tooth. The venue is usually crowded with Okinawan regulars who have the privilege of discounted prices.

    Location: Namura Plaza Building 3rd Floor, 1-5-1 Matsuyama, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0032, Japan

    Open: Daily from 9 pm to 5 am.

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    6

    Illumination of Shuri Castle

    Shuri Castle, a World Heritage Site that's full of tourists during the daytime, was the political, diplomatic, and cultural centre of the Ryukyu Kingdom that prospered for 450 years. The illumination of Shuri Castle at night, its vermilion structure glowing in the light, is also one of Okinawa's must-see attractions. The castle walls and outer areas are lit up from sunset until midnight all year round. The best place to see this is on the banks of the Ryutanike artificial pond in Shuri Castle Park. Visible in the distance over the pond, Shuri Castle looks fantastic as it emerges illuminated from the dark. Another option, if you want to try something luxurious, is to stay at the nearby Double Tree by Hilton Naha Shuri Castle hotel and watch from your room as the illumination of Shuri Castle gradually appears.

    Location: Ryutanike: 1-chome, Shurimawashi-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture 903-0816, Japan DoubleTree by Hilton Naha Shuri Castle: 1-132-1 Shuriyamagawa-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture 903-0825, Japan

    Open: Open from after sunset until midnight.

    Map

    photo by Qiuqizhenghong (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Chatan Town Hamby Night Market

    Located in the town of Chatan in the middle of the main island of Okinawa, Araha Beach is full of American ambience. One of the more exotic spots here is the Hamby Night Market, which is held on weekends around Sunset Street. As there's a US military base nearby, this flea market mainly deals in used clothing and goods made in America, but there are also stalls where you can enjoy international cuisine. Mihama American Village, which is within walking distance of the market, is another must-visit attraction. At night the Ferris wheel and shops in the area are lit with vivid neon lights, producing a dazzlingly photogenic scene.

    Location: 2-16-5 Chatan, Chatan Town, Nakagami District, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0116, Japan

    Open: Weekends: from noon to 10 pm

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    8

    Supper at Okinawa's first drive-in

    If you're hungry after a night on the town, why not head on over to the drive-in for a midnight snack? SEA SIDE DRIVE-IN, on the coast of Onna Village, was founded in 1967 as Okinawa's first drive-in restaurant. The American-style retro building is a local landmark. From inside you can enjoy great ocean views. This drive-in is open 24 hours a day for takeaways. The menu covers pretty much everything from Japanese to Western and Chinese food, including rib steak, fried chicken, katsudon (pork rice bowl), and sweet and sour pork. But you might be better off going for the light meal menu as a midnight snack. The tonkotsu-based soup and seaside sandwiches are particularly excellent.

    Location: 885 Nakadomari, Onna Village, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0415, Japan

    Open: Hall: open from 8 am to 11 pm. Takeout counter: 24/7

    Map

    photo by cage.okada (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Looking for nocturnal animals on Ishigaki Island

    For some excitement in the dark, explore Ishigaki Island at night in search of nocturnal creatures that live in the Yaeyama Islands. The Yaeyama Bat, which hangs from palm trees and has red eyes, is a huge bat that has a metre-long wingspan. Watch in awe as they fly between the palm trees. You'll also find the endangered Coconut Crab, a large hermit crab, that lurks in mangrove forests and caves. Other amazing sights include the dance of thousands of Japan's smallest fireflies, the Yaeyama Hime-botaru, which can only be seen for a few hours after sunset from March to June. There are also many night tours where you can enjoy the nocturnal nature of Ishigaki Island, including a canoe tour of Miyara River where mangroves grow under the starry sky.

    Location: Various places in Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture

    Open: Hours vary by tour company

    Map

    photo by Rodrigo.Argenton (CC BY 3.0) modified

    10

    A primordial experience in the Uwaga Jungle

    • Adventure
    • Unusual

    A 30-minute drive south of Naha City, you can take a tour of the wild jungle that since ancient times been known as "Uwaga". The tour convenes at Okinawa World, where you can put on some long boots (wellies will do) and lights and board a Jeep to the entrance of the jungle. The path follows the fenceless cliffs, so you'll need to rely on lights to guide you through the darkness. Heading down the steep limestone road, you'll cross the bridge over a small river and go through a valley into a secret cave in the depths of the forest. You'll also follow the trails of fruit bats and huge leaf-covered tunnels through valleys surrounded by rocky cliffs and caves. Finally, look up at the banyan tree towering from the precipice as you head towards your goal. Advance reservation is required if you want to participate in the tour.

    Location: Visitor cabin in Okinawa World at 1336 Maegawa Tamagusuku, Nanjo City, Okinawa Prefecture 901-0616, Japan

    Open: Tour: starts from 7 pm (Hours vary by season. Duration: 80 minutes)

    Map

    photo by 663highland (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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