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Driving Sustainable Development in Okinawa: Embracing the SDGs

Learn how Okinawan organizations are achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Plan your trip with JAL to immerse yourself in social and environmental good.
Driving Sustainable Development in Okinawa: Embracing the SDGs

Find out how Okinawa is creating a sustainable future through local enterprise.

Okinawa is home to remarkable history, culture, and biodiversity. Situated in Japan's subtropical archipelago, this beautiful island chain thrives with natural beauty. Yet, protecting its landscape for generations to come requires a thoughtful, dedicated approach. Only then can we address some of society's most challenging questions.

This is why Okinawa has committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nations. These 17 interlinked objectives are a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” As part of the landmark Agenda 2030 roadmap, 193 countries adopted these targets to enhance the global community.

So, how is Okinawa achieving the SDGs in Japan? Local businesses and organizations can become Okinawa SDGs Partners. This ensures companies, groups, and individuals commit to improving the future. To become a partner, each operation must promote SDGs to locals. Plus, they must work to elevate the region's sustainability credentials. Together, this approach can improve Okinawa for everyone.

How Okinawa is committed to the SDGs

How Okinawa is committed to the SDGs

Okinawa has continued to address the SDGs since they were established in 2015. In response to SDG 13 (Climate Action), Okinawa purchases carbon offsets to offset the environmental impact of local events. This includes sports competitions, festivals, and seminars. For example, the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau uses carbon offsets to balance emissions from its eco-bag production.

The prefecture has also installed extensive renewable energy systems to combat climate change. Okinawa is now home to over a thousand solar installations. Plus, wind farms and responsible forest management have helped the prefecture move away from fossil fuels. These strategies address SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).

Many private enterprises have also implemented strategies that benefit Okinawa socially and environmentally. Local artisans produce traditional crafts using highly sustainable methods. Other businesses have adopted forward-thinking technology to reduce waste. These strategies help Okinawa achieve the SDGs and bring about a greener future.

Find the leading SDG initiatives in Okinawa Prefecture

Everyone who visits Okinawa has the chance to immerse themselves in community-minded organizations. Below are operations putting social and environmental good at the forefront.

Take a guided adventure through Yanbaru’s unique forest

Take a guided adventure through Yanbaru’s unique forest

Yanbaru is the name given to Northern Okinawa’s lush forested region. Translated to “densely forested mountains,” this unique biodiverse area offers incredible adventure activities. Yanbaru was named Japan’s fifth Natural World Heritage site in 2021. Here, you'll find wonderful hikes in the forest and along low-lying mountain streams.

Founded in 2016, Yanbaru National Park is one of the top outdoor destinations in Northern Okinawa, featuring more than 130,000 square kilometers of protected landscapes. Home to historic villages and a beautiful coastline, the interior subtropical forests and limestone karsts provide shelter for numerous rare and endangered species.

The Guided Adventure Walk at Yambaru Eco Tourism Institute is one of the best ways to get involved. These tours, led by local experts, focus on the principles of learning about and nurturing the forest. Home to some of Japan’s most endangered flora and fauna, preserving regions like Yanbaru for generations to come is vital. This tour is currently only available for Japanese speakers, but an English tour is being prepared.

After gathering on the edge of the forest, the tour descends the hillside into the jungle. Surrounded by nature, you’ll learn about the bird songs emerging from the trees above. You’ll also hear about the rare native animals and plants found throughout the forest. For example, the Hikagehego fern can grow over 10 meters tall. These ancient plants recall the jungles of Japan's southernmost islands.

The Yanbaru Adventure Walk helps visitors engage with their natural surroundings. As you walk through the greenery, you'll develop a personal feel for the forest. Through hands-on education and engaging conversation, this adventure achieves SDG 15 (Life on Land). Experience this Natural World Heritage Site to discover what makes Okinawa so unique.

• Address: 248-1, Ada, Kunigami Village, Kunigami-Gun Okinawa 905-1503

How to get to Yambaru Eco Tourism Institute: From Naha Airport, the best way to reach Yambaru Eco Tourism Institute is with a rental car. Head north on the Okinawa Expressway before taking National Route 58 through Nago. Then, Then, take Prefectural Road 2 to reach your destination.

Explore plant-based cloth in a historic village

Explore plant-based cloth in a historic village

It's easy to find centuries-old traditional crafts in every corner of Japan. In Okinawa, perhaps the best-known is kijoka-bashofu. Here, artisans extract fibers from the bashō plant – a Japanese banana tree – to produce a wonderful woven cloth. This is often used to create summer kimonos, with each garment taking up to six months to assemble.

Located in the subtropical south, Okinawa’s climate gets hot and muggy. Yet the light and smooth texture of bashofu fabric make it perfect for when temperatures soar. During the Ryukyu Kingdom, lasting from 1429 to 1879, bashofu became the fabric of choice for aristocratic Okinawans.

Kijoka-bashofu became a National Traditional Craft Product in 1988. It's a rare and beautiful material. Produced solely in Kijoka, Ogimi Village, each item is painstakingly made by hand. Traditional products like noren curtains and tablecloths are also made with kijoka-bashofu.

Explore plant-based cloth in a historic village

Established in 1986, the Bashofu Hall in Ogimi Village features an engaging exhibition space dedicated to bashofu banana fiber clothing and other products. Check out this video on the production process to discover what makes it so special. 

Together, this facility promotes several Sustainable Development Goals. The Bashofu Center accomplishes SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). It also fulfills SDG 15 (Life on Land) as it protects, restores, and promotes sustainable ecosystems while preventing habitat loss.

• Address: 454 Kijoka, Ōgimi, Kunigami-Gun, Okinawa 905-1303
• Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

How to get to Bashofu Center: From Naha (90 minutes) or Okinawa (60 minutes), take a taxi or drive along the Okinawa Expressway (E58). Then, take National Route 58, following signs for Ogimi.

Discover underwater wonders at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Discover underwater wonders at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Ocean Expo Park:Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It reopened in 2002 after being rebuilt. As part of Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium features four huge levels with 67 tanks. Each features deep sea creatures, including sharks, coral, and tropical fish. Besides marine life, this aquarium participates in cutting-edge marine research and conservation. This helps to protect local species from extinction.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium’s research and conversation efforts are also admired globally. Committed to SDG 14 (Life Below Water), the aquarium's expertise protects marine biodiversity. For example, the aquarium’s breeding programs support vulnerable species like sharks and manta rays. Rearing these creatures is a huge challenge for organizations around the world. Through this work, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium contributes to vital research.

The aquarium’s experts are also active in the field. When a wild shark makes contact, they collect samples and measurements for research. They often attach electronic monitors to learn how sharks act in the wild. This information is highly valuable for understanding shark reproduction and ecology. The aquarium also rescues injured animals, which ensures these creatures return to the wild.

Discover underwater wonders at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Ocean Expo Park:Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium also addresses SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) by exploring the impact of marine debris on local turtles. A 30-year study conducted by the aquarium found about 20% of washed-ashore sea turtles had ingested plastic and waste. By reporting on this problem, it encourages visitors to be responsible with their waste while reducing their usage. You can find displays dedicated to this work in the Ocean Expo Park Sea Turtle Pool.

Alongside this research, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium teaches essential marine life information. And it helps people understand how sustainable practices protect the environment. Supported by these environmental strategies, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is a world-leading organization.

• Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-Cho, Kunigami-Gun, Okinawa 905-0206
• Operating Hours: Daily from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission 5:30 PM). ※Please check peak season by HP.
• Contact Details: +81-980-48-3748

How to get to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium: Catch the Okinawa Airport Shuttle or the Yanbaru Express Bus from Naha Airport to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. You can also drive along the Okinawa Expressway to the Motobu Peninsula to reach Ocean Expo Park.

Making everyday products sustainable with FOOD REBORN

Making everyday products sustainable with FOOD REBORN

Communities around the globe are feeling the effects of climate change. That's why designing and producing everyday items using sustainable methods is vital. Located in Okinawa’s Ogimi Village, FOOD REBORN uses local, often discarded, resources to achieve its goals. Powered by innovative technology, the company creates exceptional products from natural fibers. This way, consumable products don't harm the environment.

Under the Kiseki brand, FOOD REBORN makes juice, candy, and essential oils using Shikuwasa fruit. Using every part, including the peel, these items are rich in nobiletin, which may improve brain function and bone health. Best of all, a part of each sale goes to the World Natural Heritage Promotion Council. This supports three Okinawan villages, including Kunigami, Ogimi, and Higashi.

FOOD REBORN also manufactures biodegradable plastics from pineapple leaves and banana stems. Native to Okinawa, thread and fabric are created from these plants' natural fibers. This makes the creation of sustainable drinking straws possible. Pineapple leaves also absorb four times more carbon dioxide than cotton. This alternative resource helps to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Fashion waste remains a huge problem. Since 2021, FOOD REBORN has collected discarded clothing and items made from natural fibers. These materials are returned to the earth as green materials and agricultural resources. As the company's reputation has grown, it’s expanded its borders beyond Okinawa. FOOD REBORN now operates in Taiwan and Indonesia, as it looks to positively impact other countries.

FOOD REBORN also has a concept shop based in Naha. Here, visitors can see how the company lives up to its motto: “Towards a Future With No Waste.” Through its varied programs, FOOD REBORN embraces SDGs. For example, its sustainable agricultural methods achieve SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). They also achieve SDG 15 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

• Address: 2F, 1-20-1 Izumizaki, Naha City, Okinawa 900-0021
• Operating Hours: Daily from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
• Contact Details: +81-806-485-0141

How to get to the FOOD REBORN Concept Store: From Naha Airport, you can take the No. 111 Bus from the Kokusaisen Ryokaku Terminal mae stop to the Asahibashi/Naha Bus Terminal stop. Then, head inside the Naha OPA shopping mall. You can also ride the Yui Rail train from Naha Airport Station to Asahibashi Station.

How to get to Okinawa from Tokyo

Flying direct to Okinawa Island from Tokyo is simple. Flights departing Tokyo International Airport take 2 hours and 45 minutes to land at Naha Airport. You can also travel from Narita International Airport to Naha Airport in 3 hours and 5 minutes.

Experience how Okinawa is achieving a brighter future

Preserving Okinawa’s natural and cultural identity is a top concern for the local community. As such, Okinawa will remain an incredible destination to visit for generations. The strategies that embrace the SDGs ensure this. So, what are you waiting for? Get to know the best local businesses, social enterprises, and independent artisans.

Plan your trip with JAL. Experience Okinawa’s rich history and subtropical climate via the smoothest possible journey. Using the JAL Japan Explorer Pass, you can access simple and affordable fares to more than 30 domestic destinations. This means touching down in Okinawa has never been easier. Book your journey today!

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