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Move Over Hawaii, Here Comes Okinawa

  • Visitors to Okinawa grew 10.5% to 8.77 million in fiscal 2016
  • Travelers from Greater China, Korea choosing to go to Okinawa
Tourists walk along a floating pier after snorkeling in the sea of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Tourists walk along a floating pier after snorkeling in the sea of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

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For decades, Hawaii has outshone Okinawa as an island destination for tourists. That looks about to change.

The number of visitors to the southern Japanese islands jumped 10.5 percent in the year ended March 31 to a record 8.77 million people, according to Okinawa prefecture data. That compares with the 8.93 million that went to Hawaii in 2016, an increase of 2.9 percent, Hawaii Tourism Authority data show. At this pace, Okinawa could overtake Hawaii as early as this year, according to Miwako Date, the chief executive officer of Japanese developer Mori Trust Co.