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Manzamo Cape, Okinawa

The “Karate Kid” in Okinawa

The Karate Kid is an iconic American martial arts drama movie from the 1980’s, written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John G. Avildsen. It was released in theaters in June of 1984 and was the highest grossing films of the year reaching over $130 million worldwide. It was considered to be Hollywood’s biggest sleeper hit of the year. The movie launched and revitalized the careers of some of the cast. The Karate Kid was subsequently launched a media franchise and is credited to popularize karate in the US.

The Karate Kid Part II was almost entirely set in Okinawa, as was portrayed in the film. However, the locations thought to be in Okinawa were actually in Oahu, Hawaii. The weather in Okinawa during the time the film was shot was stormy season, hence the decision to shoot in Hawaii. The film still highlights many of Okinawa sites.

Okinawa and karate

Okinawa with its 160 islands is located at the southwest tip of Japan. The origins of karate can be traced to Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands where it was known as te among the Pechin class of Ryukyuans. The Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent kingdom that ruled most of the Ryukyu from the 15th to the 19th century. The Ryukyu established trade relations with China’s Ming dynasty in 1372 introducing some forms of Chinese martial arts to the island particularly in Fujian Province. Also, a large group of Chinese established a community in Okinawa called Kumemura for cultural exchange purposes and shared their knowledge in Chinese arts and sciences, including Chinese martial arts. Okinawa adapted political centralization in 1429, subsequently enacting a policy banning weapons in 1477. These were factors that further developed unarmed combat techniques in the islands.

Iconic places of Okinawa in the Karate Kid franchise

Shuri Castle, Okinawa

Shuri Castle

Shou Hashi ruins

In The Karate Kid Part II, Kumiko points out to Daniel the ruins of the castle of King Shou Hashi. Shō Hashi (1372 – June 1, 1439) was the last king of the Ryukyu Kingdom. He ended the Sanzan period by uniting the three polities of Chūzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan by conquest. The ruins of two of his castles, Sashiki Castle and Shuri Castle are located in the center of the island.

Mutabaru Observation Deck

In Cobra Kai , Daniel travels with his former nemesis, Chozen to Mutabaru Observation Deck in Ogimi Village. Mutabaru Observation Deck was part of the now closed hotel, Shah Bay. It presents spectacular views of the East China Sea, Motobu, Yagaji-jima, Kouri-jima Bridge, Kouri-jima, Route 58, Miyagi-shima, Shioya Bay, and Shioya Bridge.

Large limestone rock formations in Daisekirinzan park


In Cobra Kai, Daniel receives a sacred scroll of Okinawan karate in front of a sacred rock locally known as Goku Rock. The Daisekirinzan is a limestone plateau and national park. The are is known for its spiritual ties to the royal family of the Ryukyu dynasty.


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