Source: Ippei & Janine Naoi
Naha, Osaka Prefecture’s capital, is one of the best places to explore when in Japan. Aside from having so much to offer to both tourists and locals alike, Naha also enjoys a subtropical climate which makes it a really good spot for getting your dose of some sun, sand, and sea. Here are a few things that you might enjoy during your trip to Naha.
1. Walk the Streets of Kokusai-Dori
Kokusai-Dori, also known as “International Street”, is one of the busiest, most touristy spots in the city of Naha. On this street you’ll find just about anything and everything you will ever want and need as a tourist: souvenir and gift shops, restaurants and cafes that offer Japanese and other international cuisines, bars or izakayas, street arcades, and a lot of little boutique-style shops that sell interesting bits and bobs you won’t find elsewhere.
- Name: Kokusai-Dori / International Street
- Coordinates: 26°12’49″N 127°40’50″E
- Access: Take Okinawa Monorail and get off on either the Asahibashi Station or the Makishi Station.
2. Visit the Tsuboya Pottery District
Source: Okinawa Steve
If you’re looking for something more special and unique to take home as a souvenir for, say, a special someone back home, a close friend, or a family member who is into all things Japan, drop by the Tsuboya Pottery District instead. This area is located right next to Kokusai-Dori so you can visit these two places on the day you plan to buy all your take-home memorabilia. Most of the pottery shops here are lined up next to each other so it shouldn’t be all that difficult to find unique items at their best price. Other things you can do here include touring the whole village, taking a pottery class, and watching a craftsman in action creating a beautiful masterpiece.
- Name: Tsuboya Pottery District
- Notable shops: Yonaha (a shop specializing in shisa), Guma Guwa (six generations of earthenware production), and Chatarol Cafe (hole-in-the-wall type of cafe with surprisingly good food)
- Access: Tsuboya District can be accessed from either Kakusai-Dori’s Heiwadori exit or take a ten-minute walk from Asato Station along the Okinawa Monorail.
3. Go to the Tsuboya Pottery Museum
If you’re interested in the art of pottery, the Tsuboya Pottery District is definitely a place that you should add to your list of must-visit spots in Naha. Here, you will find the Tsuboya Pottery Museum, a small museum that houses a few very good examples of traditional Okinawa pottery as well as some olden pottery paraphernalia. Though most of the displays are in Japanese, you can easily understand and learn more about everything by availing of the English audio guide.
- Name: Tsuboya Pottery Museum
- Address: 1-9-32 Tsuboya, Naha 902-0065,Okinawa Prefecture
- Phone: +81 98-862-3761
- Opening Hour: 10:00 AM
- Fee: ¥315
4. Visit the Shuri Castle
Source: David Pursehouse
Shuri Castle is one of the main tourist attractions in Naha. The original castle was destroyed almost completely during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and efforts towards restoring the castle began in 1992. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Okinawa, this is one place you shouldn’t miss. If you’re an avid gamer, the castle might look familiar to you as it has appeared in a couple of World War-themed computer games: Deadly Dozen: Pacific Theater and Call of Duty: World at War.
- Name: Shuri Castle
- Address: 1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 903-0815, Japan
- Phone: +81 98-886-2020
- Opening Hour: 08:00AM
- Fee: ¥820
- Access: Take a 15- to 20-minute walk from Shuri Station on the Okinawa Monorail or ride bus number 7 or 8 and get off at Shurijo-mae.
5. Mingle with the locals at Naminoue Beach
Naminoue Beach is the only beach in the city of Naha. Locals flock here morning and night to take a dip as part of their health routines so if you want to mingle with the locals, this is a really nice place to do so. Naminoue Beach is unlike any other beach. There is a highway on the ocean that runs through Naha City which gives the beach its own unique character. Naminoue Beach is also perfect for sunbathing, swimming, lounging, and even having a picnic or a barbecue.
- Name: Namenoue Beach
- Address: 1 Chome-25-11 Wakasa, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0031, Japan
- Phone:+81 98-868-3697
- Access: Namenoue Beach is a fifteen-minute drive from the Naha airport.
- Fee: Admission to the beach is free but parking is ¥300 for up to four hours.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 AM
6. Experience the Makishi Market
Makishi Market is the home of hard-to-find ingredients in Okinawa that give its cuisine that distinct flavor. If there’s ever an ingredient that you want to take home that is native to Osaka but can’t seem to find it anywhere, chances are that you will find it in Makishi Market. On the main level, you can buy all the ingredients that you want and need and upstairs you’ll find a plethora of shops and eateries that can cook the ingredients you shopped for any way you like for a small fee. This is one of the best ways to really savor the local flavors of Okinawa.
- Name: Makishi Market
- Address: 2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0014, Japan
- Phone:+81 98-867-6560
- Opening Hour: 08:00 AM
- Closed: Sunday
7. Watch the Giant Tug of War
Every year Naha celebrates National Sports Day and part of the festivities is an event call the Giant Tug of War. The main attraction during the event is a 40-meter rope that weighs 40 metric tons which participants play Tug of War with. Approximately 15,000 people play on each side of the rope for the Tug of War game and this symbolizes the competition between the rulers of Naha from the East and West sides of the city back in the day. It’s definitely a very interesting game to watch and there are other events before the game that you can enjoy as well like fan dancing, lion dancing, and cool martial arts performances.
- Name: Giant Tug of War
- Date: October 08 – 10, 2016
- Venue: Kumoji intersection Kokusai Street Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha
- Start time: 11:00 AM
- Fee: Free admission
- Website: http://www.naha-navi.or.jp/magazine/2248/
8. Enjoy Okinawan Folk Music at Shimaumui
You don’t have to be a singer or a songwriter to appreciate good music and at Naha, there is this popular snack bar owned by one of the best and most respected figures in Okinawan folk music: Misako Oshiro. This snack bar called Shimaumui serves up delicious homecooked-style meals, tasty snacks, and refreshing beverages that you can enjoy while listening to Misako’s golden voice. It’s a great place to soak up some of the area’s culture and a really good opportunity to mingle with the locals as well.
- Name: Shimamui
- Address: B1F Higashi Ichibankan, 4-6 Higashimachi, Naha-shi
- Phone: +81 98-866-0234
- Opening Hour: 07:00 PM
- Closed: Monday
- Fee: ¥1000 cover charge
- Website: www.shimaumui.net
9. Take a shot of Awamori
Awamori is to Okinawa as beer is to America and Vodka is to Russia. Awamori is Osaka’s signature brew. Made especially with Thai rice and black rice mold through a two-time fermentation process, this drink that is indigenous to Osaka packs a punch and keeps you wanting more. You can drink awamori in a number of different ways: on the rocks, diluted with some cold water, mixed in a cocktail or, as tradition would have it, served in a karakara or a small earthenware vessel. Many awamori breweries / distilleries are found in Naha and more can be accessed in the areas that surround the city.
- Name: Awamori
- Drink type: Alcoholic
- Where to get it: izakayas, Okinawan restaurants, liqour stores
- Starting price: ¥1350
- Notable breweries / brands: Zuisen, Zanpa, Zhong Xiao
10. Get a taste of Koregusu
In relation to #10 above, one more thing that you should do while in Naha is to get a taste of Koregusu. This exquisite condiment is another product that is indigenous to Okinawa, especially in Naha where you will find an old folk house turned restaurant, Shujimojo, that serves Okinawa Soba with Koregusu. Koregusu is made from peppers soaked in awamori. It is the main source of heat for many Okinawan dishes.
- Name: Koregusu
- Where to buy: Shujimojo (2-124-1 Shuri Sueyoshicho, Naha) and local grocery stores
12. Have fun at the beach “like a celebrity”
Blue Sky Resort in Asato, Naha City offers sea lovers to enjoy the sea like the A-listers through their “Celebrity Style to Play at the Beach” package. The package includes rental of a sports boat and a barbecue at sea. You may also choose to have various water sports (trained professional instructor included) such as banana boating and jet skiing added to the package if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous for the day.
- Name: Blue Sky Resort
- Address: Japan, Yubinbango902-0067 Okinawa Prefecture, Naha, Asato 1-8-15
- Phone: +81 98-943-5691
- Website: http://www.trike.jp
- Opening hour: 09:00 AM
13. Revisit papier mache toys at Toy Road Works
Back in the day in Okinawa, mothers bought their children papier mache toys but after the Meiji period in Japan, these kinds of toys started to become obsolete because tin toys were on the rise. Thankfully, today, a papier mache artist names Morito Toyonga is bringing papier mache toys back and he is making a whole lot of other papier mache products as well that people, local and foreigners alike, can enjoy and take home.
- Name: Toy Road Works
- Address: 3-6-2 1F Makishi, Naha-city, Okinawa, Japan
- Phone: 098-988-1439
- Opening hour: 10:00 AM
- Closed: Sunday
- Website: www.toy-roadworks.com
14. Make your own chinsuko
When in Naha, there is no better way to satisfy your sweet tooth than with a chinsuko or two. Chinsuko is a popular treat in Okinawa. It is considered to be the area’s specialty sweet and many chinsuko shops can be found in and around Naha City. If you want to know how to make your own chinsuko, drop by Yonner Food and enroll in a workshop-style session where you will learn all the secrets to making this delicious treat.
- Name: Yonner Food
- Address: Room 303, 2-5-8 Yorimiya, Naha-city, Okinawa
- Phone: 098-867-3639
- Fee: ¥1500
- Website: http://www.yonnerfood.jp/
15. Have a good time at DOJO Cafe Bar
Owned by a karate enthusiast, DOJO Cafe Bar is the first and only karate and Kobudo themed cafe bar in all of Okinawa. If you’re not a local, this is one of the best and most convenient places to get your drink on as they do not only serve good food and offer a wide variety of drinks but they also have English-speaking staff ready to assist you and make your experience a lot easier and smoother.
- Name: DOJO Cafe Bar
- Address: Asato 101 MaruMiyako crafts building Naha-shi, Okinawa
- Phone: +81 98-911-3601
- Opening Hour: 07:00 PM
- Website: www.dojobarnaha.com
Naha is such a fun and diverse city with so much to offer so don’t worry about being stuck bored in your hotel room during your trip. Whether you’re looking forward to soaking up some culture, tasting local flavors or doing something new, there’s surely always something for you in Naha.
Have a good trip and travel!