Don’t be fooled by the lack of greenery and the slightly brown colour of the air. Lurking inside the concrete jungle of Naha are pockets of beauty and places rich in Okinawan culture, traditional and modern. There is never a shortage of things to do and places to see in Naha City.
The list below is only a starting point. Naha, and especially the area in and around Kokusai Dori and Matsuyama, has countless cafes, bars and clubs, so the following list is by no means comprehensive. Explore the streets that jet out from Kokusai and you’ll find a surprise on just about every street. Good luck and happy exploring!
Things to see:
Shuri Castle – Situated North East of Central Naha is a stunning replica of what was once the headquarters of the Ryukyu Kingdom (the original was destroyed in WW11). Surrounded by beautiful gardens, it offers a great view of Naha and the neighbouring islands. It also features the Shureimon gate, which is on the new 2000-Yen note. To roam the castle grounds is free and entry into the main hall is about 800 Yen. During national public holidays, there are often dance performances held in the courtyard. Take City Buses 1, 12, 13, 14, and 17 and get off at Shurijo Koen Iriguchiã€€or take the monorail and get off at the last stop.
Shikina-en Gardens – These gardens hold the largest detached villa of the Ryukyuan royal family, which was used to entertain foreign diplomats and envoys. Within the garden are Chinese style pavilions and quaint stone bridges. These serene and spacious gardens are the best that I have seen in Naha. The entrance fee is about 400 Yen. Take City Buses 1,5 and get off at Maji Bus Stop.
Tsuboya – Yachimun Dori in Tsuboya is a lovely limestone paved street riddled with studios displaying the work of Naha’s leading potters. It also has Ceramics Museum along with a few quaint cafes. See Map, 1.
Machigawa Public Markets – A local market that is more of a cultural experience than a shopping one. Meander through the maze of fruit, umbrella and polyester clothing stalls and see if you can make your way to the other side without getting lost. It is a great place to people watch (and be watched)! Just inside the Kokusai Dori entrance is a food market that features every living creature that walks on the earth or swims in the sea. A great place to buy dried eel, pickled pigs faces, pigs’ ears, pigs feet, skinned puffer fish and much more. Just pick your delicacy and then take it upstairs to be served at the restaurant. See Map, 2.
Shimin Art Gallery – Situated on the 6th floor of the Palletto Kumoji, this gallery holds a constantly changing display of traditional and contemporary art by local artists. There is usually an eclectic display of Japanese Calligraphy, photography, painting and ceramics. Entrance is free.
Naha Haari Festival – May – The Haari Dragon Boat races were introduced from China and are held in various regions of Okinawa to ensure abundant fishing. The Naha Haari Festival is held at the Naha Port.
Shuri Castle Moon Viewing Festival – September – This festival delivers a beautiful display of Okinawa music and dance under the premise of watching the moon (and drinking beer).
Naha Festival – October – This three-day festival includes the largest Tug of War Tournament in the world, along with numerous parades of Okinawa traditional and folk dances.
Things to do:
Adventure walks – Stroll through the many narrow back streets of Naha. If you get lost just look to the horizon, you are bound to see the Kencho (Prefectural Government building) wherever you are.
Exercise – Onoyama Park offers a great athletics track, Olympic sized swimming pool and archery facilities. See Map, 4.
Shopping – Kokusai Dori (see Map) sells every kind of Okinawa souvenir imaginable. Step one block off the main drag (north or south) and browse the trendy street culture shops. Opa (See Map, 5) on Kokusai Dori (diagonally opposite Starbucks) offers a host of trendy clothing shops. On the top floor is Tower Records which has a huge selection of local and imported discs. Main Place, just north of Naha Central in Ameku is a big mall housing many specialty shops and a great cinema complex (Head north on the 330 and turn left just before the Omoromachi monorail station). Paletto Kumoji Ryubou sells a great range of international food and wine (but be prepared to pay for it).
Movies – The best cinema complex is in Main place.
Karaoke – everywhere
Jharasans – just off Kokusai Dori, has \80 beers between 5 and 7 every day along with delicious drinking snacks. See Map, 6.
Club Cous Cous – a tiny little Reggae club / bar that serves big snacks for \600 each. See Map, 7.
Tinger Bar – Tinger Bar is an old bus turned into a bar that sits outside Cous Cous in an empty lot. Not always open, but when it is Tinger Bar is simply fantastic. They play great reggae in a very informal atmosphere and you get hang out in a bar but be outdoors.
Sky Juice -ã€€Located a few blocks off Kokusai, Sky Juice offers fantastic music, lots of style and a great atmosphere with orange projections on it’s walls. Sky Juice is a favorite among many in the Jet community. See Map, 8.
Shigatsu no Mizu (April`s Water)- Perhaps the most elegant bar in Naha, Shigatsu no Mizu offers a quiet setting with comfy couches, fantastic drinks, and has Guiness on tap! See Map, 9.
Paul & Mike`s – Located in the heart of Kokusai Dori, Paul and Mike`s offers great drink specials in a nice, mellow atmosphere. See Map, 10.
For more information, a schedule of events and directions to the following clubs visit Groove Seeker at http://www.gsv2.com.
Golden Nightclub – Upstairs from Club Cous Cous, the bar features a variety of Gaijin and Japanese DJs spinning a nice mix of fairly laid back Indy, Electronic and Dub/Reggae.
Matsuyama – just west of central Naha, over Route 58, is pretty much the nightclub / strip club / entertainment district of Naha. It’s loud, gaudy, and a bit sleezy but has many live music venues. The Beer Dome and Rios are in Matsuyama – both all you can eat / all you can drink restaurants that serve a wide variety of beers, spirits, and buffet food. See Map, 11.
Hinotama Hall – Literally underground, Hinotama Hall is a great club that plays a wide variety of music including bossa nova, `70`s hits, and funk all in one big mix. Great place to dance all night and meet lots of locals. See Map, 12.
Ryuan – Traditional Tofu restaurant featuring meals served in the traditional Kyoto Style. For a taste of the real Japan, this is the place to go! Gourmet meal sets start at 2 500 Yen.
Nanaks- Delicious Indian curry available for about 1 500 Yen. See Map, 14
Spicy Kitchen – another great place for curry situated in the heart of the Machigawa markets. Great atmosphere! You can grab a satisfying feed for around 800 yen for lunch or 1400 Yen for dinner. See Map, 15.
Kuriya – an authentic Vietnamese / South East Asian restaurant. The hostess speaks far too many languages, including English, and the food is really good, especially if you’re into fresh herbs with your meals. It costs about Y2500 per person for their 5-course banquets, or about Y700 for individual mains. See Map, 16.
Panda Gyoza – Located a block off Naha High School, Panda Gyoza serves delicious handmade gyozas prepared by Chinese chefs. It offers very reasonable prices for fantastic food. See Map, 17.
Italia Tomato Jnr Café – Located on Kokusai Dori, this café/restaurant serves great pasta, coffee and desert. A lunch set including pasta, bread, salad and a drink only costs about \800. See Map, 18.
L’Accord – Great French restaurant for a special night out. Dinner starts from \3 500 yen (lunch from \2 500) which includes a four course meal. Great wine, dessert and cheese! See Map, 19.
Thai Thai – Great Asian food (unfotunately not necessarily Thai) in a funky atmosphere, reasonable prices. On Route 58 in Matusyama. Look for the red flames out the front. See Map, 20.
Starbucks – For a taste of home…this is a convenient way to grab a caffeine hit. There are three in and around Naha: one on Kokusai Dori (see Map, 22), one in Naha Main Place and one in the Jusco in Oroku.
Café Street – Hidden in one of Heiwa Dori`s little alleys, Café Street is a great hang out, with a very friendly staff and has the best coffee on the island. See Map, 23.
Cinnamon Café – This place has a great atmosphere along with some of the best coffee and chocolate cake in Naha. Coffee and cake sets cost about Y900. Also, there is a good selection of artsy / fashion / culture / architecture / interior decoration type magazines, as well as a few photography books. They usually play cool music, too. See Map, 24.
Café Aru – This is an art café, which is more a place for sipping cocktails and looking at art than drinking coffee. It has a sexy atmosphere and often has Jazz nights and other music performances. A great place to get some culture up ya!!! See Map, 25.