Okinawa City is the second-largest city in Okinawa Prefecture. It’s close to the south and the north, so it’s a really convenient city to live in. There are many events in Okinawa City that happen year round—such as the Island-wide Eisa Festival and Orion Beer Festival in the summer, year-round concerts at Koza Music Town, or the International Carnival in the winter.
Okinawa City is the city of Eisa. Eisa is Okinawa’s traditional folk dance, which uses drums and music played on the sanshin.
Okinawa City is both near and home to a few US military bases, so you’ll find that many parts of the city are foreigner-friendly or frequented by Americans. However, the members of the military often blend into the city and as JETs we hardly come into contact with them unless we want to. But it adds to part of this city’s charm in that Okinawa City not only accepts international cultures, but also embraces and promotes it. You’ll have a chance to experience the Japanese lifestyle without people staring at you like you’re from a different planet.
If you find yourself in Okinawa City, you’re in luck! There’s no monorail like Naha and no mountains like Nago, but it’s a city that’s bustling and full of things to do!
The City Hall
(Free Parking. Open 9:00-5:00 Closed 12:00-1:00)
Not as (stand outish) as the Death Star (Kencho) in Naha but can be found tucked away behind the 22. At the end of gate 2 street, cross over the 330 (through the Goya Intersection) and you will find yourself on the 22. There are large trees on either side. Turn left where the English sign says, ‘City Hall.’
You will apply for your Alien Registration at the City Residents Section (Shimin ka) service window. It will take about 2 weeks to get your card.
Ask for The Okinawa City Living Guide. It’s an English document containing useful information about the city and government related matters. The staff member can also offer you maps, brochures and a copy of the monthly Okinawa City newsletter.
Okinawa City Culture Center
The Culture Center is located on the right side of the 330, if you are traveling south. First you will pass through the Goya Crossing (which is the one at gate 2 street) then continue south. The library is on the second floor. There is a small selection of English books. You will need your Alien Card or Driver’s License to join. On the third floor is the municipal museum.
Okinawa City Koza Athletic Park
(Open 9:00-22:00 Closed Tuesdays/Christmas and New Year’s Day)
For those of you who are feeling genki, there are 8 different sports facilities: track and field stadium, Sub-track and softball field, baseball field, gymnasium, swimming pool, indoor training building, tennis courts and martial arts hall. This is the park where the All-Island Eisa Festival is held in unison with the Orion Beer Festival, in August. This is a fantastic festival, with energetic and colourful performances by Eisa groups from all over the island.
Okinawa Prefectural Athletic Park
(Ken Sogo Undo Koen)
This park can be found along the 329. It’s in Awase. Coming from the north, you will pass through the Teruya Intersection (the one with Gusto Skylark Restaurant on your left, then a San A, then a MacDonalds on the corner) continue up and over the hill along the 329. The entry is on your left. This park has been a life saver for me. It has lots of grass areas, a lake where you can relax and even hire a paddle boat if you feel like it. There’s mini golf, an indoor, heated pool and an outdoor pool, tennis courts, weight room, basketball court, marked running tracks. You can choose from 3km, 4km or 5km. It’s just a great park. You can walk around the rim of it along the sea track. Great view of the locals fishing for seaweed and shellfish. The Okinawa Marathon begins here each year in February.
Okinawa City has a smaller shopping center called Plaza House, on the 330 close to Kitanakagusku. However, I usually go to Gushikawa Jusco, which is really close. You will see signs along the 329. It’s located along the 85, which is the main road that runs past the Okinawa Prefectural Athletic Park, beside Awase Bay and then continues until you see Jusco on the left. Main City, which is in Gushikawa is another good shopping center with a San-A. Of course Chatan is a great place to shop but you can read all about it in the Chatan Guide.
Plaza House is along the 330. If you’re heading south from the Goya intersection, you can see it on the left. This small shopping center sells expensive foreign brands. However the main attraction for JET’s is the Tuttle Book Store. It sells English books, magazines and learning materials and textbooks for studying Japanese. Next to KFC is Bon Paniere. Here, there is a wide selection of imported foods. It’s a little expensive but there are a lot of products (Like delicious Indian curries and Thai curries) that cannot be bought at Jimmy’s or the bigger San A’s. There’s also a wide selection of foreign beers and wines. However that brings me to my next place.
Alutekusu (Alteks) International and National Wines and Beers
There’s an Alteks right outside Kadena Gate 2 . It’s on the ground floor of the first building on the left if you are driving out of Gate 2, toward the Goya Intersection. There is another Altek in Awase , close to the Max Value (behind the KFC). There is a bigger store in Ginowan but these still have a good range.
Chuo Park Avenue
Park Avenue is very close to Gate2. Shops selling some American clothing can be seen. It’s an interesting street to stroll down and has some funky shops, restaurants and coffee shops to explore. At the end of Park Avenue, is the Korinza Shopping Centre. It has a Best Denki shop among other stores. I really wouldn’t recommend the Korinza Mall for shopping. There is a theatre there on the second floor. Plays are advertised in the local newspaper.
Gate 2 Street
Gate 2 Street is directly in front of the gate 2 entrance to Kadena Air Base. You could spend a day exporing all the shops in and around this street. There are many second-hand clothing stores, tailors, restaurants and shops similar to Kokusai Doori in Naha. There is a HIS travel agency with English speaking travel agents towards the gate end of the street. Opposite the travel agency is Zazou. This is a coffee shop/bakery. There are many Indian tailors on gate 2 street. If you need any alterations done they will direct you to a sweet old Grandma in one of the back streets. I can’t explain where to find her but all the tailors know.
At night this place comes alive with lots of bars and clubs opening their doors. Not to mention karaoke bars. There are often live bands performing as well. You can get lost in the streets behind gate 2 street and wander from bar to bar. A lot of military personal frequent this area because it is so close to gate 2.
Second Hand shops
There are quite a few second hand shops to be found in the areas with cheaper rent. Sometimes they can present you with quite a bargain; in other circumstances, Big-1 may actually be cheaper.
The biggest 2nd hand shop in Okinawa City (and possibly in all of Okinawa) is Manga Soko. It sells lots of clothes, musical instruments, japanese books and manga, video games and other bric-a-brac. Its near the park in Awase on the 227, it is on this map marked as “Joyhome” .
There is a medium-sized 2nd hand shop on the 85 in Gushikawa that sells kitchenware, furniture and some electronics. Its between Main City and the Coop supermarket, after the Familymart on this map . Decent range, but some goods are overpriced.
There is a small 2nd hand shop on the 24 here , directly in front of the traffic-light. It sells furniture and some electronics. The range is not great, but its generally quite cheap.
There are a couple of hock-shops at the end of Gate 2 street , just before the park on your left. One of them is actually a repair shop that sells TVs and VCRs, and gives a 3-month warantee.
Also worth considering is the night markets in Chatan, every Saturday and Sunday night in Hamby.
The Loooove Hotels
Whether you’re just driving past all the lights, going with a group for cheap karaoke and a spa bath, or taking a friend, the love hotels can be fun for many reasons. The funniest one I’ve seen is the one with all the fiberglass dogs attached to the outside. Mmm, the mind wanders. The love hotels can be found if you turn right off the 329 (coming from the north) at the Teruya intersection. This is the one near Awase with the MacDonalds on the corner and the Pachinko Palour on the opposite corner. Follow this street along and you can spend 20 minutes doing a full loop of the area.
South East Botanical Gardens
Phone: 098 939 2555.
It’s open from 9:00 till 6:00pm everyday. It costs \1000 to enter. It is the largest tropical garden in Japan. There are many gardens within, including the ethnic garden area where parties, sporting events and concerts are held frequently. At Christmas time they have a great light show. The gardens are really beautiful and green. It’s a relaxing place to go. There are small cafeterias within the gardens where you can buy lunch, or just take a bentoo and rest among the trees. Watch out for the big cows.
There is a lot more to Okinawa City than the small taste I’ve provided in this report. The best thing to do is to get amongst it and discover on your own.