Naha, host to an international airport, is year-round fun in Japan’s southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa. The capital city offers a fresh experience for those looking to get away from the main island for some sunshine, sightseeing, shopping and a culture that’s markedly different from anywhere else in Japan.
Home to the famous Kokusai Dori (International Street) that’s full of shopping and nightlife, Naha boasts countless other places to visit along its convenient monorail line. Here are just a few.
Okinawa, formerly ruled by the Ryukyu dynasty, was centered around Shurijo Castle. Pulling architectural traditions from both Japan and China, it stands as a colorful and expansive landmark of Ryukyuan culture and history, even following the annexation of Okinawa as a Japanese prefecture.
Destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa, the castle and surrounding gardens have since been restored and reopened to the public within the last few decades. Many Okinawan cultural events are held there throughout the year and are posted on their website. The castle grounds also offer a stamp tour with prizes for collecting a certain number of stamps, a treat for the completionists out there.
Port of Naha
At the center of the city cuts the Kokuba River which flows into Naha Port. Footbridges drape across the glistening waters, while parks and stylish buildings run along its banks. Be sure to stop at Tsubogawa station for some scenery and stop at a cafe or two. While in the area, don’t forget to check out the striking Tsuboya Pottery Street to see some local craftsmanship.
Naha is replete with temples and shrines, but Naminoue (literally “atop the waves”) is among the most beautiful. Facing out into the Port of Naha, the shrine offers protection and beauty to the sailors and fishermen who have glided along its waters for centuries. Like the castle, and many other Naha landmarks for that matter, the original shrine was destroyed during the war and was later reconstructed.
Next to the shrine is a small beach area, perfect for a sandy stroll and soaking your feet. The shrine hosts all of the usual Shinto events, but visiting during a Shinto holiday like New Years guarantees food stalls and a festival-like atmosphere before you say your prayers. You can find more information about the shrine, as well as other shrines in the area, here.
Anyone who has ever been to Naha knows just how pleasant a stay it is. Filled with more relaxed sights and sounds, Naha is your first stop to discovering Okinawan people and culture.