Okinawa, Japan 14: Naha
Written & Directed by James Knott
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Okinawa's capitol city of Naha is southern Japan's cultural center. Venture through the streets of Naha with James Knott and learn about some cool places to visit like Kokusai-dori, Shuri Castle (Shuri-jo), Heiwa-dori, Shikinaen, Tamaudun, Fukushu-en Garden and Naminou Beach. Take the monorail, sit back, relax and enjoy.
Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture. Over 1.25 million people are scattered across nearly 150 islands.
Okinawa has a unique culture that goes back several hundred years to when it was an independent country known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. This kingdom was known to trade frequently with China and as a result adopted much more from the Chinese than the rest of Japan.
The main island, Okinawa-honto, is surrounded by vivid, bright blue ocean and coral reefs. It is densely populated and urbanized in the south, while the the mountainous northern part of the island consists of just a few fishing villages and dense forests.
The beautiful, sub-tropical setting combined with historical roots that are more intertwined with China than Japan, have created a wonderful culture that is distinctly Okinawan.
Okinawa, Japan 14: Naha
Naha the capital of Okinawa with over 300,000 people - is the largest
city in the entire prefecture.
I spent several days in Naha and enjoyed trekking around this urban maze.
Modern buildings hide pockets of history and culture - waiting to be
For example, kids play in a park with old ruins in the outfield. canals
divide up the city and provide a place to live for some friendly fish.
If you want to escape the never-ending action of Naha there are several
quiet places hidden amongst the chaos - like this park - or this rooftop.
This coastal city sits in the shadows of Shuri Castle which was home to
the rulers of the Ryukyu Kingdom until the 1870s.Tthese renovated ruins are
an important stop for learning about the history of the island.
Naha was flattened in WW2, but has been rebuilt into an energetic city that
is the cultural center of southern Japan.
To experience this energy, you should first head to Kokusai-dori the
city's main thoroughfare. there are lots of places to eat, sleep and have
fun and it is a great starting point to see many of the city's attractions.
I am lucky enough to experience some of the great parades and festivals that
happen in Naha each year.
Just off of Kokusai-dori is Heiwa-dori a covered shopping arcade with an
asian flair and a fascinating fish market.
If you can navigate the confusing maze of shops you might find the Tsuboya
pottery village where artisans work on - and sell - the islands traditional
The monorail was opened in 2003 and is a good way to get around Naha. It is
easy to navigate with 15 stations along a single eight mile line.
There are several important historical sites that you should visit in Naha.
Located high above the city, Shikina-en is a peaceful retreat. This garden
was once used by the royals of the Ryukyu family as a place to relax.
Tamaudun is a sixteenth century mausoleum built to bury kings, queens and
other royals of the day.
Historically, the Ryukyu Kingdom had closer ties to China than Japan. This
relationship is celebrated at the Fukushu-en Garden a Chinese-style garden
with a koi pond that was built with materials and architectural styles from
After a long day of adventure, you can head to Naminoue Beach to wind down.
There is a nice park to hang out in - but this beach has one unique
distinction -it lets you swim beneath a highway. Is this urban paradise a
metaphor for life in the busy capital of okinawa?