Naha Okinawa – Naha is the capital city of Okinawa. Naha Airport is a major transportation hub for the region and the city is the main gateway to the Okinawa archipelago. Okinawa so you’re probably thinking palm trees and beautiful sandy beaches. And there are beautiful beaches in Okinawa but not in Naha. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit Naha but I just wanted to make things clear.
I also think you’ll need about 2 days to visit its best attractions. There are lots of historical and cultural attractions to visit and we’re going to talk about them in a moment. But before we get to that, here’s what you need to know about transportation and accommodation in Naha.
How To Get To Naha, Okinawa?
When it comes to transportation in Naha, the city is not very big so you can simply walk around from one attraction to the other. If you’d like a ride to visit other attractions, you can take the city’s monorail, it’s awesome! It’s an attraction all by itself! 🙂
You can check the monorail’s schedule on Hyperdia.
Where To Stay In Naha, Okinawa?
As far as accommodation is concerned, Naha is relatively cheap compared to the rest of Japan. So if you’re on a budget, you can find great hostels at around 1000 yen ($9) a night. I stayed at the Umikaji Guesthouse and everything went really well.Umikaji Guesthouse
The Umikaji guesthouse is as clean and neat as you need it to be. I made lots of friends there! It is also conveniently located next to the Kokusai Dori shopping street which we’re going to talk about later. On the other hand, it’s one of Naha’s most popular hostels so make sure to book ahead of time because it sells out fast.Umikaji Guesthouse
If you can afford better accommodation or could use more privacy and comfort, I recommend the guesthouse La Passione. I spent two nights there and it was really great. Guests can choose to stay in Japanese-style rooms with tatami flooring and futon bedding if they want to. If you’re interested, the hotel will even provide traditional Okinawan dresses that look like yukata dresses.
Another advantage at the La Passionne is the Italian breakfast they serve (hence the hotel’s name) which I think was delicious. I love having Japanese food but for breakfast, nothing compares to toast or pastries! The guesthouse also has a great location and provides bicycles for rent.
The Best Things To Do In Naha, Okinawa
Now that you know where to stay and how to move around, let’s find out all the places I loved visiting in Naha! You can find them on this map along with the hostels I mentioned above:
- Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/7VNWt7N88j12
- Entrance: 800 yen ( ~ $7)
- Opening hours: 8 AM to 7:30 PM
More on this beautiful castle after this brief history note! As you can see on any map, Okinawa is quite far from Japan and although the Okinawa Islands are part of Japan, the people of Okinawa are not Japanese, ethnically speaking. The islands of this archipelago were called the Ryukyu Islands and the origins of their inhabitants were a mixture of Chinese with a hint of the southern islands close to present-day Australia.
For a long time, the main island where Naha is located was divided into three kingdoms. But in 1429, those kingdoms merged and became the Ryukyu Kingdom. The whole Ryukyu culture developed during that period, the shisa (those famous Okinawan animals resembling a cross between a lion and a dog) being one of its key elements. I’m sure you’ll notice them pretty much everywhere across the archipelago.
When the Ryukyu Kingdom was founded, Shuri Castle was the center of power during that time, and you can actually visit some of the rooms of the castle and see the ancient throne of the Ryukyu king.
Having been built on the hills of the city for strategic reasons, the castle offers a great view of the whole city.
Kokusai Dori Shopping Street
Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/BHkpwMkaWnq
The Kokusai Dori shopping street is another great spot you should absolutely visit in Naha. Great atmosphere and plenty of shops that sell all sorts of things! Souvenirs shops, restaurants, sanshin (Okinawa’s shamisen), a produce market, you name it!
Don’t forget to try the local dessert, the beni imo! It is a cake made of purple sweet potatoes and that is absolutely delicious. You can also try the local sweet potato ice cream, brownies, and many other desserts. There’s no added food coloring by the way; that’s the actual color of the sweet potatoes!
- Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/XJLvMiwEcHQ2
- Entrance: 400 yen (~ $4.6)
- Opening hours: 9 AM to 6 PM (closed on Wednesdays!)
The Shikinaen Garden is a popular spot in Naha and is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 18th century and was used as a second home by the kings of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The garden is particularly known for its beautiful stone bridges that have beautiful reflections on the water surrounding them. It reminded me a bit of the Yoshuien Garden in Wakayama, which also has these little stone bridges.
- Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/CuFnyWDNq6A2
- Entrance: 200 yen (~ $2)
- Opening hours: 9 AM to 6 PM (closed on Wednesdays!)
The Fukushuen Garden is also a great place to absolutely visit. I went there with my friend Yuri whom I had met the day before. It’s a fairly recent garden, actually. It was built in 1992 to celebrate 10 years of sister city relationship between Naha and Fuzhou in China. And as you can see, the garden has a Chinese-inspired architecture with a beautiful pagoda, a nice pond and amazing statues.
The Peace Memorial
- Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/EAWzJhJdGUp
- Entrance: Free
This park is truly amazing and filled with history. It’s a bit far from Naha and I was lucky enough to drive there with Yuri. It’s possible to go there by bus so here’s how you can do it:
- Take bus 89 from Naha’s bus terminal (there’s a bus every 20 minutes).
- Stop at Itoman Station.
- Take bus 82 along Gyokusendo Line (there’s a bus every hour).
- Stop at Okinawa Peace Hall.
Not so easy but still worth it! The memorial is by the sea and was built in honor of all the Japanese victims of the Second World War who fought against the United States in Okinawa. For the record, Americans had invaded the main island of Okinawa from the north. As they moved inland, civilians fled south towards the southern shores of the island. Yuri told me that many people decided to commit suicide by jumping off the cliffs as Americans moved quickly towards them.
So it is precisely on the edge of these cliffs that the memorial was built. Even though peace has been restored, many people still come to these cliffs to commit suicide in Okinawa. That’s why messages of hope are written on stones near the cliff. There is even a special number (mentioned all around the site) to support people who want to commit suicide. It’s weird how some places inspire such feelings. It’s like Aokigahara, the suicide forest in Japan.
Anyway, the Peace Memorial is a remarkable place and even it’s not a cheerful attraction to visit, I think it’s important to do so so that we remember not to make the same mistakes again.
If you want more information on the current situation in Okinawa, there is actually a very large US military base there and the least you could say is that there are controversial issues around it, the main reason being the behavior of American soldiers who, quite regularly, rape and even murder Okinawan girls who do not obey them. When I visited Okinawa, there were many demonstrations following the murder of a teenage girl. Alright, enough touchy issues for now, let’s head to the beach!
Zamami Island near Naha, Okinawa
Exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/yjdLMKkzJpr
As I mentioned earlier, to see beautiful beaches, you’ll need to leave the main island and visit the neighboring ones. Zamami is one of those islands and it is a two-hour ferry ride away from Naha. It is one of the most beautiful islands I have visited in Asia and I really recommend it. There are so many things to say about Zamami so I decided to write a separate blog post about it: Zamami Okinawa.
And for more amazing beaches in Okinawa, feel free to check out this blog post: Best beaches in Okinawa.
That’s all for Naha guys! Did you like this post? Let me know in the comments below! To follow my other adventures in Asia, make sure to follow me on social media: Facebook Page, Facebook Group, Instagram and Pinterest.
See you around,