Naha’s lively main street is home to an array of superb restaurants, souvenir shops and galleries selling fine glassware.
Spend an afternoon in Naha’s most extensive shopping district, International Street (Kokusai Dori). Browse for exquisite glasswork and ceramics, feast on traditional Okinawan delicacies and watch dancers and fire-eaters perform on the streets.
Kokusai Dori translates directly as “International Street.” The name comes from the old Ernie Pyle International Theater that was built here during the American occupation at the end of World War II; it became a popular gathering spot for the soldiers stationed in the city. The theater is no longer here, but the spot still attracts visitors from around the world. Find some of Naha’s most enticing collections of restaurants, souvenir shops and bars.
Spend hours shopping in the boutique ornament shops, where you’ll find statues and necklaces made from bright coral as well as a range of colorful glassware. Also widely available are small statues known as shisa. These mythological lions are usually ceramic or limestone and are said to provide protection from evil if placed outside a house. Another popular souvenir is the cotton Kariyushi shirt that sports colorful floral patterns. These became popular during the 1970s and are similar to Hawaiian floral shirts.
Stop for lunch at a roadside café and ask for one of the many Okinawan delicacies. Beni imo, a purple variety of sweet potato, is a local favorite and is served in everything from pastries and stews to yogurt and ice cream.
Return in the evening when the street air is filled with enticing scents escaping from the many restaurants. Try exquisite sashimi dishes or traditional pork stews. Continue on to a bar and join the mixed crowds of locals, expats and visitors for a fun-filled night.
Come to Naha so you can visit Kokusai Dori on a Sunday. The street is closed to cars and fills with dancers, dragons and fire-eaters. Street carts selling traditional food and local families enjoying the show add to the festival atmosphere.
Kokusai Dori is located in the city’s downtown region. It stretches approximately 1 mile (2 kilometers) from the main bus terminal to Makishi Monorail Station.