Today’s post is a guest post from Meg Flanagan. She may be a teacher and education expert extraordinaire but she is also an explorer! She shares her tips for making it a day in Naha, Okinawa.
Get started on your Okinawa adventures with a day in the capital, Naha! Discover the heart of the Ryukyu Kingdom, indulge in yummy local cuisine, and check out traditional artisans at work.
This is a great way to introduce your family to the rich heritage and culture of Okinawa!
Getting to Naha
Your best bet is to take the Okinawa Expressway to exit 1 (not the airport exit). From there, Shuri Castle is a short drive away. Google Maps is fairly reliable in terms of directions, but might take you down some very narrow roads. Luckily, everything is fairly well signed in English and Japanese!
Stop 1: Shuri Castle
Budget: 300¥ for parking, under 1000¥ per person for castle admission
Start your day at a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shuri Castle! Park in the castle’s parking garages, then head toward the rebuilt castle complex. Shuri was almost completely destroyed during World War II and has been rebuilt in the decades since.
Don’t forget to grab your stamp book before you start your adventure! Collecting different numbers of special stamps will net visitors prizes!
You can tour the grounds and the outer buildings for free, but to see the good stuff you’ll need a ticket.
Inside, you’ll see the Ryukyu throne, crowns, and private quarters of the royal family. You’ll also get a little insight into the relationship between Okinawa, China, Korea, and mainland Japan.
Stop 2: Makishi Market
Budget: varies but plan on at least 3000¥ in cash
After World War II, Okinawans gathered in this market to trade goods and sell their wares. It was even a hot spot for black market activities!
Today, Makishi Market, and the warren of covered shopping alleys around it, are the perfect place for lunch!
Parking can be tricky, but look for metered lots. They charge by the hour and usually have a set maximum amount.
Head to the center of the covered shopping area and find Makishi Market. The bottom floor sells fresh seafood and meats. The top floor is devoted to restaurants. Most places are cash only.
Pick out a fish to eat downstairs. The vendor will send it upstairs to be prepared! This can get pricey though. For a more budget friendly meal, choose any of the restaurants upstairs and order a selection of local foods: champuru, Okinawa soba, fresh homemade tofu, and locally caught sashimi.
Stop 3: Tsuboya Street
Budget: varies but bring cash!
Tsuboya Street is the historic heart of Okinawa pottery making. Originally, it was where roofing tiles, pots, and decorative items were made for Shuri Castle. Today, it’s packed with local artisans, making and selling their handcrafted goods. Many places only take cash.
Shops are totally fine with window shoppers, so look to your heart’s content! Items can be pricey, but they are all handmade and created using an ancient pottery making method. Dishes and mugs start at around 1600¥, with Shisa dog statues starting at about 3000¥. But you can get smaller items, like chopsticks rests or small vases, for about 500¥.
Some shops offer hands-on workshops for visitors. You’ll learn the art of Okinawa pottery making and leave with your own kiln fired piece!
If you feel hungry, head back to Makishi Market. It’s just a quick walk away. Or pop into one of the several cafes on Tsuboya Street for Okinawa shave ice!
You could spend days in Naha, and in these areas alone, and still not see everything there is to discover. There is always another cafe tucked into an alley or a shop of wonders to explore!