Kokusai Dori and Makishi district
In the heart of Okinawa sits the lively and much loved shopping strip, Kokusai Dori. Translating literally to International Road, the street got its name from the former "Ernie Pyle International Theater", a movie theater that was built along the road after the war. Kokusai Dori is the main street of the area’s capital city of Naha and it’s the ideal location for shopping, eating, drinking, seeing live music, and everything in between. Like many other Japanese cities, the street stays up late, with many stores trading until 11pm. Cutting diagonally through the center of Naha, this food and shopping mecca is arguably one of the city's biggest attractions for both Japanese and international guests.
Although the city is still considered quite young, given that it, like a lot of Okinawa, was destroyed during World War II. But the still somewhat recent devastation didn’t stop the residents of Naha from embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and reestablishing their home city as one of Japan’s most loved. These days a large portion of Kokusai Dori does cater to a more tourist oriented crowd, however it’s still home to dozens and dozens of smaller stores and local vendors keeping the Okinawa flavor intact. These vendors sell everything, from locally produced island clothing, glassware and earthenware pottery, to outlets slinging freshly distilled awamori, Okinawa’s hearty local liquor.
A jewel in the crown of stunning Naha is Makishi Public Market. The market is a place where time stands still and visitors can get an idea of flourishing trade Okinawa experienced with various countries around Asia during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. Passed down through generations, the stands at the market focus mainly on Naha’s central produce, meat, fish, fruit and general everyday merchandise. It’s the perfect location for visitors to get an insight into authentic daily life in Okinawa.
When visiting the market stop and sample something you’ve never tried before, as many vendors are more than willing to give interested guests a chance to sample some of their local produce. From many kinds of colorful fish and shellfish, fascinating and unique vegetables like goya ‘bitter melon’ and hechima ‘sponge gourd’ there’s no shortage of opportunities for those with adventurous taste buds. Kokusai Dori is also home to one of the few remaining covered shopping strips in Okinawa. Known as shotengai, these sprawling indoor centers intersect through vein-like alleyways, making getting lost feel like an adventure.
Kokusai Dori is relatively easy to discover given that it’s located right in central Naha. Stretching almost 2 kms from the Naha Bus Terminal to Makishi Station on the Okinawa Monorail, it’s also just a stone’s throw away from the monorail's two major hubs Kencho-mae and Miebashi Station. A seven minute walk from Kokusai Dori Street, the Makishi market is open from 8am until 8pm every day except the 4th Sunday of every month, and New Year’s and Obon holidays.