Kokusai-dori Street

Kokusai-dori Street: Explore Okinawa’s Bustling Shopping Area

Lion dogs, potent snake liquor, and a plethora of shopping, food, and fun well into the night—these are just a few of the attractions you will encounter on a stroll through the heart of Naha. Kokusai-dori, which translates to International Street, stretches 1.6 kilometers through the city center. It is a vibrant hub that offers a wide range of experiences for visitors. Whether you’re interested in sightseeing, shopping, dining, or dancing, Kokusai-dori has something for everyone.

Cultural Performances and Traditional Entertainment

One of the highlights of Kokusai-dori is the street performances of traditional Okinawan music and dance. These performances showcase the rich cultural heritage of Okinawa and provide unique entertainment for both locals and tourists. From traditional folk dances to energetic drum performances, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The rhythmic beats and colorful costumes transport visitors to a different time, offering a glimpse into Okinawa’s storied past.

Unique Culinary Delights: Habushu

A must-see (and perhaps must-try) attraction on Kokusai-dori is Habushu, a drink with a preserved viper inside. This unique concoction is made by pickling a habu snake, an Okinawan viper related to the rattlesnake, in awamori, a local liquor. The drink is said to have a distinctive taste and even some beneficial properties. It is believed that habushu can have effects similar to the mating habits of the habu snake, which can mate for up to 26 hours at a time. Sampling this potent liquor is a daring adventure for those looking to experience something truly unique to Okinawa.

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Kokusai-dori Street: Explore Okinawa's Bustling Shopping Area

Heiwa Dori: A Shopper’s Paradise

For those looking to explore beyond Kokusai-dori, Heiwa Dori is a covered arcade that leads off from the main

street. Here, you will find lower prices compared to the main drag, and some stores may even be open to bargaining. Heiwa Dori is home to numerous small stores and stalls selling traditional clothing, pottery, fresh meat and fish, and shisa statues of all sizes. Shisa are mythical creatures that are half dog and half lion and are considered to be friendly spirits that ward off evil. The twisted faces of these statues might resemble gargoyles, but they hold a special place in Okinawan tradition, bringing good fortune to homes and businesses.

Ichiba-hondori and Mutsumi-dori: Local Markets and More

Another extension worth exploring is Ichiba-hondori, a narrow shopping street featuring a farmer’s market selling local produce. Here, you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other delicious treats. The vibrant market atmosphere provides an authentic taste of local life. Mutsumi-dori, another street worth visiting, offers a variety of shops and eateries. This area is perfect for those seeking unique souvenirs and local cuisine.

Getting to Kokusai-dori

Kokusai-dori is conveniently located in downtown Naha, near the Naha Bus Terminal, and is easily accessible by monorail. If you’re arriving at Naha Airport, you can take the Okinawa Monorail to either Asahibashi Station or Prefectural Office Station to start your journey on Kokusai-dori. The monorail ride offers a scenic introduction to the city and is a convenient way to navigate Naha’s bustling streets.

Kokusai-dori Street: Explore Okinawa's Bustling Shopping Area

Nightlife and Late-Night Shopping

Kokusai-dori is a street that truly never sleeps, with many shops staying open until 11 p.m. and the nightlife continuing until dawn. The vibrant nightlife scene is characterized by bustling bars, live music, and street performances. If you prefer a quieter experience, Sundays are the perfect day to visit as the street is closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians to explore freely and enjoy the atmosphere at a more leisurely pace.

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Historical Transformation

The transformation of Kokusai-dori from a swampy track to a bustling street began during the U.S. occupation of Okinawa after World War II. The street takes its name from the Ernie Pyle International Theater, a movie theater that catered to the many U.S. servicemen stationed in the area. Since then, Kokusai-dori has evolved into a vibrant and lively destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. This historical context adds depth to the experience of strolling down Kokusai-dori, as it stands as a symbol of Okinawa’s resilience and cultural fusion.

Kokusai-dori Street: Explore Okinawa's Bustling Shopping Area

 

Local Stores and Eateries

While familiar brands and chain stores can be found on Kokusai-dori, it is the local stores, eateries, street vendors, covered markets, and performers that truly create the unique atmosphere of the street. From browsing through local crafts and souvenirs to indulging in delicious street food, there is something to satisfy every taste and interest. Local specialties include Okinawan soba, goya champuru (a stir-fry dish with bitter melon), and sata andagi (Okinawan doughnuts). Each bite offers a taste of Okinawa’s rich culinary heritage.

Best Time to Visit

To fully experience the vibrant energy of Kokusai-dori, it is recommended to visit on Saturday nights when the street is at its bustling best. This is when you can catch street performers showcasing their talents and entertaining the crowds. From fire-eaters to folk dancers and even budding pop stars, there is always something happening on Kokusai-dori. The lively atmosphere and diverse performances make for an unforgettable evening.

Kokusai-dori Street: Explore Okinawa's Bustling Shopping Area

Conclusion

Kokusai-dori is a must-visit destination in Naha, Okinawa. With its diverse range of attractions, from traditional performances to unique drinks and vibrant shopping streets, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in immersing yourself in the local culture, indulging in delicious food and drinks, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, Kokusai-dori offers it all. So, make sure to include this vibrant street in your itinerary when you visit Naha, and prepare to be captivated by its charm and energy.

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In conclusion, a visit to Kokusai-dori is an opportunity to experience the heart and soul of Okinawa. The street’s lively atmosphere, historical significance, and cultural richness make it an essential stop for anyone traveling to Naha. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Kokusai-dori promises a memorable experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for Okinawa’s unique heritage and vibrant culture.

Address And Maps Location

3-2-10 Makishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken

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