Okinawa's International Street

Naha's Sunday rendezvous

 By Kylie Giggins   Dec 17, 2016

As you get off the aircraft as you land in Okinawa, you discover that it has a very different vibe to landing in Tokyo. Not the normal hustle and bustle of a busy airport of transient travellers but a more distinct feel of many visitors from mainland Japan and overseas who have come to soak up the gorgeous atmosphere, beaches and islands.

There are no rail systems joining the airport to nearby cities. In fact the rail system simply consists of a monorail. Even within Okinawa there is so much diversity. Many travellers first stop by the capital Naha, and its main street of shopping and food places called Kokusai Dori, as known as International Street. If you get a chance you must visit Kokusai Dori on a Sunday when they close the street to traffic and it becomes a shopping, food and entertainers delight. During the year you will be privileged to witness different cultural and music groups as you walk through the main street. One such group is Eisa.

There is a distinct sound to the beat of Japanese drums with the rhythm and dance of Eisa. Among the busy weekend trading, locals and tourists line the streets for authentic traditional food and souvenirs and modern day manga, anime and sweet shops. The atmosphere is loud and vibrant, but it is the beat of the drum that stops onlookers. They stand in silence and are entertained by this ancient tradition. It has an unique sound and rhythm, performed by both young and old. This time they are here to raise money for the victims of the Kumamoto earthquake. You will also see Eisa at the traditional Obon celebrations in August, one that farewells ancestor spirits. Tradition lives on in Okinawa and there is no sign of it being lost as ancestors and traditions are honoured through Eisa.

Photography by Kylie Giggins
Japan Travel Member

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Jihad Mahmoud 4 months ago
Interesting. I would love to visit Okinawa soon. Many friends told me that they felt outside Japan when they were there.