On a cold January morning my step son Hiro and I boarded a flight to Naha Okinawa. Upon arrival we headed to the monorail ticket center and purchased a one-day pass (800 yen). We chose several attractions based on short walks from various monorail stations.
First stop Shurijo Castle, last visited during my honeymoon in 2009. At that time the castle was under a restoration program. Today it is once again being restored due to the horrific fire back in 2019. It is still worth a visit, just to walk the castle grounds and read about its unique history. For over 450 years Shurijo Castle was the center of politics during the Ryukyo Kingdom. The Sonohyan-utaki stone gate is a UNESCO World Heritage site, while most of the architecture is a cross between Chinese and Japanese construction. https://oki-park.jp/shurijo/en/
Headed to Maebashi to drop off our luggage and our next stop Naminoue Shrine. This shrine dates back to 1367 and sits on top of a bluff overlooking Naminoue beach. The original purpose of this shrine was prayers for safe journeys of the ships coming and leaving Naha port. The day we visited it was very crowded with the locals coming to pray for the New Year.
A short walk from Naminoue is Fukusheun Garden.
This garden was a pleasant surprise, as it was a Chinese garden built by Naha’s sister city Fuzhou, China in 1992. During the Ryukyu Kingdom this area known as Kume was the center of Chinese learning and culture, which made for a perfect location to build the garden. Representing a traditional garden in Fuzhou it is built with stones and wood from that area of China including using their own artisans. You want to take your time strolling through the garden as there are many beautiful photo spots. The centerpiece is the Mount Ye waterfalls, at the top is a panoramic view of the garden and you can even walk just behind the waterfalls for a nice photo shoot. The entrance fee is only 200 yen, making this a must stop on your trip to Naha.
Our last monorail stop of the day was to Makishi Station for a walk through the famous Kokusai Street. If you are into shopping then this 1.6-kilometer street, plus the many side streets is the place to go. Our goal for the first night was to eat local Okinawan food and the choices of eateries here were so numerous it was very difficult to decide. Hiro had Goya salad and shrimp, I had the Okinawa Chicken, which was very tasty. With full stomachs we opted to take a taxi back to our hotel near the Tomari Port and it was only 910 yen. An excellent first day in Okinawa.