When in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, one stop you shouldn’t miss visiting is Kokusai-dori Street, a 1.6-kilometre street known for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and other forms of entertainment. This street has a colourful history tracing its roots from World War II when this former swampy area was transformed into a lively district.
At present, Kokusai-dori Street presents a busy yet laidback charm, with stores often opening before dawn and closing at the wee hours of the night. These businesses are a combination of known establishments, as well as local street vendors and niched shops.
Things to do at Kokusai-dori Street
1. Sample Okinawan liquor like Awamori
Kokusai-dori Street will leave you spoilt for choice when it comes to drinking and dining options. If you’re looking for a unique beverage experience to try, why not sample Okinawan liquor like awamori?
Awamori is said to have played a huge role in trade during the Edo Period (1603–1868), being served as tribute from shoguns to visiting envoys from China. It is distilled from Thai rice and uses black koji mould that works well during fermentation with Okinawa’s natural humid climate. It can also be stored long-term and is traditionally left to age in clay pots for the flavour to mature.
Looking for new ways to enjoy awamori, some distilleries eventually started playing around with techniques to enhance the Okinawan spirit even further. One distillery used ingredients unique to Okinawa to craft its own gin. In another instance, 12 different distilleries collaborated to create Sho, a triple-distilled awamori that has a crisper flavour than the traditional liquor.