Everything To Know About Kokusai-dori Street In Naha, Okinawa | CoolJapan

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.

Kokusai-dori Street Okinawa Travel Guide

Kokusai-dori Street is a great place to shop, dine, and be entertained when in Okinawa. (Photo from: ©JNTO)

Its development started during the U.S. occupation of Okinawa. It took on the name Kokusai-dori Street which literally means ‘International Street’, in reference to the Ernie Pyle International Theater which was frequented by the U.S. servicemen who took residence in the area after the war. It also earned the nickname ‘The Miracle Mile’ due to its speedy rebuilding and recovery post-war.

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

What to eat and drink at Kokusai-dori Street Okinawa
Awamori is an Okinawan liquor that has quite a role in Japanese history. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

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.

2. Navigate Kokusai-dori Street’s side streets for a good bargain

What to do at Kokusai-dori Street Okinawa

Nishi-Shinjuku at Kokusai-dori Street. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

The street’s long stretch is home to a lot of nooks and crannies that lead to interesting detours filled with great finds. If you’re looking for arcades and relatively cheaper finds than the main street, take a turn to Heiwa-dori. Traditional clothes, pots, and other trinkets can be found here. Ichiban-hondori is another detour to take, especially when you’re looking for fresh local produce. For a nightlife experience that immerses you in life with the locals, Nishi-Shinjuku at Kokusai-dori Street is the place to be.

3. Watch out for Shisa statues

Fun facts about Kokusai-dori Street Okinawa

Shisa statues guard many establishments on Kokusai-dori Street. (Photo from: ©JNTO)

Shisa statues are scattered all over Kokusai-dori Street, designed after a mythical creature that’s half-dog and half-lion. It’s a symbol of Okinawan tradition that’s meant to keep evil spirits out and provide protection to one’s household. Shisa statues are usually found in pairs, with the male version with its mouth open and the female version with its mouth closed. Amulets and souvenirs featuring shisa are also sold in various shops at Kokusai-dori Street, allowing you to take a piece of its luck and charm with you back home.

4. Every August, catch 10,000 Eisa dancers holding a parade at Kokusai-dori Street

Eisa Dance Parade At Kokusai-dori Street Okinawa

Eisa Festival at Kokusai-dori Street. (Photo from: 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

If you time your trip to Naha, Okinawa in August, you can catch the 10,000 Eisa Dance Parade. During this event, the street is closed to vehicles and performers fill the street to dance in unison to traditional folk songs accompanied by taiko drums. Observing the parade is free, but if you want to try out Eisa dancing yourself, you can participate in a controlled performance for a small fee after taking a short two-hour course on the choreography.

What activity are you most excited to try at Kokusai-dori Street?