I am sure we all thought of it before – how nice it would have been to go there by train! Unfortunately, Okinawa has the handicap of being without the convenience of a rail system since THE DAWN OF TIME! Sure, it has that monorail system down at Naha but in all honesty, I have never really found it to be that convenient. Of course, this does not mean that Okinawa will sit idly by and miss out on the festivities that comes with train stations such as shops, rest areas, and cultural exploration spots. Down here we have road stops called Michi No Eki and below are some of the best-of-the-best-of-the-best road stations that are an absolute must visit on Island!

Michi No Eki – Kadena

Michi No Eki Kadena

How about we start with the most controversial one, shall we? Being next to Kadena Air Base, back in the day this road stop was occasionally used by photographers to get good snap shots of cool looking planes flying in and out of the base. When there was a renovation to be scheduled, I would like to think that the U.S. base preferred to minimize visibility of the base but what did they get instead? A 4-story high rest stop with a roof top observation deck! Way to stick it to ‘em, Kadena-cho! This is a joke of course and I am sure this was well thought-out with all consensus to simply boost tourism for Kadena-cho and the rest stop. It even has a small museum on the 3rd floor explaining all about the history of the Kadena Air Base and its airfield. Really culturally enlightening stuff. See more on what they have at https://michinoeki-kadena.jp/.

Michi No Eki – Kina Banjo

Michi No Eki - Kina Banjo

If Kadena wanted to boost tourism, Kina Banjo wants the complete opposite. The thing that makes this road stop so interesting is its seclusion and simplicity. No fancy shops, restaurants, or even a picturesque view. Just an old house with some pictures of its history and a man sitting at the park bench playing the shamisen (and beautifully I might add). Not much else about this serene place except that directly across from it, is an old-style mom and pop store selling local delicacies. One of them being the ‘medicinal soup’ called Nuchigusui which its deliciousness can probably nurse back a limb! I haven’t seen this soup in a while and it made me feel like I travelled back to a simpler time. Perfect place for a quiet poetic rest and want to get away from all the noise traveling along route 58.

Gala: Aoi Umi

Michi No Eki - Gala

Not strictly a road stop but what exactly classifies a site as a road stop? Is it along the road with restaurants? – Yes. Shops? – Of course. Place to buy souvenirs? – Absolutely! If this isn’t considered a road side stop then I don’t what is! Nevertheless, let’s just say this street adjacent rest area, has a good variety of restaurant choices such as pizza, burgers, and soba just to name a few. For entertainment, there is the salt factory which you can learn about something new and finish off with some of their salt flavoured soft serve ice cream. Don’t even get me started on the view. Simply amazing. Check it out sometime when you are in the area close to Zanpa beach.

Igei Service Area

Igei Service Area

A road stop truest to its word, Igei service area is one of the most frequented rest and service stations located along the Okinawan expressway. The expressways on Okinawa are by all means not long but if you just had a big meal and driving from Nago to Naha on a constant 80km/h drive, you will thank God this road stop exists. They have all the rest and rejuvenating necessities you would need such as coffee, candy, snacks, and even a restaurant. Parking is ample too if you feel like just taking a nap. Most interestingly enough is that they have homemade Muchi which is a traditional Okinawan mochi wrapped in ginger leaves which I can seldomly find anywhere else. It is fantastic with coffee too. Definitely worth a try when you are in the area.

Michi No Eki – Kyoda

Michi No Eki - Kyoda

Saving the best for last, this G.O.A.T. (or rather G.R.O.A.T.) has absolutely everything. Soba, beautiful ocean view, soft serve and mango ice shavings, tempura, souvenir novelty shirts, donuts, a museum, an information centre, ample parking, and about a gazillion restrooms just to name a few. They even have a steak house right next to a seafood sashimi restaurant which I believe is one of the last few places you can still find Irabu-jiru (sea snake soup). Located at the northern end of the Okinawan expressway, this is a perfect spot to get that halftime energy jolt if you are on your way to Motobu, Okuma, or even Kouri Island. If not, this road stop in itself is still already worth the journey. Rest stop pro tip: If you are pernickety about public toilets like me, you should use the airconditioned one in the 2nd floor information centre!