‘Tis the season for gift giving, holiday parties, and thankfully, cooler temperatures. It’s also the perfect time to take a day trip and explore the island. Why not do some sight seeing and cross off a few names from your holiday shopping list?
We’ve selected the top spots for a shopping excursion in downtown Naha–all within walking distance of each other. So throw on your most comfortable walking shoes, and bring a camera, yen, and your shopaholic friends, because there’s lots to see and buy in this unique urban landscape.
It’s easy to get to these Naha shopping hot spots. Just take 58 south and follow the signs for Kokusai–you can turn on Route 42 and park at an underground paid parking garage. Upstairs is Kokusai Street (Route 39) on the left and Palette Kumoji across the street. Our list follows the route we took when we went exploring–we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
If you only have time for one shopping center near Kokusai, Palette Kumoji, with a Ryubo department store, is it, with a variety of cute, modern gift ideas. As you walk in, the smell of melted chocolate and freshly baked pastries wafts through the 1st floor. Check out impeccably decorated confectionaries here–in Okinawan and Japanese culture, they’re customary to give when invited to someone’s house party.
In the upstairs levels, lots of shops offer unique gifts, many at reasonable prices. Snatch up a leather handbag for less than ¥4000, or get that girly girl in your life a bright, kawaii cosmetic pouch from AMA boutique. Don’t miss the 7th floor, filled with booths of Okinawan arts and crafts, kimono, and artisans at work.
Kokusai Dori, literally “International Street,” is Okinawa’s most famous boulevard, and unlike any other in the world. The street’s 1.6 kilometers are filled with vibrantly colored shops, restaurants, bars, and crowds of people. This is the place to find shisa figurines, treats made with pineapple and ben-imo, Okinawa’s purple potato, plus island and surf wear, t-shirts for your dog, and lots, lots more. Be sure to have your camera ready–there are photo ops everywhere you turn.
Find Mitsukoshi Mall about halfway down Kokusai. It’s smaller than Ryubo, but there are designer goods on the 1st floor, like Gucci sunglasses, Coach purses, and Shiseido products. Most floors offer clothing styled for women, not juniors. Worth checking out: the home goods and kimono displays on the 6th floor, and bingata and woven fabric, Ryukyu glass, jewelry, and other Okinawan crafts on the 7th floor.
4. HEIWA DORI
On the southeast side of Kokusai Dori, just across from Mitsukoshi, there are three large, covered shopping alleys, or “arcades.” Heiwa Dori, literally “Peace Street,” is the largest and most interesting of the three. Expect to see lots of traditional Okinawan souvenirs, like habu sake, awamori, Ryukyu glass, and even gift packs of Orion beer. There are also clothes, glass figurines, precious stones and jewelry, and lots more. We scored a pretty bracelet made from howlite and a bead of blue Okinawan sea glass.
And, don’t miss out on trying the unique Yukisio salt ice cream shop, near the entrance of Heiwadori. Choose a cup or cone of vanilla soft serve, then sprinkle one of six flavored salts, including black sesame, wasabi, chili pepper, and green tea. Pitchers of water are available, but you might want to keep your water bottle handy.
As you browse along Heiwadori, be sure to keep to the left of the alleyway, and soon you’ll come out to a road that leads directly to the Tsuboya Pottery District. Even if you’re not in the market for ceramics, you don’t want to miss Tsuboya. With its traditional tile roof houses, cobble stone roads, and displays of glazed earthenware, this is a great place to take pictures, or just stroll around, taking in the charming scenery. It’s hard to believe this quiet neighborhood is just a short walk from modern, bustling Kokusai.