By Shahida Sakeri on April 23, 2018
Okinawa, as described in our previous issue, makes a perfect all-inclusive destination for travellers who want to experience it all: rich history, tropical islands with crystal-blue waters and white sandy beaches; deliciously varied food; and interesting mix of cultures. But the list does not stop there, as this Japanese prefecture offers extensive shopping options for shopaholics and browsers alike such as popular luxury goods, meticulous artisanal crafts, tasty snacks, cute souvenirs or exotic street products. Be sure to bring along an extra empty bag and bring plenty of cash!
Kokusaidori reminds me of Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur – it is busy, vibrant and rich with history. This is, in fact, the place where they held the annual Naha Tug-of-War festival each year. Kokusaidori (meaning “International Avenue”) stretches almost up to two kilometres and lined with restaurants, bars, hotels, souvenir shops, boutiques and fast food chains. For more serious bargaining opportunities, I recommend travellers to head straight to Heiwadori, Mutsumidori and Ichiba Hondori arcades, where shops are smaller and prices are cheaper. It’s best to visit Kokusaidori on weekends if you like to feel the high energy of the street; however, should you prefer slightly quieter walk, go on weekdays instead. Many shops open from 10:00 a.m. until late. One of the easiest ways to go here is by taking the monorail and stop at either Kencho-mae or Miebashi Stations.
When in Okinawa, consider buying Okashi Goten’s locally grown beniimo (sweet potato) tarts as souvenirs for your loved ones back home. It is delicate, delicious and most importantly, halal-certified. There are several Okashi Goten outlets available in Okinawa, but Makishi and Matsuo outlets are the easiest to find as they are located along the Kokusaidori street. Visitors can also witness the process of manufacturing the tarts from behind the glass window. The outlets open every day from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Tsuboya Yachimun Pottery Street
Should travellers ever wonder about what the old Okinawa must have been like, then visit this street to be immersed in this charming traditional Okinawan quarter. Tsuboya is considered as the pottery-making hub since 300 years ago, when the ancient Ryukyu kingdom gathered potters across Okinawa to the place to encourage the pottery industry. Today, the quarter is still thriving because Okinawan pottery is highly prized due to its quality. Travellers can expect to visit 20 ceramic workshops, stores and galleries featuring glazed wares in numerous designs – one in particular is the shisa, a traditional Ryukyuan decoration resembling a cross between a lion and a dog that locals put at home to ward off evil. To go there, just take the monorail and stop at either Asato or Makishi Stations.
Shuri Ryusen is one of my favourite spots in Okinawa, a place where travellers can learn and appreciate Okinawan traditional resist dyed cloth called bingata. Upon arrival, visitors will be greeted by the first gate of Shurijo Castle called Chuzanmon Gate. After stepping inside, travellers are bound to be amazed by the gallery full of exquisite collections of bingata. There is also an atelier on the third floor where experts demonstrate the whole process of coral dyeing technique. Interested travellers can get creative by joining the do-it-yourself (DIY) coral dyeing classes at a fee (Adult: 3,000 yen, Child: 2,500 yen), and bring home the finished product as a personal momento. Do take note that these classes require reservation. The shop opens every day from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Take the monorail to the Shuri Station, then switch to any bus with the number 1, 14 or 46 and stop at Shuri High School or Yamakawa.
Mihama American Village
Built on a reclaimed land, this huge American-themed entertainment complex embodies the laidback vibe of West Coast USA, where visitors can find various establishments that fit the concept such as diners featuring American menu, shops selling American big brands and the Mihama 7 Plex cinema showing both English and Japanese movies. I suggest travellers check out the shops like Royal Tudor and Norari & Kurari for artisanal one-of-a kind souvenirs to bring home. Do keep some spaceyou’re your tummy to for that delicious taco rice, a local version of the popular Mexican cuisine. Come at night to enjoy the area’s vivacity or ride the Sky Max 60, a giant Ferris wheel has become the area’s landmark. Interested travellers can take buses with the number 28, 29 or 120 from Naha Bus Terminal, get off at the Gunbyoin-mae bus stop, and then walk for five minutes to the complex.
Ashibinaa Okinawa Outlet Mall
Ashibinaa, or “play yard” in Okinawan dialect, is a Greek-style two-storey building that offers up to 100 premium brands with emphasis on European names at outlet prices. Visitors can expect massive discounts on everything from clothing to jewelleries and house wares such as Marc Jacobs, Salvatore Ferragamo and Michael Kors. The outlet also provides shoppers with various conveniences such as restaurants, information centre, delivery service and clothing adjustment service. City buses are available directly from Naha Airport domestic terminal to the outlet, which opens everyday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Good to Know
Refer to JNTO website (www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/travel/guide/guideservice.html) for more information.
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Okinawa local government and Mabui Stone Corporation for making our trip to Okinawa a reality.