[Okinawa] ~ Discoveries within Naha City

~    First in one Japan’s less busy cities – 03.24.2016

After my Manila misadventure which led to spending the night in Taipei Airport, it was finally Okinawa early the following morning. Trying to make most of an already shortened trip, I was out as soon as I checked in bag in my capsule hotel. My day then mostly spent walking around shopping strip KOKUSAI DORI (also called International Road) until that discovery of a monument of a GIANT ROPE used during the city’s yearly tug-of-war event. Unhappy with a cancelled ferry ride to Zamami, I pushed for a quick trip to the nearest beach in the city called NAMINOUE. 

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On my first day Okinawa are these discoveries of random interesting things about Naha.

* A popular summer destination but can be chilly at this time of year

Prior to trip, I knew that it was about to transition to summer but I did not anticipate the chill that welcomed me as soon as I stepped out of the airport. It was also cloudy at that time that city has this sleepy vibe.

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Some even more geared up than I was

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Landscape in grey

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Crowdless street on my way to my capsule hostel 

(Such a sleepy city at that time of day)

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* Still a city after all

While not as popular among tourists as Tokyo and Kyoto, this has all the convenient tinges of a typical Japanese city.

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Convenience stores are everywhere

(This favorite snack from Lawson an immediate find as soon as I exit from the station)

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As in other Japanese cities I’ve been in, they are rather generous with brochure maps and guides to help tourists navigate and see the check-outs

(I was just in area for less than an hour and I have all these brochures)

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Capsule hostels as accommodation option for the non-claustrophobes

(My first was in Osaka on a trip in 2015)

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Interestingly though, the one I was about able to reserve has its public bath in another building.

(It was a very short walk from the hostel itself but it was personally just odd how I can’t go to bed straight after bathing : D ) 

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Option to have menu in English in train ticket vending machines one of the most helpful buttons

(I couldn’t imagine how I would survive finding my way around stations without it)

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Vending machines make it impossible for one to get thirsty

(From soda to coffee – hot or cold – to tea to kinds of juices, all are available within your 100 yen or slightly more. Chances are you’ll have to bring this with you until you go back to your hostel because as I noticed, they rarely have trash cans on the road yet discipline is so innate that most roads are spotless.)

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* Those strips for food, beer and souvenir what-nots

Whenever I book a place to stay abroad, I make sure I find one that’s located to an area known for drinking and walking / ‘window’-shopping for random fun finds. In Naha, such strip is called KOKUSAI DORI, which reminded me a lot of Myeongdong in Seoul and Dotonbori in Osaka) – less the crowd. With US Army presence in the city also, there is more evident influence of the country on establishments on the main road.

As I was walking along the straight road, I was also able to find streets branching off from former – still mainly lined with stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs and food (A later search gave me names of these as  HEIWA DORI and MAKISHI MARKET).

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My walking kicked off from this corner

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Building of restaurants and souvenir shops

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20160324_142816Hey, Heiwa Dori

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Not easy to miss is this light green building called Hapi Naha

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Passed by an ice cream stall and grabbed myself this. A check on my to-do in bucket list to eat ice cream while feeling cold 😀

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That STOP! sign did the trick

 That happy hour period rather limited though don’t you think

(Wow, unintentional but it rhymed 😀 )

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Building art spotted

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Hmm. What is written on that underpants though

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Souvenirs

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Bus and stop

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Arcade

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Places for palm-reading

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Floor art

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Not as crowded

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Got creeped by this

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Yey to travel stamps for my trip notebook

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* Meeting a giant … rope

Very near the shopping streets is this area where a giant rope is displayed – which has won the Guinness World Records at some point. Interestingly, this is not just for record-setting purposes but is actually used during Naha’s yearly festival in October where people actually do play tug-of-war. I cannot be sure how but read somewhere that tiny ropes are attached to this giant so the tugging can actually happen.

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Hey there, you sleeping giant

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That black thing looked funny ;D

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* Woot! A beer-loving place is love

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Waaaa. I wish I could take several of you home

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For the more adventurous

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One of many izakayas in the area

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* Japan’s railway simplified

Country is known to have one of the most complex railway systems in the world but in Naha, it was as simple as this monorail.

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As if some kind of toy

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Why are you crying, Mr Crab?

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* Beach in the city

Since there were no ferry rides to Zamami on day as originally planned, I searched for beach that’s nearest the city. I had little expectations but I was surprised how beautiful the beach was – with its clear water and rock formations on the side. I’ve always had a picture of beaches in mind and one in Naminoue doesn’t fit that – in a rather good way. First beach in the city – check!

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Cat meet on my way to the beach

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… and now a dog! 

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Subtle doodle on the wall

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Stunted palm tree

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Panoramic for perspective

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Next to the beach is a Shinto shrine which was as awesomely equally quiet as the beach.

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From the main road

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Side story : Since I took a cab to get to the beach, I had no idea how to get back to center except do the same thing, Unfortunately, there were no taxis in the area. I could have waited but since I remembered that it was a short ride and with not much turns, I thought I could trace my way back to the station. Of course, I was wrong. I ended up getting lost and walking the streets of a residential neighborhood. Luckily, the man I asked directions from offered to drive me to the station. I was scared at first because I am entrusting my life to a complete stranger. I trusted my instinct though and this time, it was right.

* Just this fun notebook find at a multi-floor stationary shop near my hostel

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For someone who gets to live this long – or maybe one that can be passed generation to generation?

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* Okinawa’s very own beer

Respect more to Okinawa for brewing their very own beer called Orion.

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Grabbed myself an afternoon beer after all the walking

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My first izakaya for this trip

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Something really lovely with the smallness of these Japanese pubs

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The owner who oddly looks like an old version of my mother 😀

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* Another buy from one of those capsule toy vending machines

I couldn’t remember how it started but I have been a fan of these capsule toys (called gashapon) that I kept on buying even though I know it’s going to eat up a lot of space in my backpack.

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Could no longer wait for what’s inside

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* Revisit to the busy strip

I also did this in Dotonbori in Osaka wherein I just had to see the busiest street both in sun and when it’s dark – just to get a vibe of the place on different times of day.

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Warming up

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Pointy

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Modern-looking izakaya

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Where to?

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Glow-in-the-dark pendants! 

(I got one as birthday gift for Mama)

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These look real and happy! 

(Got one for Pop / my father who is into masks)

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Mini-pineapples

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* Izakaya to call it a day

My last stop for the day would be another beer in an izakaya I randomly picked while walking.

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They really can’t let you drink here without side dishes

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Pick a color

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Failed at capturing the Orion lanterns

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How to get to places

Stayed in STAR CAPSULE HOTEL in Naha, 10-minute walk away from Asahibashi Station in Okinawa monorail.

KOKUSAI DORI is within walking distance from Miebashi Station.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Kristina Correa (or more known to almost all people in her life as Teng) is based on the city of Manila in the Philippines and whenever she can, cools off with routine and gets her doses of happy someplace else. She doesn’t mean to inform and help plan (as obvious with her laziness with details) but hopes her stories and photos can inspire you to create your own.

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