Does it any of these sound like you?
- You know there is so much to do, eat, see in Okinawa, but you don’t know where to start.
- You are preparing for your trip to Okniawa, and you want to get the most out of your trip.
- You have seen the major touristy spots, and you want to find something unique and hidden – you know, where the locals hang out.
We are making a series of printable itineraries to help you plan, discover, and enjoy Okinawa. These itineraries are beautiful, filled with local knowledge, and printable.
Let’s Get Started
Vol. 4 – Naha Ryukyu Heritage Tour
Nami No Ue Shrine
The name Nami No Ue means On The Wave. The shrine was built on top of a giant rock. Though the locals call that a cliff, I think it is too small to qualify as a cliff. During the Ryukyu Era, each boat going in and out of the old Naha port looked up to the shrine, prayed for a safe journey. Every New Year, the king himself, on behalf of his people visited the shrine to pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation. Today, people go there to pray and worship. The shrine has been Japanized since Okinawa became part of Japan. Prayers wash (purify) their hands at the entrance. People pray the “Japanese way” inside the main hall – throw a coin, clap two times, pray with eyes closed, and then ring the bell. Ceremonies for personal and commercial reasons are also being held here.
Nami No Ue Shrine is a fantastic place to visit because we can walk to the road the king used to walk and stand at the top of the “cliff” where the king used to look out.
On a side note, the surrounding area is the known red-light district in Naha. I can only tell you that much, but I LOVE the small izakayas and their delicious cooking.
The main castle of Shuri Castle was destroyed in a fire in October 2019. The ruin of the main palace opens to the public. We can still see the wall and other historical sites in the outskirt of Shuri Castle, including Shuri Gate, the pond of money, Shuri Moriutaki, the wall.
When you visit the ruin of the Shuri Castle, keep these in mind.
- Shuri Castle is unique in Japanese because it was designed and built under heavy influence from China, while Ryukyu was a nation independent from Japan.
- Shuri Castle is where the kind used to live, ruled the nation, and welcomed guests from other countries. You are at the same place where history took place.
- The Shuri Castle that burned down in 2019 is not the original Shuri Castle. The original Shuri Castle was destroyed during the battle of Okinawa.
Kinjo Stone Road
This road is the quickest path from Shuri Castle to Ryukyu time Naha port. Unlike many landmarks in Okinawa that date back to Ryukyu Kingdom, this road survived WWII. The cobblestones on this 300 meters long, steep road have been there for over 400 years. Because it was the shortest path to the most important entrance of the Ryukyu kingdom, it was reserved for the security force (samurai) to react quickly to situations in the port.
Take a walk up the hill. Not only do you get a good workout, but you will also travel back in time to see what the people saw during the Ryukyu era, and walk the road they used to walk.
Four hundred years ago, during the Ryukyu era, the most dedicated and the best pottery makers of Okinawa lived in Okinawa’s Tsuboya district. They live in such high concentration, so they can maximize productivity while continuing to improve their craft. Many families spend generations creating potteries, later known as the Tsuboya Style, which later became one of Japan’s nine mastery styles.
Why is pottery such a big deal? You may ask. Maritime trade with mainland Japan and the superpower at the time – China.
Tsuboya is in the center of Naha city. After WWII, the high concentration of firewood-based kilns posed a fire hazard to the growing capital. Craftsman and their family migrated to Yomitan village’s Yachimum district to establish Okinawa’s modern-day Ryukyu pottery center. Many artists open their studios to the public, while some live deep in the woods. Today we can visit the largest communal firewood kiln in Japan in the heart of Yachimum. The kiln’s capacity provides enough space for everyone in the community to bring their vision to life. The intense heat in the center of the kiln gives soul and character to the potteries.
Kokusai Street, also know as Kokusai Dori, is a shopping and entertainment district in the heart of Okinawa. There are god knows how many shops and restaurants along the street. You can spend so much time and money on this half-mile-long street. The best part of Kokusai St. is the mom and pop shops hidden in the side streets. Don’t be afraid to side track from the main street.
Senaga Island is a popular spot for tourists and locals. To sum it up, it is Okinawa’s Santorini (Greece). At least it tries to be. Some of Okinawa’s most popular restaurants and souvenir shops on this small island are on this island. It is also a popular place to watch sunset and airplanes take off and land at Naha airport. Now you know why I wrap up the trip with this location. It is the perfect place to end the day with delicious local snacks and drinks while watching the big birds come home and a spectacular Okinawa sunset backdrop.
Check out other day trip maps for Okinawa like this.