City hitlist: Naha

Okinawa feels more Hawaiian than Japanese, and its laidback capital has a character all its own. Here's out hitlist of what to do, and where to sleep and eat in the city.
Shurijo Castle

Shurijo Castle (Photo: Getty)

Naha feels more Hawaiian than Japanese. This laidback capital of Okinawa prefecture has a character all its own. Here are our tips on where to stay and eat, and what to see in the city.

What to see

Shurijo Castle

This castle was the seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which was a major maritime power for almost 500 years. Reflecting the unique role of the Ryukyus, the castle features a blend of Japanese and Chinese influences. It’s now one of nine World Heritage sites in Okinawa, fully restored to its red-lacquered glory after almost being destroyed during World War II. 1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho,

Churaumi Aquarium

Located on a peaceful peninsula about an hour’s drive from the city, this aquarium showcases the aquatic life found in the Ryukyu archipelago. A highlight is the Kuroshio Sea tank, where a pair of whale sharks is part of a program aimed at breeding the fish successfully in captivity. 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho,

What to do

Taste of Okinawa Cooking Experience

Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on Earth. Learn more about their diet at the Taste of Okinawa Cooking Experience, a hands-on class that begins at the Naha Public Market and ends with a bowl of soba.

Where to eat


Drawn by the sunshine and surf, Japanese hipsters flock to Okinawa for a cosmopolitan life by the sea. A popular hangout is Bacar (above), a busy pizzeria where the Tokyo-trained chef turns out excellent incarnations of Margherita and marinara pizze. Sit at the outdoor tables on summer nights when Negronis fuel conversations into the late hours. 3-16-15 Kumoji, +81 98 863 5678

Pizza at Bacar

Sushi Izumi

A charming husband-and-wife team attentively serve Edo-style sushi to nine diners at a time using local bounty, including bigeye tuna, buttery clams and steamed tiger prawns. There’s no English spoken and there’s no menu, either; you’ll be happy to take your chances on the catch of the day served alongside traditional favourites such as Japanese horse mackerel and sun-dried tilefish. 2 Chome-1-10 Tomari, +81 98 860 7565

Shuri Soba

There’s always a line around the block for what’s widely regarded as the best Okinawa soba in town. On the Japanese mainland, soba refers to buckwheat noodles; here, the noodles are made entirely from wheat, and at Shuri, they take seven hours to prepare. Toppings include a thick slice of stewed pork belly, white kamaboko (steamed seasoned fish paste) and shredded ginger. 1 Chome-7, +81 98 884 0556

How to get there

Naha is a short flight from Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong, all with direct flights from Australian cities. Okinawa is a destination on 2019 cruise itineraries by lines including Holland America Line, Ponant, Crystal Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

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