CONTRIBUTED BY AMY MADDOCKS
We talk about “Kokusai Street” all the time here on this beautiful rock we call home, but some of us only really know is that it’s in Naha and is a fun street on which to shop. And, of course, where they hold the famous Naha Tug-of-War each year. So, here is some basic info on Okinawa’s most famous shopping street—including how to get there and where to park. I realize there are many interesting things to see on the side streets, but this post is mainly about Kokusai itself.
Kokusai Dori is absolutely packed with stores and restaurants—on both sides of the street. It used to be called “The Miracle Mile” because of its rapid recovery after the post-war era. They sell everything from original Okinawa-made crafts to imported souvenir items, expensive to cheap, local artists and major department stores, and everything in-between. I have been there many times, and each time I find something new and exciting to purchase. There truly is a little something for everyone here, including the food. There are as many different places to eat as there are things to buy! We usually walk up one side shopping and then go down the other on the way back. Any time you are hungry, there are plenty of choices to satisfy your cravings.
According to the locals, the best shops for local t-shirts and original designs are Island Spirits and Island Brothers (unrelated stores). Both are owned by local surfers, and the owner of Island Spirits donates a percentage of sales to the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club. Sweet! Also, just off of Kokusai is Heiwa Dori (Peace Street). This is where people go for real bargain shopping with much cheaper items. There are many unusual gift shops in this area, so take the time to explore it! It is the third street after the post office on the west side of the street.
Most of the stores are open by 10:00 a.m. and stay open pretty late. Some of the main side streets and shops close around dark because Kokusai has a nightlife separate from the shopping day. It is always busy with clubs, bars, and cheap places to eat until very late on the weekends.
Directions: There are many ways to get there, but the easiest is to get to Naha (take the express or 58) and follow the signs for Kokusai Street. We usually turn left off of the 58 onto the 42, and then turn left on the second light (this puts you right on Kokusai). Once you get there, parking is interesting. There are several lots where you pay to park, but keep in mind that the closer you get to the actual “street,” the more expensive the lot is. We found the cheapest lots one or two blocks off of the main street, toward the southern end of the main street. They are usually packed on the weekends, but we have never had a problem finding parking if we are patient. We did park on a lot right on Kokusai once, but it was more than twice as expensive as the lots a block away. I’m told that there are some free parking spots somewhere close by, so if anyone knows where those are—please share!!
If you like to shop and explore new stores, plan on spending several hours!! And don’t forget the many shops jutting off of the main road. We once spent an entire day just branching off and exploring the many stores on the side streets. As for payment, bring Yen. Some stores accept credit cards, but most deal only with Yen. Enjoy!
This post was featured in Stripes Okinawa!