CONTRIBUTED BY JOEL SEPPALA
One of the things that most binds those of us who live temporarily on Okinawa, whether for one week or for three years, is the airport. To be specific, that is the Naha International Airport, Okinawa’s primary point of embarkation and debarkation for commercial flights. Whether greeting newcomers, arriving on Okinawa for the first time, or leaving for an extended period of time or forever, it is good to be familiar with the airport and how to travel there.
An evening drive to the airport by way of Highway 58 can be enjoyable and provide a good first or last impression of the iconic island roadway. If leaving Kadena Air Base Gate 1, plan on a 50 minute drive given normal traffic conditions. The ride is a good opportunity to pass by familiar landmarks such as the Faraoh and Jumbo Sunshine casinos as well as to experience the always beautiful Naha city night lights.
Upon arriving at the airport, drivers will be pleased to find that parking is accessible; either covered or uncovered parking is available. (Parking options are discussed in more detail in another post, here.) Though the covered parking garages are designated according to airline, all lots including the uncovered lot are well within walking distance of all airline counters and arrival areas. The parking rate for the uncovered lot is ¥1000/day. Once inside, visitors will find the airport layout simple and efficient. There are two arrival gates inside the first floor of the terminal. The glass doors at each gate allow waiting friends and relatives the opportunity to watch eagerly as arriving passengers collect their baggage at the claim area.
While waiting for passengers to arrive, there are opportunities to pass the time. The second floor of the terminal has an observation deck and a spacious welcome area for restless kids to crash around in while anxiously waiting. An escalator originating on the second floor will take visitors to airline ticket counters on the third floor for those interested. In addition to the welcome area, there are several restaurants with traditional Japanese food as well as some American restaurants on the first through fourth floors of the surprisingly spacious terminal.
Directions to Naha Airport from Kadena Gate 1 on Highway 58:
Proceed south from Kadena Gate 1 on Highway 58. There are three bridges along the route. Stay to the right to travel on each bridge. On the final bridge, take the airport exit to the right just after the first curve near the baseball stadium. The route will then take you past Seamen’s Club on the right. Continue to follow the signs to the airport. Proceed through the right-hand pickup bus lane at the airport. One note, take care when making the turn to enter the pickup lane to avoid oncoming traffic at the blind intersection.
As an alternative, there are a couple of other ways to travel to the airport using the Okinawa transportation networks. Travelers can use the monorail to pass from points within Naha and just north of Naha in suburban districts. In addition, travelers can access the Okinawa expressway and follow the route to the airport.