Flattened during WWII, the prefectural capital of Naha is now a thriving urban centre. The city sports a convenient elevated monorail and a rapidly expanding skyline of modern high-rise apartments, as well as the inevitable traffic jams.
The city plays host to an interesting mix of young Japanese holidaymakers, American GIs looking for off-base fun and a growing number of foreign tourists. The action centres on Kokusai-dōri (International Blvd), a colourful and energetic 2km main drag of hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and just about every conceivable type of souvenir shop. And overlooking it all from a safe distance to the east is Shuri-jō, a wonderfully restored castle that was once the home of Ryūkyū royalty.
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Garden fans should take a stroll through Chinese-style Fukushū-en. All materials were brought from Fuzhou, Naha's sister city in China, including the pagoda that sits atop a small waterfall.
The reconstructed castle sits atop a hilltop overlooking Naha's urban sprawl. It was originally built in the 14th century and served as the administrative centre and royal residence of the Ryūkyū kingdom until the 19th century.Enter through the Kankai-mon (歓会門) and go up to the Hōshin-mon (奉神門), which forms the entryway to the inner sanctum of the castle, dominated by the impressive Seiden (正殿). Visitors can enter the Seiden, which has exhibits on the castle and the Okinawan royals. There is also a small collection of displays in the nearby Hokuden. To reach the complex, take the Yui-rail monorail to Shuri Station. Exit to the west, go down the steps, walk straight, cross one big street, then a smaller one and go right on the opposite side, then walk about 350m and look for the signs on the left.
This atmospheric yakiniku (grilled meat) place is one of our favourite places in Naha for a good meal. If you're a carnivore and want some excellent grilled meat washed down with great awamori, this is the place. Look for the English sign at the bottom of the steps. If you can't speak Japanese, ask your accommodation owner to call and order the yakiniku course (¥3500 per person) as it must be ordered in advance.
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