Monday, March 28, 2016

:::SPECIAL::: Kokusai-Dori International Street Wonders: Exploring the backstreets of Naha

:::SPECIAL::: Kokusai-Dori International Street 
 Wonders: Exploring the backstreets of Naha

Okinawa may be well-known for it's stunning
white sandy beaches and vast collection of 
World Heritage sites, including ancient castles,
but when it comes to tourism Kokusai-Dori
steals the show. Kokusai-Dori or "International
Street" as it's translated to in English is a 2km 
stretch of optimal restaurants, shops, hotels
and bars that cut their way through the heart
of downtown Tokyo. Anyone who visits Naha,
Okianwa's capital and largest city would be
hard-pressed to not to visit during their
time in Okinawa.

Although their are a ton of things we could
recommend to you to do on Kokusai-Dori, 
what we're actually going to do is take 
short excursion off of the main strip and
see what's hiding in the shadows. 

Let's talk a walk, shall we? ^^

:::Kokosai Dori:::
View Larger Map

Kokusai Street can be easily accessible via
the convenient Yui Rail monorail. The monorail
is most effectives for getting from the airport
to Shuri Castle and everywhere in between
making a total of 15 stops over a 12.9km
stretch. You can access Kokusai-Dori from
two different stations, Makishi Station to the
 North, and Kencho-mae Station to the South.

Heiwa-Dori or "Peace Street" is a prime example
of one of the many covered backstreets leading from
Kokusai-street. Streets such as this amount to nothing 
more than a tourist attraction most of the time, but 
if you look carefully, you can find some great stuff
for really cheap prices. 


  View Larger Map

Winding Streets of Awesomeness

Heiwa-Dori is cool because it's a covered
arcade of of shops which means it can be
 browsed easily no matter what the weather
may be outside. Just what exactly can
you find down these vast corridors? Well,
actually quite a bit of different things...

You'll find a wide variety of shops mostly geared
 towards tourists to Okinawa. The Shisa (bottom left)
is a mythical creature that appears to be a mix
of a lion and a dog, is possibly the most celebrated
souvenir from Okinawa because they are used as a
talisman or form of protection for houses and 
entranceways to shops. Usually one is sits with its
mouth open warding off evil spirits or releasing good
vibes, while the other keeps its mouth shut, sealing in
good spirits or not allowing evil spirits in, it all depends 
on how you look at it. 

Making your way down the narrow pathways
can be a bit tricky because there aren't 
exactly maps posted around the complex. Be
sure you don't get lost while making your way
around! ^^

Something Smells Fishy

Soon as you walk into the market area the smell
of seafood will overpower you! But not because
the fish smells bad, but rather the fish are so 
fresh, that it'll feel like you just went to the ocean
yourself. Another cool thing to note is how they
decorate the food here! So cute! ^^

Funny characters

If you look closely you find a bunchof interesting
 characters to take pictrures with. Not quite sure
if the shop owners did this on purpose or not but
it's worth a giggle or two. ^^

Where are we anyway?!

Kariyushi-Dori, Mutsumi-Bashi-Dori, Shin-Tenchi-
Ichiba-Dori, etc...After entering at Heiwa-Dori you'll
soon notice that there are a lot more "Dori" than
you originally bargained for, and it'll get extremely
confusing. Try not to get lost, because it really
is like a maze. A piece of advice is to use Google
Maps to help navigate, because some of the
streets actually show up and it'll make
orientating yourself so much better. 

The Street art is impressive!

If you have the chance, see if you can get
pictures of the impressive street art that
lines the doors of shops before they've been
opened. This shot features a very cute Shisa
showing off his pearly white smile!

Japan's aging population

It's no secret that Japan's population proportionately
wonky in terms of youths compared to seniors. In
fact, the population has been on a steady decline
since 2011. To some it may seem like a grim fact,
but to optimists, over 1/3 of the population is over
the age of 60 and just teeming with wisdom and
experiences to share. Traveling to Heiwa-Dori one
thing you'll notice is there are a lot of elderly people
besides the waves of tourists. And the best part
about Okinawa is the people are extremely friendly
and more than willing to strike up a conversation
with you at a glance.  

We hope you enjoyed this short walk into the
back-alley shopping streets of Okinawa's Kokusai-
Dori. Next time you find yourself in Okinawa,
be sure to check it out for yourself, strike up
a conversation with some elderly folks and tell
us here at Japankuru all about it!