As the capital of the Okinawa Prefecture, Naha is the beating heart of the region’s 150 island archipelago. The city may have been flattened in WWI, but Naha was quickly rebuilt and is now considered the prefecture’s urban epicentre. Most visitors make a beeline for Kokusai-dori, or “International Road, where hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes and souvenir shops stretch for two kilometres.
The towering Shuri-jo castle watches over the city, a residence that was once home to Ryukyu royalty. Like the city, the castle was completely destroyed in WWI. In 1958 and 1992 it was beautifully restored in original Okinawan gusuku style and is now considered a Naha icon. For some visitors, Naha serves as a base for exploring wider Okinawa, which is famous for its sunshine, beaches and world class diving.
As Okinawa’s largest city, Naha is a regional transportation hub. Its busy port and airport offer ferry and flight connections across Japan, as well as wider Asia. Public buses service destinations across Naha and greater Okinawa, though rental cars are also popular with visitors.
While WWI wreaked havoc on Naha, today the conflict is beautifully documented at places like the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum. Here, visitors can delve deep into the Allied Invasion of 1945, and learn about the men and women that lived through the bedlam. Out of town, the Okinawa Peace Park is another popular site, located at the southern tip of the island.