When you visit Okinawa‘s capital Naha, if the only shopping area you know or have visited is Kokusai-dōri Street then you are missing out! Although the street is certainly one of the must-visit places in Naha, the markets and arcades below are where you can get a true taste of Okinawan culture! We have also thrown in a few dining ideas for lunch and dinner (^_-)-☆.
- Sakaemachi Arcade (栄町市場)
- Heiwa-dōri Street (平和通り)
- First Makishi Public Market (第一牧志公設市場)
- Tsuboya Yachimun Street (壺屋やちむん通り)
☛ If you would like to explore Naha in a traditional Japanese Kimono, refer to HERE. Wearing the traditional Ryukyu costume is another way to explore Naha in style. Refer to HERE to book a dress-up session!
☛ Refer to HERE to book a pick-up and drop-off service from Naha Airport. You can also book a luggage delivery service HERE between Naha Airport and your hotel.
☛ If you would like to explore Naha with an electric-assisted bicycle, refer to HERE.
Enjoy Naha With a Guided Tour
If you prefer a guide to introduce you to the charms of Naha and the surrounding destinations, how about joining one of the below tours?
- Okinawa Hip Hop Bus Tour: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and More
- Naha Full-Day Private Tour with Government Licensed Guide
- Sakaemachi Market Bar Hopping Tour
- Karate History Tour in Okinawa
Participating in Interesting Activities in Naha
- Moby Dick Dinner Cruise in Naha
- Official Naha Street Go-Kart Tour
- Shuri Ryusen Coral Dyeing
- Kendo/Samurai Experience In Okinawa
- Parasailing Experience from Naha
- Full-Day Snorkeling Experience in the Kerama Islands (Naha Departure)
Okinawa’s Famous Snack – Sata Andagi (サーターアンダーギー)
As you stroll around the streets in Naha, you will certainly encounter a local snack called Sata Andagi.
What is it? It is the Okinawan version of donuts. “Sata” means sugar, and “Andagi” means deep-fried in Okinawan. It is made with wheat flour, baking powder, egg, and sugar. The traditional dessert that is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside is a must-try when you visit Okinawa. It is also a popular souvenir to share with your families and friends when you fly back home.
The standard Sata Andagi is huge, but there are also bite-size versions for those who want to eat them elegantly!
The recommended places to get Sata Andagi are included under the relevant market/arcade section.
Sakaemachi Arcade (栄町市場)
Apart from Kokusai-dōri Street, another spot in Naha where you would want to drop by during the day and at night is the Sakawamachi Arcade. The area that retains the early-20th-century-Japan vibe is filled with Izakayas and eateries. But during the day, it is also a traditional market for the locals to source some daily necessities and clothing.
While you might need to be a bit courageous and adventurous to enter the dim arcade if you aren’t accompanied by a local, Sakaemachi Arcade is where you can get the real taste of Okinawa!
If you are wondering why the locals would open shops and restaurants in a maze-like arcade that looks somewhat dodgy, it has everything to do with World War II. The location was originally a girls’ school before the war. After Japan surrendered, the spot was reconstructed as a market with the hope that “this area will prosper again”. Thus the market was named “Sakaemachi”.
While no stalls and restaurants in Sakaemachi Arcade have a vegetarian menu, the Izakayas would still have a few tofu and vegetable dishes that you can order. Except for the famous dumplings places such as Iurinron (玉玲瓏) or Ichiban Gyozaya (一番餃子屋), most restaurants should have a few vegetable dishes. You can check with the restaurants by utilizing the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to see if they have any dishes that you can eat.
Below are a few Izakayas that have a couple of delicious tofu/vegetable dishes.
Nakama Shōten (なかま商店)
Nakama Shōten is an Izakaya known for offering cheap but delicious side dishes and deep-fried skewers. The dishes you can try include Atsuzge Shima Tofu (厚揚げ島豆腐), pan-fried vegetables, deep-fried vegetable skewers (野菜の串揚げ), deep-fried cheese skewers, and tofu chanpurū (チャンプルー). Remember to ask them to remove the meat and seafood when preparing your order!
Nakama Shōten is open from 4 pm to 12 am from Monday to Saturday.
Tip: The restaurant is pretty popular, so arrive early to get a seat!
Although not situated in the Sakamachi Arcade, Urizun is close to one of the arcade’s exits.
It is a great place to enjoy Ryūkyū cuisine. The restaurant opened in 1972, has an authentic Okinawan vibe and is famous for its strong Okinawan alcohol, Awamori (泡盛). The dishes that you can enjoy there include Tanmu no Karaage (ターンム（田芋）の唐揚げ), Kameyama Tofu (亀山豆腐), Tofu Yō (豆腐よう), Jimami Tofu (ジーマーミ豆腐), and Sunui (スヌイ), which is a type of seaweed.
Urizun’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Urizun is open from 5:30 pm to 12 am.
- From Yui Rail’s Asato Station (安里駅), it is around a 5-minute walk.
Heiwa-dōri Street (平和通り)
Between the Kokusai-dōri and First Makishi Public Market (refer to below), there is a shopping street called Heiwa-dōri. It is where you can source unique Okinawan accessories and ingredients. The arcade street started with temporary stalls being set up after World War ll. In 1951, it was named “Heiwa-dōri Shopping Street (平和通り商店街)” because of people’s desire for peace.
Ryūkyū Kashi-Dokoro Ryūgū (琉球菓子処琉宮 平和通り店)
For a fancier shopping experience and packaging for Sata Andagi, head to Ryūkyū Kashi-Dokoro Ryūgū. Besides the original plain sugar-flavored Sata Andagi, Ryūkyū Kashi-Dokoro Ryūgū also sells interesting flavors such as mugwort, coconuts, and black sesame.
For those who want to eat on the spot, Ryūgū also sells Sata Andagi skewers. As there are only three donuts per skewer, it would make a great souvenir as your friends and families can try out various flavors!
Tip: The freshly fried ones are the most delicious. The pre-packaged ones can be a little stale and dried to some.
Ryūkyū Kashi-Dokoro Ryūgū’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Ryūkyū Kashi-Dokoro Ryūgū is open daily from 10:30 am to 6 pm except for the 3rd Thursday of each month.
- From Yui Rail’s Makishi Station (牧志駅), it is around a 7-minute walk.
Mochi no Mise Yamaya (もちの店 やまや)
If you have been to other parts of Japan, mochi rice cake might not sound so exciting or original. But when you stroll on Heiwa-dōri Street, look for a rice cake shop called Yamaya because the Okinawans make their rice cakes differently!
Mochi no Mise Yamaya is the best place on Heiwa-dōri Street to source Okinawan rice cake. During January, when the locals offer the rice cake to gods, the shop would sell as many as 2,000 rice cakes in 30 minutes!
In Okinawa, mochi is pronounced as Mu-Chi (ムーチー)-. Instead of the plain or matcha-flavored rice cake, Okinawans would add various seasonings to their rice cakes.
For dessert, you can try their black sugar or sweet potato flavors (although the bright purple color from the sweet potato might not look so appealing to some people..(´▽｀*)). And if you aren’t a sweet tooth, get the Nantō Mochi (ナントゥ餅), which is a miso-based mochi that the locals eat in January.
So why do the Okinawans make their rice cake differently? It is because in Okinawa, Mochi rice cake is something they offer to the gods and their ancestors. At the end of the day, the family would come together and eat what was offered to the spiritual existences during the day. This is probably why all the flavors and seasonings are included in the rice cake so they can be eaten straight away.
Mochi no Mise Yamaya’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Mochi no Mise Yamaya is open from 9 am to 6:30 pm.
- From Yui Rail’s Makishi Station (牧志駅), it is around a 7-minute walk.
Workshop Chura Sea House (工房ちゅらうみ家)
Buried under all the souvenir shops and restaurants on Heiwa-dōri Street, there is a workshop where you can make various traditional crafts. So instead of buying the Shisa (Okinawan guardian lion), how about making one yourself?
At Workshop Chura Sea House, you can make a clay Shisa figure from scratch. While you wait for the firing process, which takes around 45 minutes, you can stroll around the arcade and shop before returning to the workshop to color your Shisa!
A male Shisa has his mouth opened, calling for good fortune for you. A female Shisa has her mouth closed, stopping good fortune from escaping.
Tip: Show them Naha-Navi’s webpage HERE for a 200 yen discount on the activity fees!
If playing with clay or coloring a clay figure isn’t your thing, they do have other activities that you may enjoy. You can even purchase the Shisa-making kit for your families and friends back home!
For a list of activities you can do at Workshop Chura Sea House, refer to their website HERE and translate it to English using Google Chrome’s translation function.
Tip: Check with the workshop to see if they still provide free Rūkyū costume dressing service.
Workshop Chura Sea House’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Workshop Chura Sea House is open from 10 am to 7 pm.
- From Yui Rail’s Makishi Station (牧志駅), it is around a 10-minute walk.
First Makishi Public Market (第一牧志公設市場)
The First Makishi Pubilc Market is one of the best spots in Naha for some locally sourced fresh ingredients. To the locals, the market is also their “communication center”.
In addition to the raw ingredients, you can also find cheaply-priced processed foods and some fresh fruits and vegetables. One thing that you have to try is the sea grapes (Umibudō, 海ぶどう), which is a type of green seaweed. Whether it is the pickled version or as a hot dish, the Okinawans are really good at making the seaweed tasty!
If you are hungry, head to the second floor for a few Okinawan dishes! As many Okinawan dishes are non-vegetarian, utilize the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order food you can eat. Most restaurants will be happy to exclude seafood/meat for you if the dish is made to order. But remember that the broth used for noodle soup will most likely be meat or seafood based.
In addition to their menu, many restaurants may also cook the ingredients you purchased from the first level for you with a small extra fee, albeit this service is most likely limited to seafood and meat.
Please note that not all restaurants will provide this service, so a fee is required.
One thing to note about the First Makishi Public Market for our vegan and vegetarian friends is that the majority of shops will be selling seafood and/or meat. So if you aren’t comfortable seeing a pig’s head or legs being placed on the counter, please avoid this market!
Important: The original First Makishi Public Market is currently under reconstruction and is scheduled to be re-opened in March 2023. All shops in the market were moved to a temporary site, which is just a 3-minute walk away from the old site.
Ayumi Sata Andagi (歩のサーターアンダギー)
Speaking of Sata Andagi, the shop you must visit is Ayumi Sata Andagi! The shop is known for selling the most delicious Sata Andagi in Okinawa.
When the shop first went viral, their Sata Andagi was sold out in 10 minutes! While that will most likely not be the case nowadays, stopping by the shop at the end of the day still won’t be a good idea as Ayumi still manages to bring the game to a whole new level!
Ayumi’s Sata Andagi is crispy on the outside (of course) and fluffy on the inside. It is like biting into a pound cake that has been deep-fried! Because no water is added in the manufacturing process, the handmade Sata Andagi doesn’t harden even when cold.
Needless to say, the freshly made ones are the most delicious (^_-)-☆.
Note that Ayumi’s Sata Andagi can be a bit too oily and sweet for some people.
Ayumi Sata Andagi’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Ayumi Sata Andagi is open from 10 am to 5 pm or until sold out daily except Mondays and Wednesdays.
- It is located on the second floor of First Makishi Public Market.
Tsuboya Yachimun Street (壺屋やちむん通り)
Tsuboya Yachimun Street is the place to peep into Okinawa‘s townscape before the prefecture was modernized.
Yachimun means pottery in the Okinawan dialect. So if you are a pottery lover, you will have a great time strolling through the shops and workshops that lines Tsuboya Yachimun Street.
Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku (うちなー茶屋 ぶくぶく)
Amongst the many pottery galleries and workshops on Tsuboya Yachimun Street, we recommend visiting Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku. Not only can you taste the traditional Buku-Buku tea, but there are also many finely designed potteries on the shelves for you to examine and purchase!
Buku-Buku tea is an Okinawan way of tea making. When the island was under Ryūkyū kingdom’s reign, it was drunk during important diplomatic occasions.
Buku-Buku tea is made by mixing hot tea with hot water from boiling roasted rice. In the process of mixing the two liquids, a lot of foam is formed. You then “swallow” the foam while drinking the tea.
Tip: If you don’t want your face covered in foam after you drink the tea, a spoon is provided for you to scoop and eat the foam first.
Apparently hard water is essential in making proper Buku-Buku tea. This is why drinking Buku-Buku tea is central to the Okinawan culture.
While the tea has a strong barley tea aroma, the taste is actually pretty weak. But at Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku, what comes with the tea is Okinawan traditional confectioneries. So although you might not like the tea much, we are sure you will still enjoy and appreciate the dining experience at Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku.
☛ If you want to order a cup of coffee, you can choose any coffee cup that you want to use from the shelf (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
☛ You can make a reservation with the cafe to make your Buku-Buku tea. Either give them a call (Japanese only) or send them an online inquiry HERE (at the end of the webpage).
☛ Another cafe where you can make your Buku-Buku tea is Kariisanfan, located close to Shurijō Castle Park.
Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Uchina Cafe Buku-Buku is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm except for Tuesdays.
- The last order is taken at 5:30 pm.
- The cafe is around a 10-minute walk from Yui Rail’s Makishi Station (牧志駅).
Discover Other Attractions in Naha
Your visit to Naha obviously won’t be just visiting the local markets. The city is filled with a wide range of attractions for you to discover! But which attractions are worth your time?
If that is the question on your mind, our Naha City article has got you covered! Whether it is the national treasure, Shurijō Castle, or visiting a shrine located atop a cliff next to a local beach, you will find all the information you need in the article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.