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A visit to Okinawa is not complete until you’ve been to Kokusai Street.

But you’ll need at least a full day to poke around in all the shops of this mecca of commerce. Even then, you will not have seen it all. The street, a little less than two kilometers long, is lined with restaurants and cafes, specialty stores, souvenir shops and a couple of department stores. And then there are the alley streets shooting off the main drag with additional stores.

Many of the shops sell the same merchandise, including standby tourist favorites such as shisa dog pottery and two-headed rattlesnake saki. Others are packed with clothes, fresh produce, umbrellas, pottery, liqueur, crafts, wall hangings and art. Anything and everything can be found for sale in some corner of Kokusai Street.

It’s just a matter of taking the time to truly stroll throughout the street and its offshoots to find what you want. However, smokers should remember that lighting up is banned on the streets in Naha.

I’ve discovered the best method for exploring the street is to start at one end and work my way up one side, walking down every side street along the way. And then do the same on the other side. The music and aromas emanating from the many eateries will soon have your mouth watering, but pay careful attention to the time as many restaurants close from about 3 to 5 p.m. for a mid-afternoon break.

Most shops and restaurants remain open until 11 p.m., and with the many bars and clubs sprinkled throughout, this is also a great night spot.

So bring lots of yen and wear comfortable footwear as you make your way down Kokusai Street.

Know and go ...From Camp Foster’s Commissary Gate, turn left onto Highway 58. Continue down Highway 58 until you come to the Kumoji intersection and turn left. Kokusai Street is about 300 meters down this road on the left. Parking is hard to find, even on weekdays. However, an underground parking lot is clearly marked near Kokusai Street.


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