town in Nakagami district, Okinawa prefecture, Japan
Asia > East Asia > Japan > Okinawa > Okinawa Island > Central Okinawa

Central Okinawa (沖縄中部 Okinawa-chubu), also known as Nakagami (中頭), is the central region of Okinawa Island.

Downtown Okinawa City

Understand

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Map of Central Okinawa

Central Okinawa is the narrowest part of the island. Much of the area, particular on the west coast near Ginowan (宜野湾), Chatan (北谷) and Kadena (嘉手納) is occupied by the large US military bases and consequently has a notable US military presence. The main stretch of Route 58 in front of Camp Foster is all too American, with three lanes flanked on both sides by strip mall shops with English signage and drive-thru fast food restaurants

The eastern coast is more residential, with the three cities of Urasoe (浦添), Uruma (うるま), and Okinawa City (沖縄市), formerly Koza (コザ). If you see highway signs for "Okinawa", they're referring to this city.

Tourist information site

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Some cities have their own bilingual tourism info sites, including Chatan Tourism and KOZAWEB (Okinawa City).

Get in

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Highway 58 from Naha goes up the western coast through Ginowan, Chatan, Kadena and Yomitan. Rush hour jams can be quite bad.

For the eastern cities, the highway bus goes to Motobu and Nago via Okinawa City. Local bases from Naha Bus Terminal to Koza, Via Route 329 and Route 330.

Get around

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The western reaches of Urasoe can be reached by monorail from Naha. For all other transport, you're at the mercy of the local bus network or your own car.

  • 1 Mihama American Village (アメリカンビレッジ), 2 Chome-4-2 Mihama, Chatan-chō, Nakagami-gun. An Americanized shopping and dining complex made to resemble an American beach such as Venice Beach, Santa Monica, etc. Popular among U.S. military members due to its close proximity to many U.S. Marine bases. The area has a ferris wheel, a few hotels, many clothing and souvenir stores and restaurants of various cuisine, and Sunset Beach. Plus there is live entertainment almost nightly.
  • 2 Southeast Botanical Gardens (東南植物楽園). Divided into a water garden and botanical garden, it showcases a variety of tropical flora found on the islands of Okinawa. They have night illuminations and other events throughout the year.    
  • 3 Okinawa Zoo and Museum (沖縄こどもの国). A zoo and interactive science museum for kids.
  • 4 Cape Zanpa, 1861 Uza, Yomitan-son, Nakagami-gun. Peninsula on the western side of the island near Yomitan Village. Has a lighthouse and a beautiful beach. Also is where the famous sweet potato-flavored cookies are made.
  • 5 Hamahiga Island (浜比嘉島 hamahiga-jima). East of Okinawa Island accessible by the Sea Road (a sight in itself). Hamahiga Island has many rock formations, many shaped like mushrooms.

Castles

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Zakimi Castle

There are three Ryukyuan castle (gusuku) sites in Central Okinawa. All are in ruins, but have been partly restored.

  • 6 Katsuren Castle (勝連城, katsuren gusuku) (on the eastern side near the Sea Road).
  • 7 Nakagusuku Castle (中城城 nakagusuku-jō) (on the eastern side in Nakagusuku Village).
  • 8 Zakimi Castle (座喜味城 Zakimi jō) (on the western side in Yomitan Village).
  • 1 Araha Beach (アラハビーチ). This beautiful sandy beach and park covers much of Chatan's coastline. Epic pirate ship climbing gym, basketball courts, BBQ pits. Free parking.
  • 2 Zanpa Beach (残波ビーチ).
  • 3 Renaissance Beach (ルネッサンスビーチ).
  • 4 Ikei Beach (伊計ビーチ).
  • 5 Reef Encounters, 1-493 Miyagi (Chatan, a stones throw from the excellent shore diving at Sunabe sea wall), +81 98-995-9414, +81 90-1940-3528 (Emergency contact number). All instructors are fluent in both English and Japanese. Ask to drift dive Ugan or get lost with the sharks in the Kamiyama labyrinth. PADI and NAUI courses are available, with a discount for combined open water/advanced open water courses. For the experienced or adventurous ask about technical courses or diving Yonaguni.
  • 6 Koza Music Town (コザ・ミュージックタウン). Music Town is home to dozens of restaurants, music halls, recording and editing studios, entertainment halls, money exchanges and retail businesses. Located only a short drive from Kadena Air Base Gate 2.
 
Okinawan pottery by Jirō Kinjō
  • 1 Yachimun no Sato (やちむんの里). Yachimun is Okinawan for pottery (yakimono in Japanese), and this village has no less than 19 Okinawan pottery workshops. Many are run by family and disciples of pottery master Jirō Kinjō (金城次郎, 1918-2004), who was Okinawa's first Living National Treasure and did much to popularize Okinawan pottery. Faithful imitations of Jirō's work, many of which feature fish or crustacean themes, can be picked up for a few thousand yen, and this is also a good place to pick up a pair of the ubiquitous shisa guardian lion-dogs.
  • 1 CoCo's (ココス北谷店), Route 58 (near Gate 5 of Camp Foster). A family restaurant. This place is especially popular with United States Marines stationed on the island.
  • 2 Yoshihachi (よし八). W-M 16:30-late. A famous sushi place also known as Yoshi's, geared towards American tastes. Try the Yoshi Roll.
  • 3 Jirocho Zushi (次郎長寿司) (Near Araha Beach). Recognizable with the Iron Horse in front, this is probably the best restaurant on Okinawa. Jirocho's sushi, sashimi, tempura and sake are world-class. They also serve some excellent Okinawan dishes, often as specials. The seafood is as fresh as you will find on Okinawa--what truly distinguishes this restaurant is the emphasis on fresh and seasonal ingredients. All of this is served in an elegant atmoshphere with a very friendly staff. Yoshihachi can be fun but is very overrated. Jirocho is the place!
  • 4 Kasthamandap (カスタマンダップ), 1-10-10 Kitamae. Daily 11:30-23:00. The best curry on Okinawa and maybe anywhere else outside of London or Bombay. The owner takes great care to make authenic Nepalese curry from scratch and the results are well worth it. Kastamandap is small and no-frills but the delicious curry and ice cold beer make it one of the most satisfying dining experiences around. Although it is just a shack, the homey but exotic atmosphere and friendly service just steps from the East China sea create a winning combination.
  • For more traditional Okinawan sushi, Fenutin in the Mihama American Village is an excellent choice. Try the sea grapes there. They also play traditional Okinawan music there which is worth listening to, and CDs are available for purchase.

Drink

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In Kadena (嘉手納), Gate 2 Street outside the back gate of Kadena Airbase has many bars and restaurants. Most of the Military Officers on the island tend to hang out in the bars on "the Seawall", which is located right outside Gate 1 of Kadena. One of the best known bars on the air force base is 1 Eclipse.

Sleep

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Go next

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This rural area travel guide to Central Okinawa is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.