The Okinawan capital of NAHA (那覇) should, in fairness, be a place to get things done and be on one’s way. This is the only large city in a region of Japan that leans heavily on nature – despite being capital of the Ryūkyū kingdom for over four hundred years, wartime destruction and rampant commercialization have colluded to ensure that there’s precious little to see bar bland residential blocks and souvenir shops catering to a near-constant stream of Japanese holiday-makers. Yet, somehow, it’s a great place to kick back – a fair proportion of the locals you meet will be mainland Japanese, here to trade in a hefty chunk of their previous salary, at least temporarily, for a relaxed lifestyle. Foreign travellers often end up staying far longer than they planned – the weather’s great, the food’s terrific, beaches and bars are never far away, and busting a gut to get somewhere else just wouldn’t be in the Okinawan spirit of things.

There are, of course, a few things to see while you’re here. The beautifully reconstructed Shuri-jō, the old Ryūkyū kings’ small, solid castle, constitutes the city’s major sight and is well worth visiting, the Tsuboya pottery district is fun for a wander, and the Shuri area contains a moderately informative prefectural museum, as well as some original royal graves and stone-paved lanes. Then there’s Naminoue beach, a short curl of sand that would boast grand sea views were it not for the roads firing across the waves a few dozen metres offshore.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

With its glittering royal palaces, ancient temples and sacred shrines as well as sandy beaches, some of the world’s best skiing and beautiful national parks, …

14 Nov 2016 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own charact…

11 Nov 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

In a delicious meeting of two worlds, the most English of drinks has been combined with Japanese craftsmanship to create a premium craft gin, KI NO BI (“the b…

06 Oct 2016 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month