Okinawa’s invitation to shopping and amazement
To leave the capital of Okinawa (沖縄 / おきなわ), Naha (那覇 / なは) without having had a look at the Heiwa Dōri (平和通り / へいわどおり) and the Ichiba Dōri (市場通り / いちばどり) in the centre of the city, would mean to miss one of the very interesting attractions of it.
This roofed maze of shopping streets stretches out over more than a whole block in the south of the Kokusai Dōri (国際通り / こくさいどおり), the main shopping & entertainment street in the centre of Naha. Also those who knows the large number of roofed shopping malls in the rest of Japan will be caught in amazement here. Everything seems to be more ethnic, the merchandise is much more out of the ordinary and, at least in parts, these shopping malls breath a bit of a Chinese air. Maybe that’s due to the bottled and otherwise conserved snakes one can buy here and there – which look “exotic” even in the eyes of Japanese of more northern prefectures.
Apart from all that rather exotic stuff, there is also a lot a tourist’s heart may desire. But you will find ordinary shops for any kind of textiles, lots of drugstores and also quite a number of shops that offer the rather strong local liquor specialty, the Awamori (泡盛 / あわもり). Awamori a kind of schnapps made from long-grained rice and usually comes in a range of alcoholic strength between 30 and 43 vol.%. Not unlike the Shōchū (焼酎 / しょうちゅう) in other areas of Japan, this Awamori may be compared with Wodka. Furtheremore, it has the reputation of being one of those elixirs that make the inhabitants of Okinawa the most long-living ones in Japan.
You can drink Awamori in all thinkable combinations. But it seems to be most popular with the local people, if it’s combined just with water and ice. And, by the way, Awamori is one of the liquors that actually mature with age (age of the liquor – not age of the drinker….) and get more expensive the older they get.
Located at the western edge of the maze of shopping malls between the Heiwa Dōri and the Ichiba Dōri you’ll find the one place you might not have expected, the Makishi Public Market (牧志公設市場 / まきしこうせついちば). This market was established in the early 50s of the last century. Since then the premises were refurbished and extended various times. The most interesting part is located on the ground floor of the market building, because it’s there that you can see all the delicacies of Okinawa at a glance – and how they look before they are “processed” for eating purposes.
If you know that the people of Okinawa favour pork meat much more than the people in the rest of Japan, you’ll probably not that surprised to see one of the undisputed attraction of the market – all others should prepare themselves for some kind of a shock. One of the local delicacies are “pig’s faces”. Not the more or less usual “pig’s heads”! It’s just the faces – then boned heads. And, prepared the right way they are obviously much more delicious than the pure sight might suggest.
I know, these “pig’s faces” are rather weird stuff, even for hard-boiled Bavarians who fancy pig’s heads now and then. But every traveler to Japan ought to be equipped with a generous degree of impartiality.
If pork meat of any kind isn’t your sort of thing, you will find lots and lots of vegetables and all sorts of seafood just as well. But even in this respect Okinawa is a bit different from the other parts of Japan: It’s the most colourful tropical fish that make it to the market and to the dinner tables.
This market surely completes the rather exotic face of this part of Naha and adds some absolutely fascination extra.
How to get there:
It’s about 10 minutes walk from „Makishi“ (牧志 / まきし)-statio of the Monorail of Naha, the Yui-Rail (ゆいレール). Just follow the Kokusai Dōri (国際通り / こくさいどおり) in southwestern direction and turn left at the Mitsukoshi Department Store (三越 / みつこし) into the Heiwa Dōri (平和通り / へいわどおり), or the next street, the Ichiba Hon Dōri (市場本通り / いちばほんどおり) respectively.
Opening hours of the Makishi Public Market:
Daily 8 am to 8 pm.
Closed every 4th Sunday, as well as during the New Year holidays (January 1st to 3rd).