Okinawa, Japan (Shuri Castle/Hilton Double Tree Naha/Kokusai Dori) – Day 1

Jetstar Japan just started flying in Japan in 2012, this is our first time to try out the budget airline in Japan. As we flew during the New Year holidays, 1 way ticket to Naha, Okinawa cost us about 10,000JPY per person (which is considered to be cheap since a normal 1 way ticket with JAL or ANA on a non holiday flight would be about 20,000JPY). In Japan, you only have to arrive 30-60 minutes before the flight departure if baggage is needed to be checked in and hence we arrived at about 730am about 60 minutess earlier than our flight departure in anticipation of the New Year travel crowd.

Jetstar Japan check in counters was not so crowded and each passenger got a small box of mint upon check in. Check in procedure was similar to the budget airline check in we have in Singapore, where paper tickets were issued.

After the security check, we went to grab some breakfast to eat on board and took a shuttle from the departure gate to board the plane. We had to board from the tarmac likely due to lowering in cost if we have to board from the jet bridge. However, the passengers did not mind boarding from the tarmac even though it was so cold as everyone was happily snapping photos infront of the plane.

Our breakfast

Aerial view of Tokyo, densely populated!

mt Fuji
As it was a beautiful day, when we flew over Mount Fuji. We had a beautiful aerial view of the snow capped mountain.

Finally after 3.5 hours of flight, we arrived at Okinawa Island.

okinawa monorail
It was a warm 22C compared to Tokyo’s 8C in Okinawa and our first day was the only day we got to see blue sky in Okinawa. Yui Rail (ゆいレール) is Okinawa’s Monorail operating in Naha and is the only form of rail public transport in Okinawa. Since each ride starts from a minimum of 220JPY so we decided to buy the 1 day pass at 600JPY since we would be going around the city for our first day.

love love
Welcome to Okinawa!

okinawa lunch
Sushi made a last minute search online for our lunch venue since he rejected my suggestion citing that it was just a usual ramen joint with no Okinawa influence. This Okinawa Soba place we are headed to was in a housing neighborhood near to the Shuri Castle.

Waiting in line at the really popular joint even though it was in a neighborhood.

okinawa lunch
Shuri Horikawa (首里ほりかわ) is a eatery serving Okinawa handmade soba.

okinawa lunch
Okinawa soba with melt in your mouth 3-layer fatty pork

okinawa lunch
Okinawa style braised pork ribs.

okinawa lunch
Okinawa lime juice

ほりかわ 〒903-0816 沖縄県那覇市首里真和志町1-27

shuri castle

Shuri is the name of the former capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Shuri Castle (Shurijo) served as the administrative center and residence of the Ryukyu kings for several centuries until Okinawa became a Japanese prefecture in 1879. The castle is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom sites.

Japan Guide

shuri castle

Shuri Castle was originally built in the late 1300s, and played an integral role in the political unification of the island. Wars and fires destroyed the castle multiple times over the centuries, most recently in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The current buildings are beautiful reconstructions dating from 1992. The approach to the castle’s central buildings leads through multiple gates, including the well known Shureimon Gate. The castle’s hilltop location allows for nice views over Naha along the way.

Japan Guide

shuri castle

First built around 1477–1500 during the reign of King Shō Shin, the gate was burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and restored in 1974. Kankaimon is the first front gate to Shuri Castle, kankai (歓会), which means “welcome”. The gate was named to express welcome to the investiture envoys who visited Shuri Castle as representatives of the Chinese Emperor.


shuri castle
Since it was the New Years, there was a 3 days of performance showing the historical Ryukyu court life but most of the performance was in the morning.

shuri castle
But we managed to get some sweet sake wine drank during the New Year in the past from a lady wearing the traditional Ryukyu court wear.

shuri castle
There was some performance on the stage though.

shuri castle

On the top of the hill stands the caste’s main hall, the Seiden. The former venue of major affairs of state and ceremonies, the Seiden is the most lavishly decorated building and a landmark of Okinawa. Its architectural design and vermilion color differ significantly with those of castles on mainland Japan.

Una Plaza extends in front of the Seiden and was used for ceremonies in the past. It is encircled on the other three sides by the Hokuden (North Hall), Nanden (South Hall) and the Hoshinmon (Hoshin Gate). The Hokuden and Nanden served as administrative buildings and venues to welcome envoys from China and mainland Japan respectively.

Japan Guide

shuri castle

The interior of the Seiden has been rebuilt in its original style. Visitors are able to get a feel for the splendor that surrounded the Ryukyu kings. A replica of the king’s throne and crown are among the exhibits.

Japan Guide

shuri castle
King and Queen of Ryukyu for 1 minute 😛

double tree hilton
Accomodation for the next 2 nights was at Double Tree Hilton in Naha. Hotel was right beside Asahibashi Station (旭橋駅) and only a 15 minutes walk away from the famous Kokusai Dori (国際通) . Welcome amenities was a orange and some dried bitter gourd.

Room was typical of any Hilton chain.

View from the room. For non-drivers, the hotel is also right beside the bus terminal where you can take the buses to North or west Okinawa tourist destination.

Sun sets by 6pm in Okinawa and seriously, Naha traffic is busy compared to the rest of the island.


Kokusaidori (literally “International Road”) is Naha’s main street, stretching for roughly two kilometers through downtown Naha. The street takes its name from the former “Ernie Pyle International Theater”, a movie theater that was built along the road after the war.

Starting around the Naha Bus Terminal and Prefectural Hall, Kokusaidori is lined by restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, souvenir shops, boutiques and department stores. Many shops remain open until 11pm, and live Okinawa music is played at several restaurants.

Japan Guide

Busy and bustling with life but mainly tourists.

salt shop
Stopping by the salt shop where there is like 3000 over variety of salt to choose from but I am more specifically interested to buy the Okinawa snow salt. The salt is made in such a way that it looked like white powder. The salt is so versatile – can be used for cooking/beauty/hair treatment/dental care etc.

okinawa dinner
Dinner was at a Yakiniku place called Urumaserving Okinawa beef and pork

orion beer
Okinawa Beer – Orion beer

fermented beancurd
Fermented tofu – Japanese style.

fresh leeks
Fresh baby leeks with bonita flakes.

bitter gourd
Chanpuru, Okinawan stir fried made with Okinawa bitter gourd. Generally made with tofu, egg and onions.

Okinawa pork with Isigaki beef from Okinawa. The meats are also marbled like Kobe beef but just from a different prefecture. Tasty and melt in your meat.

Fire and oil sizzling…yummy!

焼肉と沖縄家庭料理うるま 〒900-0014 沖縄県那覇市松尾1-4-10

snake wine
Snake wine abundance in Okinawa not because it is due to the snake year but it is a tonic wine found in Okinawa.

okinawa ornements

Shisa (シーサー) is a traditional Ryukyuan decoration, often in pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog, from Okinawan mythology. People place pairs of shisa on their rooftops or flanking the gates to their houses. Shisa are wards, believed to protect from some evils. When in pairs, the left shisa traditionally has a closed mouth, the right one an open mouth. The open mouth wards off evil spirits, and the closed mouth keeps good spirits in.


childhood game
This was Sushi san’s childhood game, easy to stick your finger in but difficult to pull it out and some times kids use it to trick younger kids and say that the snake had bitten their fingers and make the little kids cry.


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