- Ryukyu culture at Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum
- The friendly people
- Crawling around Shuri-jo Castle
- Soba noodle soup at Kokusai Street Food Village
Prepare in advance
If you choose to rent a car instead of using public transportation, make sure to reserve GPS navigation in advance and ask the rental car agency to explain how to use it. The GPS devices are in Japanese, but with the location codes for your destinations you can usually get around without a problem.
Good to know
The seas surrounding Okinawa's islands are considered among the world's most beautiful. With abundant marine wildlife and coral reefs, it is perfect for snorkeling and diving. Pair your Naha cultural adventure with day trips to Zamami Island or UNESCO World Heritage Site Seifa-Utaki.
The museum is closed on Mondays. Plan to start the day early, around 9 a.m. so you have plenty of time to explore each location to its fullest.
Recommended time of the year
Okinawa's climate is subtropical. With temperatures barely falling below 15 °C (59 °F) in winter, Okinawa is easy to travel with kids year-round.
At Shuri-jo Castle, kids under 5 have free admission.
About This Day
Many families come to explore Okinawa’s natural landscapes, beaches and marine life, but it’s the island’s native Ryukyu culture that is truly unique and has influenced Japanese life for centuries. There’s so much to explore in Okinawa for families, it’s a wonderful place to visit with kids. From music and dance, cuisine, kimono designs and the famous yachimun (pottery made by Okinawan artisans), walking the timeline of Ryukyu culture is fascinating and fun for all family members. In Naha, kids can make their own pottery, meet artisans, visit a 16th-century castle and find out if eating seaweed really does make you live longer!
Start your morning early (the museum opens at 9:00 a.m.) at Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum. This fantastic cultural-art complex introduces travelers to the cultural heritage of Okinawa and the Ryukyu Kingdom. To truly get a handle on the complexities of Ryukyu culture, it is worth a visit before exploring the rest of the island during a vacation of Okinawa for families. The museum is separated into two areas: modern art and heritage. Learn about Okinawan history, folklore, indigenous singing and sanshin guitar, the origin of bingata Kimono and Ryukyu yachimun ceramics, before setting out to see the real thing. The outdoor area is a great open space for kids to play, with giant sculptures and a park behind the museum. For design buffs, the building is a contemporary take on an Okinawan castle.
DIRECTIONS The Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum is located a few kilometers north of Naha's main street, Kokusai-Dori. By monorail, it is a 10-minute walk from Omoromachi Station.
TIP If interested in exploring only the natural history portion of the museum, purchase tickets for only this section of the museum. The ticket is about half the price (about 400 yen) of the combo ticket.
Pottery is a sacred art in Okinawan culture. Dating back to the 17th century, kilns were consolidated here by royal decree and this neighborhood became the official earthenware hub of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Today, these timeless pottery shops have been preserved in Tsuboya Pottery District. Travelers can wind around the limestone cobblestone streets to discover the different ceramics. Meet local artisans in their shops and explore shisha (Okinawa's famous lion-dog roof guardians), sake bottles and other ceramics. You can even create some pottery of your own!
DIRECTIONS From the Prefectural Museum, follow the 251 down the hill until you reach Yui-Rail (the monorail), turn left at the waterway and then right onto Kokusai-Dori. Make a left onto Orion Dori and follow that road up into the Tsuboya neighborhood. Find immediate street parking when you see the ceramic shops. If taking public transportation, walk 800 meters (0.5 miles) to Omoromachi Station toward the airport, exit Asato Station and walk about 10 minutes south on the 330. The neighborhood will be on your right-hand side.
TIP If you can’t find street parking, there is a paid parking lot in the tourist information center building below the pottery district. For another family vacation idea, visit the Tsuboya Pottery Museum, which is also in the neighborhood and provides a great introduction to the timeless craft.
Kokusai Street Food Village
Okinawan cuisine famously uses "every part of the pig, without the squeal." For vegetarians, the people of Okinawa are also known to live longest on the planet, thanks to a healthy diet of seaweed. Try out Okinawa Soba, goya champuru, and for daring drinkers, the local Awamori firewater. Kokusai Street Food Village is a more under-the-radar arcade off the bustling Kokosu-Dori Street. With small tables lining the walkway, sanshin guitar playing over the loudspeakers and traditional Okinawan street food on the menu, it's a refreshing and authentic escape for a family lunch in Naha.
DIRECTIONS From Tsuboya Pottery District, wind your way down a few hundred meters to Kokusai-Dori. If you are at the Tsuboya Pottery Museum, just walk down Sakurazaka Naha Dori to the main street (the tourist information center will be on your left), turn right onto Kokusai-Dori and then your first right onto Orion Dori. The arcade is on your left, in the middle of the block, with a large sign reading "Okinawa-Naha" in the front.
TIP It's better to walk here from your previous location as parking can be difficult.
Shuri-jo Castle is one of the remaining testaments to the Ryukyu Dynasty. It is one of the 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Okinawa, and the only Okinawan castle that's been restored to its full and former glory. For kids, they offer a map where you can choose one of 3 paths to follow and collect stamps along the way. There was also a performance of a 15th-century court dance called the kasekake, performed throughout the day in the main area. Our little nugget loved crawling around the front area of the Seiden and playing with other kids in the courtyard.
DIRECTIONS Shuri-jo Castle is located a few kilometers east of the downtown shopping street. From the Kokusai Street Food Village, take Kokusai-Dori east until you reach Sojengi Dori (the 29), turn right and follow it 1.5 km (0.9 miles). Veer right onto Akamurusou-Dori for about 1 km (0.6 miles), and look for signs for Shuri-jo Castle. There are several locations to park around the castle.
TIP Perfect for helping you plan your family day trip to Okinawa, Shuri-jo Castle’s website has real-time parking updates.