TV Producer Daisaku Kawase’s Ride Note Okinawa Edition #02 Cycling through the streets of Naha is more enjoyable than you can imagine.

Table of Contents

 1. The manager is a YouTuber
 2. Riding a rental E-BIKE to experience Okinawa’s past and present
 3. Savoring the local flavors at a restaurant
 4.Visiting the sacred site of prayer, Naminoue Shrine
 5.Condensing the sights of Naha into a leisurely cycling tour

1. The manager is a YouTuber

I decided to embark on a journey.

Initially, I just wanted to leisurely spend time in some town. However, desires gradually grew. I want to enjoy delicious food, experience a contrast to life in Tokyo, and above all, I desire a comfortable place.

So, I chose Naha in Okinawa.

And there was one more significant desire.

Cycling.

Morning at the Okinawa Prefectural Office

The city of Naha, scattered with places like Shuri Castle, Makishi Public Market, and the Prefectural Museum. Walking around all the time is cumbersome, and taking a taxi each time is too expensive. I often thought about how convenient it would be to have a bicycle when I visited before. So, this time, I brought a road bike to Okinawa.
On the first day, I took a leisurely ride around the city to warm up my legs. However, riding in the city center of Naha with binding shoes made it inconvenient due to frequent stops and starts.
During that time, I happened to pass by a rental bike shop and borrowed an air pump. The staff there were incredibly kind, and there was a row of well-maintained bikes, including electric bikes for small paths. Moreover, you could rent one from 2800 yen per day.

So, I decided to give it a try.

Members of e-charity Naha Kokusai street Main Store

This is a shop called “e-charity Naha” located on Kokusai street.
https://e-charity.jp/pages/naha#cont4

Upon later investigation, I found out that this shop extensively sells used electric bicycles, and the staff is also involved in YouTubing. No wonder they had such a friendly vibe. Encounters like these are part of the essence of traveling. By the way, the E-BIKE I borrowed was well-maintained and incredibly comfortable.

2. Riding a rental E-BIKE to experience Okinawa’s past and present

Departing from Kokusai street where e-charity Naha is located, my first destination was the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. After consulting a guidebook, I was drawn to the beauty of the building. Upon further research, it seemed the design was inspired by Okinawa’s Gusuku (castles). Even from the entrance, it was already quite exciting.

Okinawa Prefectural Museum
Museum Entrance

The museum covers the history and culture of Okinawa, and each exhibit is fascinating. There is also an art gallery, and during my visit, there was an impressive solo exhibition called “OKINAWA HEAVY POP” by the artist Yuken Teruya. It unexpectedly showcased the reality of Okinawa, often overlooked by those living on the mainland, in a heavy yet pop style.

I make it a point to visit museums and art galleries wherever I travel. The unique exhibits in each location often provide a new perspective, adding depth to the travel experience. Highly recommended.

3. Savoring the local flavors at a restaurant

After enjoying the art gallery and museum, my stomach started to growl. So, I searched Google Maps with the keyword “Teisyoku” (set meal in Japanese). It’s the best way to find a restaurant near your location. I found a place called Marumiya Shokudo with a rating of 4.3, and it seemed quite promising.
I cycled for about 10 minutes and arrived at the restaurant. It was a small and cozy eatery, already filled with several groups, including local taxi drivers who kept coming in one after another. The moment I stepped inside, I was convinced it was already a renowned establishment.
I wanted to try the simmered dish that had good reviews on Google, but I also wanted to have Okinawa’s traditional miso soup. So, I ordered the miso soup set meal and added the simmered dish as a topping. It cost less than 1000 yen, and it was outstandingly delicious. In the kitchen, local women were skillfully preparing the dishes. The food was meticulously crafted, and it made sense why the place was popular among the locals.
If I ever visit Okinawa again, I would definitely come back here.

Miso Soup Set Meal
Sweet and salty simmered pork, tofu, and vegetables

4.Visiting the sacred site of prayer, Naminoue Shrine

After filling my stomach, one of the highlights of this leisurely cycling trip in Okinawa was Naminoue Shrine. It stands atop a cliff adjacent to the beach, and I first headed towards the road on the opposite shore. In fact, the most beautiful view is from there.
After capturing its majestic appearance with my camera, I proceeded to the main hall of Naminoue Shrine.

Viewing the Naminoue Shrine from the bridge
The most beautiful view from this angle
The torii gate of Naminoue Shrine
Many tourists from abroad were also present
Capturing the light beautifully, photographing the sky and roof

And then, to the beach adjacent to Naminoue Shrine. Despite being very close to the city center, it’s an impeccably maintained beach, a place where locals chat, tourists take photos, and everyone wears a smile.
The sea is blue, the sandy beach is white, and it’s incredibly beautiful. There are cafes and parks nearby, making it an ideal place to relax. Since it’s a bit away from the Kokusai street, surprisingly, there are fewer tourists, making it a hidden gem for cyclists.

Naminoue Shrine and the beach
Even in December, it’s totally fine to wear a swimsuit.
The white sandy beach is beautiful.
The Panasonic E-BIKE I rented.

This time, I rented a Panasonic mini-velo E-BIKE. The assist works well, making stop-and-go situations effortless. It smoothly climbs slight slopes. Traveling and cycling really go well together. You can easily extend your legs to wherever you want to go whenever you want. The demand for E-BIKES is likely to continue growing. It’s a great era when you can rent such a high-performance bike.

5.Condensing the sights of Naha into a leisurely cycling tour

Next, I aimed for Yachimun Street. It’s close to Makishi Public Market, and the road, paved with cobblestones, is narrow enough for just one car to pass. Since it’s about 400 meters, you might consider getting off your bike and leisurely strolling along. Every shop here has Shisa (Shisas are traditional statues of the creature from Okinawan mythology) figures. There are large plates, mugs, and various items for sale, making window shopping a delightful experience.

Yachimun Street, lined with pottery
Ishiganto (Talisman stone)* seen throughout the town
*Said to ward off bad things and prevent evil spirits from coming / from the official Okinawa Prefecture website

And for the climax of this journey, I chose the Shuri Castle Hill Climb. Located on a hill overlooking the city of Naha, it offers a solid ascent from any direction. As you get closer, the slope gradually increases. However, this time, I have the E-bike. Even on normally challenging slopes, it climbs effortlessly.

The final ascent is approximately 2 kilometers from the FamilyMart Kankawa store. It’s a road where you gain altitude while overlooking the Kankawa Greenery Park. The average slope is slightly less than 5%. If you’re accustomed to riding a road bike, you should be able to climb it without much difficulty. The view of Naha city below is beautiful.

Hill climb to Shuri Castle

Beyond the climb is the Shuri Castle, the destination. Many people may recall the unfortunate fire that destroyed it in 2019. Currently, reconstruction work is underway, and you can witness the progress up close. This is truly a pleasant place, so if you come to Naha, be sure to visit, no matter what.

On the way back to the bike rental shop, near Kokusai Street, I spotted a tempting pizza place. Upon inquiry, I learned that the owner had trained elsewhere before establishing their own shop. The passion for PIZZA is overflowing in this place. When I asked for a recommendation, they suggested pepperoni, so I ordered that. Since I’m cycling, I can indulge without worrying about calories. The crust was crispy, the cheese abundant, and I enjoyed it without hesitation. It was delicious. This is one of the fascinating aspects of Okinawa—you unexpectedly feel a touch of America like this.

Located a bit off Kokusai Street is “New York Pizza.”
The owner

This time’s leisurely ride around Naha covers a distance of approximately 20 kilometers. I take pride in it being a great route to thoroughly enjoy Naha. Moreover, you can explore it in half a day. While touring by taxi or rental car is a good option, cycling allows you to feel the rhythm of life even more intimately.

A white cat spotted in the city

While riding a road bike vigorously is certainly enjoyable, there’s a different kind of pleasure in leisurely cycling around the city.

If you get the chance, I hope you try pedaling around Naha. I guarantee you’ll encounter a different side of Naha compared to what you’ve experienced before.


Text & Photo_Daisaku Kawase

Profile

Daisaku Kawase
He is a Free Producer, the Representative of Days Co., Ltd. Born in Aichi Prefecture. With 16 years of road cycling experience, he loves scenic rides. He squeezes in rides between work and travels all over Japan with his bike. His beloved bike is a Trek. After working as a producer on programs like “Ariyoshi no Okane Hakken Totsugeki! Kaneo-kun,” “Oyasumi Japan Nemuiine,” and “Asaichi” at NHK, he became independent in 2022. In addition to producing programs, he also handles project production for government and corporate clients.

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