For many locals, a night on the town starts with a bowl of Okinawa soba – buckwheat noodles served in a pork broth. Others will visit a local izakaya, a cross between a restaurant and a bar.
You’ll often find Japanese co-workers sitting cross-legged on tatami mats around long tables. Usually the group orders a wide range of small dishes and everyone shares. Some izakaya offer all-you-can-eat (tabehodai) or all-you-can-drink (nomihodai) specials for a set fee.
There’s no need to search for a specific izakaya. Just head to the nearest one, point at a few items on the picture menu and enjoy.
For beverages, the local Orion beer reigns supreme. For something stronger try the awamori. Although similar to sake, awamori is made with Thai rather than Japanese rice, and served with a jug of cold water and ice. You pour and mix your own drink, and traditionally the drink of your superior.
If you're looking for something alcohol free, try the sanpincha (jasmine tea) or one of the local fruit juices: acerola (similar to cranberry) or shikuwasa (similar to a lime).
In the capital, Naha City, Sakaemachi Arcade is filled with small bars where you can meet the locals.
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Naha is home to some excellent nightlife. The Dojo Bar is owned by karate black belt and British ex-pat James Pankiewicz. There’s great food and drinks, and is often filled with martial artists making their pilgrimage to the birthplace of karate.
Parker’s Mood Jazz Club serves up fine wines with live jazz, while Gold Disc caters for those who long for the days of rockabilly and Elvis. At Hateruma on Kokusai Street there are nightly performances of traditional Okinawan music, with songs played on the three-string sanshin.
About 45 minutes north of Naha is the beachside entertainment area of Chatan. In close proximity to the U.S. military base, there is a wide range of international cuisine. You can choose from Thai, Indian, Nepalese, Mexican, Turkish, Greek and Italian restaurants.
The Okinawa Brewing Company, Mihama Café, has the best selection of craft beers on the island.
Your night wouldn’t be complete without a line dance and a ride on a mechanical bull, so pull on your boots and head over to Nashville Restaurant and Rodeo, “The place to git yer country on.”
If cocktails and fine dining are more your scene, head to one of the many resort hotel complexes.
In Naha City, chill at the bar on the 18th floor of the Hyatt Regency Okinawa. For luxury and views of the ocean travel further north to the Busena Terrace Beach Resort or the Ritz-Carlton Okinawa. On Miyako Island, the Miyakojima Tokyu Hotel & Resort sits just yards from Maehama Beach, one of Asia’s finest.
Order a cocktail, watch the sunset and relax in paradise.
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