Okinawa City is the second largest city in Okinawa Prefecture with approximately 140,000 residents and is situated in central Okinawa on the Pacific Ocean. The city is very cosmopolitan due to the influence of nearby American military bases that are a part of the mutual defense agreement between the United States and Japan. Consisting entirely of rural farmland prior to World War II, Okinawa City was created by the merger of Koza City and Misato Village in 1974. Koza City at the time was the only city in Japan to have its name written in katakana syllables (traditionally reserved for non-native names and words) rather than Kanji or Hiragana, likely due to the city originating as a displaced persons camp after the Battle of Okinawa. Today, Okinawa City is known as a center for music, entertainment and sports.
Soccer club FC Ryukyu is based in Naha but plays its home games in the Okinawa Athletic Stadium located in the Okinawa Comprehensive Athletic Park. Okinawa City also hosts approximately half of the home games for the Ryukyu Golden Kings franchise of the Japan Basketball League.
Okinawa City is also home to Okinawa Prefecture's largest traditional zoo which is also the southernmost zoo in all of Japan. The zoo features more than 200 species including primates, crocodilians and reptiles, mammals, and many birds. There is also a petting zoo and a Wonderland museum.
A popular attraction for a quick thrill is the giant roller slide in Manta Park in the Awase area of Okinawa City that has the reputation of being one of the highest and longest in Okinawa.
The most popular entertainment district is the section of Route 20 adjacent to nearby Kadena Air Base that is referred to as Gate 2 Street, the nearby Chuo Park Avenue that is referred to as BC Street, all of the streets in between, and the perpendicular streets south of Route 20. There are more than a dozen live musical acts of every taste playing in the restaurants, clubs and bars of this area on any given weekend night. The annual Peace Love Rock Festival is held in Okinawa City each July and features dozens of local Okinawan as well as Japanese and some foreign musical acts.
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