Okinawa's International Street

Naha's Sunday rendezvous

By Kylie Giggins    - 2 min read

As you get off the aircraft as you land in Okinawa, you discover that it has a very different vibe to landing in Tokyo. Not the normal hustle and bustle of a busy airport of transient travellers but a more distinct feel of many visitors from mainland Japan and overseas who have come to soak up the gorgeous atmosphere, beaches and islands.

There are no rail systems joining the airport to nearby cities. In fact the rail system simply consists of a monorail. Even within Okinawa there is so much diversity. Many travellers first stop by the capital Naha, and its main street of shopping and food places called Kokusai Dori, as known as International Street. If you get a chance you must visit Kokusai Dori on a Sunday when they close the street to traffic and it becomes a shopping, food and entertainers delight. During the year you will be privileged to witness different cultural and music groups as you walk through the main street. One such group is Eisa.

There is a distinct sound to the beat of Japanese drums with the rhythm and dance of Eisa. Among the busy weekend trading, locals and tourists line the streets for authentic traditional food and souvenirs and modern day manga, anime and sweet shops. The atmosphere is loud and vibrant, but it is the beat of the drum that stops onlookers. They stand in silence and are entertained by this ancient tradition. It has an unique sound and rhythm, performed by both young and old. This time they are here to raise money for the victims of the Kumamoto earthquake. You will also see Eisa at the traditional Obon celebrations in August, one that farewells ancestor spirits. Tradition lives on in Okinawa and there is no sign of it being lost as ancestors and traditions are honoured through Eisa.

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Kylie Giggins

Kylie Giggins @kylie.giggins

As the modern world continues to evolve, are we starting to lose tradition and culture or is it intrinsically cemented in the Japanese way of life.  Will modern life continue to evolve around this ingrained culture or will it push aside the traditions of Japan to make way for a faster, more modern way of life.     2016 Kylie P Giggins My name is Kylie and I am a 41-year-old Mother and married to Anthony.  I am a primary and high school trained Japanese teacher and part-time photographer. I am passionate about travel, photography and life.  I love to document every day life with my family and our adventures and thrive on the natural high that photography gives me.  At the age of 13 my parents gave me the opportunity to travel as part of a school group to Japan.  I quickly learnt that not only was culture diverse between countries, but within countries it was evident that diversity was seen with modern and traditional culture.   Early on I had a deep desire to learn language so I could become more immersed in a culture when I travelled.   I love to people watch but as I developed my skills as a photographer, I have learnt that the view through my camera gives me a new perspective in what I see.  It provides an opportunity to tell a story through a single image that encapsulates life, culture, tradition, religion and change.   I am passionate about Japan but there is something inside of me that desires to go beyond just being a tourist.  I want to learn about a countries people, their industry, the evolution of life and culture as they know it.   It motivates me to get up before the hustle and bustle of the day starts and see what happens in those early hours of the morning.   To stop amongst the crowds and observe what is going on in the busyness of everyday life.  This desire has provided me with an opportunity to see elderly people in Japan sweeping the streets and parks of Japan before the day begins for everyone else.  It has allowed me to see Tokyo dancers and entertainers returning home as the sun is rising after a big night out.  It has provided me the opportunity to see a Maiko's face strained as she tries to find her way through the crowd to reach her taxi and how tourism has impacted on an ageing tradition.   My dream is to become a travel journalist and continue to evolve and learn about Japan, it's people and culture.  

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