Kokusai Dori, also known as International Street in downtown Naha is mildly put as an interesting place. Anyone from my home town will understand my comparison that Kokusai Dori is like the Japanese version State Street, only weirder. The street is lined on either side with small shops that sell everything from Awamari - the Okinawan (and much more potent) version of Sake, to Habu Sake - that's sake with the very deadly Habu snake pickled in it just the worm in the tequila, to designer clothing, and even a Starbucks. Bestill my heart, I got my first cup of Starbucks in MONTHS.
Off of Kokusai Dori there are little "arcades" or hallways that make up the market. Anything and everything you could ever think of can be found down these little arcades. There is a maze of hallways with Kimonos for all sizes, hand blown glass, Okinawan pottery, jewelry, snacks, flowers, men's, women's, and children's clothing, albeit a little on the ugly side. . . anything your heart could desire can be found here.
Buried within the depths of the arcades is the Makishi Market. It's somewhat hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for. The directions I found on the internet had us turning down one of the arcades called Heiwa Dori. You walk until you come to a curtain shop (which also sells rugs and fabric FYI) and you turn right. Look for sets of glass double doors on your right. You will smell the fish and the meat before you even see the doors. Follow your nose. Yes, these were the honest to goodness directions. . .
We found the market. Now I love to cook, and shop for ingredients. But being in this market where everything is written in Japanese, and no one speaks english, I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in there! I would love to go back on a day when there are far fewer people. There are just counters of the freshest meat and seafood I have ever seen. And upstairs above the market proper, are restaurants where they will cook what you purchase on the spot. My husband and I are going back next weekend and getting ingredients to make our own sushi feast. Can't wait.
Now finding the market was not a problem for us. Saying the smell will lead you is an understatement. You KNOW when you smell that market. We all knew we smelled it because we all stopped walking and went "OH." My parents had come out for Christmas and we'd all ended up with one of the worst stomach bugs they've seen around here. We were all finally on the mend and this was our first outting in about 4 days. My poor father couldn't even stomach the smell, so my mom and I went through the double doors to explore and just see what they had to offer.
As we explored the smaller arteries off the main arcade, I noticed something that I've seen happen every other I go out into town with my kids. Japanese women go NUTS over my kids. I mean crazy! They snap pictures, they coo. . . my son has been petted on the head more times than I can count. At first I thought this was an anomaly since the Japanese people are usually very polite and not so touchy feely. But it happens everytime we go out into town. They LOVE my kids. And it finally clicked. They love the blonde hair. Both of my kids have corn silk colored hair.
We ran into another American family while we were in the arcade and one of the little girls had red hair. I said that the Japanese are probably all over that little one, and the mother confirmed that her red headed daughter gets petted a lot too.
All in all, this place is somewhere I am dying to get back to. Now that I know where I am going I will probably have the courage to go on my own. Or maybe I will take a few of my friends. To another year filled with new adventures. . .
Happy New Year to all.