- For the village in Chiapas, Mexico, see Naha, Chiapas. For the airport in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, see Sangir Island.
Naha (那覇市 -shi; Okinawan: Nāfa) is the capital city of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. The modern city was founded on May 20, 1921. However, it had been one of the most important and populous sites in the Ryukyu Islands as the capital of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, from the early 15th century until its abolishment in 1879 (from other view, 1872).
Naha is a coastal city located on the southern part of Okinawa Island, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands. Its coast is on the East China Sea.
Naha is the political, economical and educational center of Okinawa Prefecture. In the feudal period, it was also the commercial center of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.
Downtown Naha consists of Palette Kumoji, the location of the Okinawa Prefecture Office
, Naha City Hall, and many banks and corporations, accompanied by a nine story shopping mall. Kokusai Dōri, the main entertainment strip in Naha, is near Kumoji and boasts a mile (1.6 km) long stretch of stores. There are many restaurants as well as shopping centers and tourist gift shops. The night life on Kokusai Dōri is always bustling with clubs, bars, and cheap eateries open until the wee hours of the morning. Kokusai Dōri ends at the main bus terminal in Okinawa. There is also a station for Okinawa's only train system, the Yui Rail.
Spurring off from Kokusai is the covered Heiwa-Dōri Shopping Arcade with a large people's market. It is quite informal compared to Kokusai Dōri, and often confusing to walk in.
Northeast of Kokusai Dōri is a relatively new commercial district called Shintoshin. The area, formerly United States military housing, was released to Okinawa in 1987, but major development only began in the mid-1990s. Frequented by young people, the area boasts large stores such as Toys R Us and Best Denki (an electronics store), a Co-op market, many restaurants and a movie theater.
According to the Irosetsuden
, the name of Naha comes from its original name, Naba, which was the name of a certain large, mushroom
-shaped stone in the city. Gradually, the stone wore away and became buried, and the name's pronunciation and its kanji
gradually changed. (Oshiro, 1964).
In Naha, some archeological relics of the Stone Age were found. Also, from a Jōmon period kaizuka, ancient Chinese coins were found.
Today Naha has developed as a city around Shuri Castle, the palace of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. In the period of the Ryūkyū kingdom, there were five districts in the area of present-day Naha.
After the replacement of the Ryūkyū Kingdom with Naha Han in 1872, Naha became the capital city of Naha Han. Naha Han was abolished in 1879 and the former Ryūkyū Kingdom was once merged into Kagoshima prefecture. With the later establishment of Okinawa Prefecture, Naha became its capital city.
When Naha city was founded in 1921, in the area that present-day Naha occupies there were several municipalities including Naha city and Shuri city. Later Shuri was merged into Naha.
During the battle of Okinawa in World War II, Naha suffered extensive damage from attacks by US forces. The entire center of the city had to be rebuilt.
Naha-Te, "Naha-hand", is a type of martial art
developed in Naha. Together with the martial arts styles developed in Tomari and Shuri it formed the basis for Okinawa-te, which in turn is the origin of today's karate
Four universities are located in the Naha area. Two are run by Okinawa Prefecture; two are private. The University of the Ryukyus
, the sole national university in Okinawa Prefecture, was also in Naha, on the site of Shuri Castle. Prior to the restoration of the castle, the university moved to the city of Ginowan
to the north of Naha.
Naha's public elementary and junior high schools are operated by the Naha City Board of Education Naha's public high schools are operated by the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education. Private schools include Okinawa Actors' School.
, the former palace of the Ryūkyū Dynasty, is one of the finest gusuku
(Okinawan castle) and most important historical sites in Naha. The palace was almost completely destroyed in 1945 by an attack by the US Marines, Army and Navy. After the war, the University of the Ryūkyūs was constructed on the site. Today Shuri Castle has been reconstructed, including Shureimon
, its main gate, and registered as UNESCO world heritage sites
Lake Man, covered with mangrove woods on the boundary of the city of Tomigusuku, is listed on the Ramsar list of wetlands.
and Naha Port serve the city. Naha Airport is the hub of the Ryukyu Islands.
The Okinawa Monorail, also known as the Yui Rail (ゆいレール) carries passengers from Naha Airport Station to the center of Naha, Kokusai Dōri (国際通り), Shintoshin, and to the terminal at Shuri Station, which is closest to Shuri Castle.
Naha has sister-city relationships with two cities in Japan and three in other countries
- Ooshiro, Sally. Irosetsuden, thesis translation of ancient Ryūkyū record compilation. Submitted to University of Hawaii, 1964.