Saturday, October 29, 2011
One of the things I like about Kokusai Street is the connection to the past it still holds. The main Ichiba or “market” for the city is located here. The area is now covered to allow shoppers to escape the brutal Okinawan summer sun. But many of the old shops still retain the old charm of a time not so long ago.
Some stores, especially the further away from the main entrance you go are not much larger than a coat rack with homemade wares hung for display. The whole market is alive with the sights, sounds and smells of a fond memory and well worth a visit.
A few years back when the large and modern “Shin Naha” New Naha district opened its doors with modern shopping malls, the old market was threatened with extinction. Many stores either closed their doors for good or moved to the newer and potentially richer hunting grounds of the modern shopping district.
The local merchants aware of the threat petitioned the city fathers and made way for the weekly closing of Kokusai Street and the establishment of a street festival. Now, with a few exceptions, the street is closed at noon on Sunday’s and local bands, street performers and small merchants by the hundreds take to the streets, literally, to show their stuff. The move has been a boon for local businessmen and women and for the moment has saved the old business district and its charm for at least a little while longer.