Lively Naha is the largest city in Okinawa prefecture, a bustling subtropical hotspot perfect for shopping and sightseeing. And the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Here are eight of the best bars, pubs and clubs for experiencing Naha’s epic nightlife.
Over 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) from Tokyo, Naha is a vibrant, sun-kissed city with a distinctive island culture quite different to that of mainland Japan. As the capital city of Okinawa, it boasts some of the best nightlife spots in the prefecture, from laidback pubs to energetic nightclubs where you can dance the night away.
Naha is also the ideal place to try some of the region’s local brews. These include a wide range of craft beers lovingly created in island microbreweries like Chatan Harbor Brewery and Okinawa Brewing Company, as well as the famous Orion. The latter is a light and refreshing rice beer sold everywhere on the islands, and the perfect drink for the prefecture’s subtropical climate. For a more traditional local tipple, be sure to try awamori. This is a spirit distilled from long-grain rice, with a history dating back more than 600 years. Served in almost every bar in the city, you can enjoy it neat, over ice, with soda water or in cocktails.
Here are Culture Trip’s top recommendations for making the most of Naha’s thriving bar scene.
Bar Spade is a true Naha institution, a funky nightclub billed as the top nightlife venue in the city. Open from 9pm to 5am every day of the week, it tends to attract a young, international crowd that is looking to mingle and make new friends. This is ably assisted by the provision of plenty of free games to play, such as Jenga, darts, foosball and pool. Drinks are reasonably priced, and there’s a mix of beer, spirits and cocktails to enjoy. With neon decor, friendly bar staff and a frequently updated playlist, it’s a great place to party the night away.
Sip the best beers from around the world at Craft Beer House Baku
Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Beer
This is one of Naha’s undiscovered gems, and perfect for lovers of good craft beer. Sequestered away on the second floor of a nondescript building in the Kumoji district, it’s easy to miss this dive bar if you’re not looking for it. Inside, however, it’s cosy and full of character, with a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for chatting with friends or the welcoming owner. It has a great selection of brews across more than 20 taps and a host of bottles, including local beers from breweries across Okinawa, the rest of Japan and overseas. There’s also a solid food menu featuring local dishes, such as the ever-popular rafute (braised pork belly).
Located between the Makishi and Miebashi monorail stations, 8men is one of Naha’s few LGBT nightlife options. Run by a friendly international gay couple, this welcoming bar is open to everyone and a great place for meeting fellow travellers. Grab a seat at the bar or one of the cosy tables, or head outside to the gorgeous patio decorated with fairy lights. Drinks are very reasonably priced, particularly during the daily happy hour and the all-you-can-drink offer available between 7pm and 9pm from Friday to Sunday. The catchy pop music soundtrack is sure to get you in the party mood, and there’s even a karaoke machine if you want to sing. Check the website for details of special events.
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Be transported to Ireland at The Smuggler’s Irish Pub
Pub, Irish, $$$
Centrally located near the Ryubo shopping centre and Kokusai Dori (International Street), this friendly, authentic Irish pub is a popular haunt. It specialises – unsurprisingly – in Irish whiskey, stouts and ales, while the food on offer is traditional Irish pub fare including fish and chips and shepherd’s pie. This makes it a good choice if you fancy something a bit different to the usual dishes at Japanese bars. The pub shows sports events on TV and also occasionally hosts live music shows, during which you can expect the atmosphere to get a little more boisterous.
Savour fantastic live music at Parker’s Mood Jazz Club
A Naha backstreet is home to an intimate jazz club that provides an oasis of calm in the bustling heart of the city. Parker’s Mood welcomes the most talented jazz musicians and singers from all around the world to its chic bar, hosting live sets four nights per week. The low-lit, wood-panelled room with its comfortable seating provides the perfect place to sit back with a fine wine, cocktail, whiskey or awamori and watch the show. A limited food menu is also available. Check online for gig listings and prices – there’s generally a cover charge of about ¥2,000 (£15) when a performance is on.
Okinawa is the ancient home of karate, and one expat from the UK has embraced this heritage by opening the Dojo Bar. Named using the Japanese word for a martial arts training hall, this bar is entirely karate themed, and has all sorts of interesting paraphernalia on display. It has a friendly, laidback and international atmosphere, welcoming visitors from all across the world and helping them get the most out of their Naha trip with tips and recommendations. The drinks menu is extensive, with imported beers and ciders plus an impressive number of original cocktails. When it comes to food, there’s a mix of Okinawan and Western dishes, including fish and chips, pizza, karaage (fried chicken), gyoza (dumplings), somen noodles and potato wedges.
Head to Taste of Okinawa for a craft beer tour of the prefecture
Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
Tucked away in a narrow lane just south of Kokusai Dori you’ll find this casual bar and restaurant that specialises in local craft beer. They showcase a range of drinks from microbreweries across both the main Okinawa island and smaller islands in the prefecture, on five frequently changing taps and in their bottle selection. They also have a top-notch food menu, which is bursting with local ingredients like beni-imo (purple sweet potato) and goya (bitter melon), and specifically designed to pair with the beer. The bar’s two large communal tables take centre stage to encourage people to chat with their fellow craft beer lovers, and create a sense of community in true Okinawa fashion.
This extravagant superclub is one of the hottest nightlife spots in the city. Opened in 2015, Epica attracts top DJs from both Japan and abroad to its hedonistic venue. With plenty of space to dance and free-flowing drinks all night long, this is the place to go if you’re looking for the ultimate night out. Admission fees vary according to the time of night and day of the week, but women can often get in for free. Hours are 9pm to 5am every day, and VIP rooms are also available if you fancy splashing out. There is a dress code, so just be sure to change out of your beach gear and flip flops before you go.