Okinawa, home to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 (2023/8/25-9/10), is a popular resort destination that Japanese and foreign tourists love. Visitors can experience the nature and history of Okinawa through the clear blue ocean and visit World Heritage sites. While it feels worlds away from the city, it takes only 1 hour and 45 minutes to Okinawa by airplane from Tokyo. In this piece, we'll introduce a route to enjoy spots related to sumo, Japan's national sport before enjoying shopping and eating in the area's downtown shopping streets.
Start from Naha Airport ➡ Get off at "Ocean Expo Park" by bus (Yanbaru Express Bus, Express Bus, Airport Limousine Bus, Churaumi Liner, etc.) ➡ Express Bus or Yanbaru Express Bus to "Nakijin Castle Ruins Entrance" bus stop and walk 15 minutes ➡ Nakijin Castle Ruins ➡ Take Yanbaru Express Bus to Naha Airport ➡ Airplane to Haneda Airport Take Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho Station ➡ 5 min. walk ➡ 6 min. walk from Monzennakacho Station to Daimon Station on Toei Oedo Line ➡ Tomioka Hachiman Shrine ➡ 5 min. walk from A3 Exit of Ryogoku Station from Monzennakacho Station on Toei Oedo Line ➡ Ryogoku Kokugikan ➡ 1 min. walk from A7 Exit of Ueno-okachimachi Station from Ryogoku Station on Toei Oedo Line ➡ Ameyoko Shopping Street
Ocean Expo Park
Ocean Expo Park is a national park established on the expo site to commemorate the Okinawa International Ocean Expo held in 1975. The park is dotted with facilities such as the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which boasts one of the world’s largest aquariums; the Tropical Dream Center, which constantly displays over 2,000 orchids and tropical plants; and the Oceanic Culture Museum, where visitors can learn about the relationship between the sea and people. Visitors can enjoy just strolling around the expansive grounds surrounded by the natural beauty of Okinawa. It is a popular tourist spot that satisfies both adults and children.
Location: 424 Aza-Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa
Nakijin Castle Ruins
Nakijin Castle Ruins is registered as a World Heritage Site as one of the “Gusuku and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu” along with Shuri Castle and a select few other destinations.
The castle was built in the late 13th century, before the Ryukyu Kingdom was established, on a hill as the residence of the king of Hokuzan, who ruled from the northern part of Okinawa Island to the Amami region.
The stone walls of the castle are approximately 1.5 km long. The view of the clear blue sea beyond the curved walls is breathtaking. It takes about 1.5 hours by car from Naha Airport. It is a sightseeing spot close to Ocean Expo Park where you can experience the history of Okinawa.
Location: 5101 Aza-Imadomari, Nakijin Village, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture
Tomioka Hachiman Shrine
Upon arrival at Haneda Airport, take the monorail to the city center and start your downtown stroll by subway. First, get off at Monzennakacho Station and go to Tomioka Hachiman Shrine.
Locally, the shrine is also called “Fukagawa Hachiman Shrine”. The Fukagawa Hachiman Festival, held in August, is one of the three major festivals in Edo and attracts large crowds. The shrine is also known as the birthplace of Edo Kanjin Sumo, the predecessor of today’s sumo, and many stone monuments related to sumo, including a monument to yokozuna (the highest rank) wrestlers and handprints of wrestlers, have been erected on the grounds of the shrine. When a new yokozuna is born, a ring-entering ceremony is dedicated at the shrine, making it a must-see for sumo fans.
Location: 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo
A sacred place for sumo where you can enjoy more than just watching the matches
After learning about the history of sumo, it is time to visit the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the hall of fame of sumo. Sumo, which has been practiced since ancient times as a Shinto ritual and entertainment, emphasizes etiquette and manners, allowing visitors to enjoy both traditional Japanese culture and sumo as a sport.
The main sumo tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan is held three times a year in January, May, and September. The sight of sumo wrestlers clashing on the 66-cm-high ring is a powerful sight. There is also a Sumo Museum inside the museum that exhibits valuable items related to sumo, so visitors can fully enjoy sumo even when the tournament is not being held.
Ameyoko Shopping Street
One of the most popular shopping streets for foreign tourists is Ameyoko Shopping Street in Ueno, one of the largest shopping streets in Japan, with more than 400 stores in an area of about 500 meters between JR Ueno Station and Okachimachi Station. The area is usually full of energy, as you can buy various goods at low prices, including clothing, shoes, and groceries.
In addition to shopping, it is also a popular place to enjoy international gourmet food and drink at food stalls and to casually sample some of the finest seafood, fruits, and sweets while you stroll. Enjoy the deep world as you wander through the maze of shopping streets.
Location: 6-10-7 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo