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Tue, Jan. 31, 2017 Koza: A Rhythm All Its Own
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The area called Koza in Okinawa city-in the center of Okinawa prefecture-is famous for its international atmosphere with immigrants from more than 40 countries. Since the end of World War II, Kadena, the largest American air force base in the Pacific, has largely occupied the city. Services for soldiers in Kadena flourished after the war, ushering in an age of unprecedented prosperity. People from all over the world descended on the city for business opportunities, which led to the melting pot you find today. British actor Dean Newcombe explores exotic Koza.

Okinawa International Carnival
Okinawa International Carnival
This festival showcases the beauty of the city's cultural diversity. Koza citizens of different backgrounds get together for this two-day carnival.
Gate 2 Street
Gate 2 Street
This boulevard on the southeast side of Kadena base is the heart of Koza nightlife.
Wall painting at Koza Crossing
Wall painting at Koza Crossing
The mural chronicles the history of Koza from the Ryukyu Kingdom era.
Address: Teruya 1chome, Okinawa city, Okinawa prefecture
Victor Fashions
Victor Fashions
This import emporium of Indian goods was established more than 30 years ago.
Address: Chuo 3-14-3, Okinawa city, Okinawa prefecture
Tel: +81-98-938-1320
This traditional guesthouse welcomes travelers from all over the world.
Address: 1-5-32 Koya, Okinawa city, Okinawa prefecture
Tel: +81-50-1205-2758
Micky Diner
Micky Diner
This has long been one of the most famous diners for U.S. military personnel from Kadena base.
Address: Chuo 3-1-6, Okinawa city, Okinawa prefecture.
Tel: +81-98-939-9663
FM Koza
FM Koza
Community FM station located in central Koza.
At the city's oldest minyo (folk music) club, Aiko Yohen, a leader of traditional Okinawan music, performs nightly, with other top musicians.
Cafe Ocean
Cafe Ocean
This is the oldest restaurant on Gate 2 Street, which was founded 50 years ago. It is famous for tacos, which have been served since the occupation era.
Address: Chuo 2-15-2, Okinawa city, Okinawa prefecture
Eiichi Miyanaga, a veteran of the Koza music scene, owns this rock joint.
To reach Koza from Tokyo, it takes two and half hours by plane to Naha Airport. From there it is 40 minutes by car.
Travel Log

Traveler: Dean Newcombe > More Info


Occupation:Model, Actor

Length of residence in Japan:8 years

Reason:In Japan for the love of culture, travel and challenge

Traveler's Archives:

> Tanegashima: Guns, Rockets and Surf

> Hidden Village Kuma

> Iwate Winter Rite

> Morioka: Celebrating a culture of people and horses

> Lake Biwa: In Praise of Water

When people think about Okinawa, images of islands with subtropical turquoise waters come to mind. We rarely think about the city of Okinawa, or probably know little about the district of Koza. I had even been there, (or at least passed through), knowing little more than the presence of the large U.S. military base in the area.

Although Koza is large in terms of population for Okinawa, coming from Tokyo, it's small and feels quaint, and even sleepy during the day. Then, during the night, I feel like we really see the heart of Koza-found in the music of musicians playing everything from traditional Ryukyuan music to Okinawa's version of rock!

Wherever I went, I was greeted with a smile and made very welcome. This was like visiting a foreign country in some ways for me: a dialect so strong that you feel you're hearing a new language, unique fusion-style food dishes, and personalities that would stand out a mile, up in Tokyo!

Apparently people from more than 40 countries around the world are living in this little melting pot of cultures. It became very apparent when I met a local group of Eisa dancers, which despite being a traditional Okinawan dance, was being performed by an all-foreign team. I later saw the same team perform at the Okinawa International Carnival, where a parade of nationalities from around the world danced their way through the street. The festival ended in a very exciting tug-of-war on the largest scale I have ever seen! Japanese call it tsunahiki, and this one involved literally hundreds of competitors all gripping onto one ginormous rope. Although we can't see this in the show, for me it's a special memory and something I would highly recommend trying!

I am truly glad for the chance to really know the area of Koza in Okinawa, and I hope that you, too, will now make the time to go and see why Okinawa is more than just a beautiful chain of islands with pristine beaches. Go feel the rhythm!

Inside Story

Atsushi Takase

Koza is the perfect place to visit if you're looking for an unusual experience. You can experience a frenetic verve not found in any other city in Japan.
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