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Central Park Avenue
Photo: KANO Tatsuhiko

Koza City, established after the war, was merged with Misato Village to become Okinawa City in 1974. Since then, the name “Koza” does not appear on maps except on some names of institutions such as Koza High School. However, “Koza” is used in daily conversation more often than “Okinawa City” even now. 

Koza was located in the center of the main island and developed as a base town for the Kadena Air Base, the biggest U.S. Air Force base in the Far East U.S. military bases.

Whenever you talk to Kozakko, Koza folks, they bring up stories about the Vietnam War. They say American soldiers were wild in those days. Before they left for the battlefield, the soldiers would go on a big spending spree. Bars and live music clubs made a huge profit. Large buckets were overflowing with dollar bills. A type of rock music emerged from these booming clubs as Okinawan Rock. At the same time, the American soldiers were definitely a handful – causing way more trouble than they do today. For good or bad, Koza has been coexisting with the strong influence of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Kozakko talk of themselves with a certain pride. They say that Naha only looks to Tokyo as if it wanted to become “little Tokyo.” Koza is different – Koza is Koza. It has lots of different things and people and is interesting because of that. There are also a lot of artists, and Koza is known as a place of entertainment with performing groups such as the Shokichi Kina and Champrūs, Rinken Band, DIAMANTES, and Nēnēs. All of these groups are based in Koza.

Whereas the residents of Naha rarely talk about their own city; the proud Koza folks care deeply about their town. Let me introduce you to tips that the Kozakko have provided on how to enjoy Koza as a tourist. First, find a hotel in Koza, not in Naha. Although it is only thirty minutes by car from Naha, you will be partying in Koza till late at night, so stay in Koza. During the day, you can have a look at the souvenir and embroidery shops mostly geared towards American tourists on Gate Street, Kūkō Dōri, or Park Avenue. Then, go eat tacos. At night, go to a “live house” which is essentially a nightclub with live music. After that, go to minyou sakaba2, where you can mingle with the locals and have a good time. Enjoy a true Okinawan night experience, different from anything you have had in Naha.

Editor’s Note:

  1. A bar for Okinawan folk music
  2. Central Park Avenue (its official name) was a street which prospered under the name of BC (Business Center) Street after the War, and was improved to a shopping mall with sidewalks and arcades in 1982, after the Reversion. In recent years, it’s facing a hard fight as the customers have drifted away, given the rise of suburban shopping facilities such as the American Village in Mihama, or the AEON MALL Okinawa Rycom.