Mihama American Village - Get a Sense of America Without Leaving Okinawa
When you think about a holiday in Okinawa, you’re probably thinking of days spent lazing on the beach, as the prefecture is arguably most famous for its stunning tropical scenery. But Okinawa actually has so many other interesting and unique attractions that offer a completely different experience from mainland Japan. If you’re ready for a break from the beach or maybe looking for a change of pace with a Western flare, Mihama American Village is the attraction for you with its fun, theme-park-like atmosphere filled with nostalgia and Americana. Read on to learn all about what you can do at this funky corner of Okinawa!
Jul 29 2022 (Aug 03 2022)
What Is Mihama American Village?
As Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa is known for its pristine beaches and subtropical weather, offering a slice of tropical paradise right by mainland Japan. There are several avenues that can be used to get to Okinawa, but many travelers tend to stick around the main attractions in the northern and southern parts of the main island or forego the main island heading straight to popular outer islands such as Ishigaki or Miyako. But there’s so much more to the main island of Okinawa, with a myriad of unique attractions just waiting for you to visit.
Mihama American Village, located in Chatan in central Okinawa around 20 kilometers north of Naha, is one such attraction. As its name suggests, it is a shopping and entertainment area with distinctly American vibes - some have even likened it to an American-style outdoor strip mall, which makes sense considering its design was inspired by the American west coast. The bright, flamboyant buildings and welcome sign make you feel like you’ve stepped into an American town. This area has a lively atmosphere, with music from shops and live street performances filling the air, as well as fairy lights, bright murals, a canal, and plenty of greenery making the streets feel bright and friendly.
The area has theme-park-like vibes, and as one side of Mihama American Village faces the sea, it also evokes the atmosphere of an American beach boardwalk. It is close to a U.S. military base, making the area popular with both locals and tourists who are looking for an American-style change of pace from island life and Westerners homesick for something familiar. Walking through its vibrant alleys lined with all sorts of eateries and shops, you may even forget that you’re actually in Japan!
How to Get to Mihama American Village
The easiest way to reach Mihama American Village is by car. If you are coming from the south of the island, it is about a 40-minute drive from the capital of Naha and costs about 3,000 to 4,000 yen to take a taxi. If you are coming from the north, it is about a 1-hour drive from Nago and costs about 9,000 yen to take a taxi.
If a car is not available to you, Mihama American Village is also accessible by bus. If you are coming from Naha, take the 120 from Naha Airport or the 20, 28, or 29 from Naha City until Kuwae bus stop and then walk around 3 minutes. The bus fare should cost around 700 yen. If you are coming from Churaumi Aquarium, take the 65, 66, or 70 until Nagojo Iriguchi bus stop and then transfer to the 120 and ride until the Kuwae bus stop. The bus fare should cost around 2,300 yen.
What to Do at Mihama American Village - Immerse Yourself in the Americana
Mihama American Village hosts a myriad of establishments that offer all kinds of entertainment, allowing you to easily spend the day exploring and basking in the fun, unique atmosphere. From food to entertainment, there is something for everyone!
Eat - Feast on All Kinds of International Cuisines
Mihama American Village is especially well known as a place with a wide assortment of restaurants, so you’ll really be spoilt for choice. Keeping with the American theme, there are Okinawan branches of recognizable American chains, as well as other independent establishments serving popular American fare like Philly cheesesteaks, hamburgers, and chicken wings. Hawaii-themed cafes are also extremely popular in Japan, so it is no surprise that you’ll find those here as well.
But as you are still in Okinawa, you’ll also find a plethora of classic Japanese and Okinawan fare, such as Okinawa soba, sushi, ramen, and more. If you’re really in the mood for an international experience, Mihama American Village has you covered, with restaurants ranging from Mexican to Thai, Italian, and even Indian.
After a great meal, it’s also nice grabbing a small snack or dessert such as soft serve or freshly brewed coffee while relaxing and taking in the vibrant scenery of the buildings. Many of the cafes and restaurants have terraces and outdoor seating, and some even have ocean views! What better way to feel like you’re on a tropical vacation than dining while looking out upon the sparkling blue ocean?
Shop - Everything From Local Souvenirs to International Brands
“Shop til you drop” seems to be the unwritten motto of Mihama American Village, and with so many options to choose from, it’s hard to decide where to start. There are a myriad of shops that specialize in clothing, accessories, and other funky trinkets spread throughout the area, so you’re sure to find something that suits your style and budget.
There are several well-known American brands where you can find beloved and trusted items such as shoes, but as you did make it all the way to Okinawa, why not explore the local shops and their unique stock? Colorful items line the shelves of the stores, featuring everything from gimmicky T-shirts to beautifully crafted local goods such as beaded accessories and leatherworks. There is no shortage of interesting items that can be bought as amusing souvenirs, but if you’re looking to bring a taste of Okinawa back with you, stop by a shop selling Okinawan treats or “awamori,” a local Okinawan alcohol that really packs a punch!
Entertainment - Challenge Yourself or Relax
When you need a break from all the eating and shopping, be sure to check out the variety of entertainment options available. There are plenty of ways to kill the time, from a movie theater that screens movies in both Japanese and English to karaoke boxes where you can sing your heart out. If you are up for a challenge, there are a couple of arcades housing everything from the classic crane and basketball machines to beloved video games and purikura photo booths. If you’re not in the mood for the exciting yet frustrating crane games, you can head to the gashapon machines to grab an adorable and quirky trinket that will amusingly memorialize your visit.
Mihama Village is built alongside the coast, making it easy to wander down to the aptly named Sunset Beach for a little sunning or splashing in the ocean. The beautiful blue water is sure to captivate, and walking with your toes in the sand while gazing at the colorful buildings truly does make you feel as though you’ve been transported to the U.S. West Coast! For more leisurely sightseeing, there’s an art gallery and museum where you can admire the works of local print artist Bokunen Naka and others.
Escape to America While in Japan
Although compact, Mihama American Village is a place with lots to offer. It can be a comfort for those who might be missing America and a fun location to explore for those who want to get a taste of vibrant, Western aesthetics without flying all the way to America. With so many choices for food, shopping, and entertainment, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It’s a great way to spend time on the Okinawan main island, and experience a different side of Japan that is truly unique to here.
Thumbnail: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.