The Port of Naha is located in southwestern Okinawa Island, one of Japan’s Ryūkyū Islands, on the East China Sea. The Port of Naha is the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, but it has been an important city for many centuries. In 2005, over 312 thousand people called the Port of Naha home.
The modern Port of Naha was founded in 1921, and it is the economic, educational, and political center of Okinawa Prefecture. After World War II, the Port of Naha was base for the United States military and for Okinawa’s governments. It became the capital of the Prefecture in 1972. The deep-water port makes the Port of Naha the commercial center of the Ryukyu Islands. It is home to many traditional industries that make lacquer ware, porcelain, awamori liquor, and dyed cloth.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area around the Port of Naha has been occupied since the Stone Age. More pre-historic artifacts include a shell mound created in the Jōmon period and ancient coins from China. Pottery from the 11th Century suggests trade with Japan and Korea. By early in the 15th Century, the Port of Naha was an active city when the Ryūkyū Kingdom was being formed.
During that time, the Port of Naha was not an important political center, but it was a major port. It contained a large open-air market, several Japanese temples, and an embassy for officials from China. Two forts protected the Port of Naha and a harbor island that was used to store cargoes.
Because the Port of Naha was important to the age’s international maritime trade network, many Chinese settled in the city and along the coast. Taoist and Confucian temples were constructed in the 17th Century. Japanese settled on the northwest site of the city, and lodgings dedicated to travelers and traders from the Tokara Islands was maintained in the Port of Naha.
The modern Port of Naha has grown from its beginnings to incorporate the earlier royal Chinese capital of Shuri and several other villages that existed during the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The Shurei Gate still stands and is a wonderful example of Ryūkyūan architecture. The Port of Naha is also home to the Sōgen Temple where early Okinawa Kingdom rulers were buried.
In 1945, the Port of Naha was caught up with the rest of the Prefecture in the Battle of Okinawa, the only World War II fighting on Japanese soil and the biggest campaign of the Asia-Pacific War. The battle lasted three months and changed the face of the island, disfiguring the mountain landscape, destroying cultural treasures, and taking the lives of almost 200 thousand people, including more than 100 thousand civilians. Okinawans suffered as much from war and its atrocities as any population ever has, giving birth to what is known as the “Okinawan Heart.” After the terrible misfortunes of the Battle, the island was occupied by the U.S. military for many years. The Okinawan Heart respects individual dignity, rejects any act of war, and cherishes culture. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum is a reflection of the Okinawan Heart.