Are you looking for the best place to buy groceries in Kadena town here in Okinawa? Then Navel Kadena is your next destination! I shop there regularly to find some of the best deals on-island and to take in its captivating vibe.

Let’s explore what makes it so charming, and how you can enjoy the good vibes while saving money.

The Farmer’s Market​

You’ve probably heard of the farmer’s market at Navel Kadena. But hearing about it is different from experiencing it. The selection of vegetables is amazing. Carrots, cucumbers, onions, eggplants (all freshly plucked from the earth) and other Okinawan staples line the center of the small space.

Vegetables for sale at Navel Kadena

Locally grown fruit, usually an expensive delicacy around the island, is less so here. I regularly find sweet apples and bananas available in tiny plastic bags. Seasonal fruit like grapes, pineapples, and watermelon are also sometimes for sale.

Watermelon on display

Wander over to the opposite side of the market and you’ll find fresh whole fish staring up at you. (Best time to get it is in the morning between 10AM and 12PM)

Puffer fish for sale at Navel Kadena

The fish are usually surrounded by several elderly Japanese shoppers shuffling around the store, casting scrutinizing looks at the potential candidates for their next meal. The fish and patrons along with the varied selection of goods, will fill your soul with warmth and familiarity.

"Super Mario" Music in the Home Center Tabata​

There’s something about the music in the Tabata Home Center at Navel Kadena. It’s as if someone took the dry notes of elevator music, added a dash of video game music and said “Let’s see what happens”.

Tabata Shopping Center at Navel Kadena

The result is a soundtrack that complements the shopping experience perfectly in this well stocked department store. This place is the Japanese Home Depot (without the orange and white signs everywhere).

It has a little bit of everything. From camping gear, to clothes, furniture, amateur electronic components, some few surplus US military uniforms, and more, you'll find everything you need for your new (or not so new) Japanese home here. And unlike the often overpriced Makeman, it’s easy on your wallet.

The Boardwalk Connecting All the Little Shops​

Navel Kadena is an odd mix of indoor shopping mall combined with outdoor elements. Connecting both elements is a rustic wooden boardwalk that contributes to the local vibe of your experience.

The backside of the shopping mall

Those who are familiar with famous boardwalks on the East and West coasts of the United States might find its location away from the water odd. While you won't find water, you will have protection from the unbearable summer sun, as long as you stay in the well traveled areas. (More on this in a bit.)

As the planks sound beneath your feet, be sure to wave at the friendly Okinawans chatting and enjoying a meal before you search for succulents.

Plants for sale and on display at Navel Kadena

Just you and the locals​

These days Navel Kadena is rarely crowded, especially on weekdays. Advantage you.

Opened in December 1992, it’s clear the shopping center has declined in popularity over its nearly 30 years in operation. Many of the signs are faded. Shops inside the mall are shuttered. Few people venture to the back part or upper floors of the complex anymore. There's not much of a reason to.

An empty storefront at Navel Kadena The second floor of Navel Kadena closed off to shoppers

But don’t let this deter you. As long as you stick to the ground floor you’ll find everything you need and want. Additionally, this means when you go, unlike more popular stores like San-A Naha Main Place and Rycom, you won’t have to scrape elbows with other people browsing in narrow aisles. That's one of the things I like most about shopping here.

Conclusion​

Navel Kadena is more than just a farmer’s market to buy cheap groceries. It’s a place that showcases the magic of Okinawa, while providing a unique atmosphere along with an assortment of products to buy.

Put it on your list next time your fridge is getting empty.
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