Superclubbing in Naha: Epica NightclubArea Guide
Naha has taken off as a Bohemian hot spot, welcoming refugees trading salaryman suits for Hawaiian shirts, while also nurturing a local arts and culinary scene that is the envy of cities up north. The night life has slowly caught up, but Epica Nightclub, opened in 2015, has remained at the top of the heap, reigning as the city’s sole superclub.
Kokusai Dori (the International Street) has become the cultural hub of Naha over the past decade, and the nearby neighborhood of Matsuyama is undeniably the best spot in the city for a night out. It’s true that Epica wasn’t the first club in the city but it brought something new to Naha: an international vibe. Spread across several massive spaces, it delivers the same kind of superclub experience that you can find in Tokyo, Shanghai, Toronto or Berlin, and the crowd, especially on Friday’s International Night, is more diverse than other night spots in Okinawa.
Things kick off at around the same time, though; if you’re getting there before midnight, you’re too early; the best move is to get set up at one of izakaya in Matsuyama, get yourself lubricated, and swan in just after the clock strikes twelve. One thing to note, though: the dress code at clubs in Dogenzaka and Roppongi in Tokyo are fairly loose, but Epica runs a tighter ship. Keep your tattoos covered, and, please, make sure you’ve got ID on you. Like everywhere else on this planet, it’s best to keep your wits about you, but Japan is one of the safer places to go out.
The crowd tends to be more international than other clubs and bars in the city, but there’s still a good amount of Okinawans in the mix (locals get a deal on admission, as well). The cover is reasonable, especially when compared against Osaka and Tokyo clubs; if you arrive between 11pm and 3am, prime time, expect to pay a premium, so come after 3am or before 11pm, if you really need to get a deal. Things at Epica run until dawn, when the first trains run, and sometimes later, if the party’s still going strong.
If you want to live out a Pusha T fantasy of bottle service races, Epica can set you up in a VIP section. A prime spot in the Royal VIP starts with a 100,000 yen minimum, but the Gold Area, the Premium Economy of club VIP sections, starts around the 25,000 yen mark. Even for bottle service agnostics, it’s worth a shot (and cheaper than Tokyo), and a quintessentially Japanese club experience.
Epica’s monopoly on the local superclub game means that it can attract top talent. There’s no need to scan the club listings—if a good DJ is coming to town, they will be spinning at Epica. As the club’s reputation has grown, it’s been able to attract top talent from Japan and overseas. In the club-within-a-club, e2, mostly local DJs attract the city’s die-hard hip-hop heads, spinning a mix larded with local MCs.
Hitting the showers after a day at the beach then cruising out to a streetside cafe before hitting the club, the vibe in Naha is about as close as Japan gets to tropical hedonism. On a good night, buried in the crowd at Epica, lost in bacchanalian ecstasy, you could fool yourself, for a moment, into thinking you were in one of the famed night spots of South Beach. But it’s not South Beach, and that’s the appeal. Even with the dress code, the crowd tends toward an Okinawan chic that is more GU than Gucci, and the vibe is just… different. This is unmistakably Naha.