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Ukishima Brewing

As part of the craft brew craze…, well if not craze at least increased excitement, that has spread around Okinawa and Japan in the past few years; Ukishima brewing has opened up off Kokasai street in Naha. It’s a bit of a strange place, it’s in the back “Sunrise Market” shopping streets, on the third floor. Initially we were a bit worried if we were in the right place, on the second floor looked like a beer garden/izakaya, but it was closed both times we went by (On Friday nights, so I’m guessing permanently closed). When we made it to the third floor we saw the entrance to the taproom and the sweet smell of hops and yeast greeted our noses.

Some bags of German hops on the way up the stairs

They have a large number of beers, we liked a lot of them although my favorite was the Golden 107, it had a dark color and a refreshing taste. A three beer tasting flight was about ¥1300, a little high but the pours are generous. The individual beers were around ¥800 for I’m guessing around 330ml.

The taproom is modern and has long tables that could hold about 20 people per table, plus some seats at the bar. A bright yellow neon sign proclaims “ede, bibe, lude”, which means “eat, drink, play”. There are clean bathrooms and polite service. Both times we have been there have been about eight beers on tap, all of them brewed by Ukishima Brewing, no outside beers are available.

We only tried the fried potatoes as we weren’t yet ready for dinner when we went thru. They were good, house made potatoes. The food we saw other folks getting looked pretty decent, but as with most microbrews the beer is the name of the game and the reason to go!

Location: Back shopping streets of Kokasai. The street level entrance is an open stairway heading up with yellow coloring and proclaiming Ukishima Brewing.

GoogleMaps link: https://goo.gl/maps/kajsA5EWCwkbEKYN7

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ukishimabrewing/

Some other craft brews worth considering:

WolfBrau near Shuri

Helios Brew Pub on Kokasai

Taste Of Okinawa (Not a brewery, but has lots of local/Japanese beers on tap)

Wolfbrau Brewery – Shuri

Wolfbrau – brewery and coffeehouse

A partially consumed beer at Wolfbrau

The microbrew scene on Okinawa has expanded drastically in the past 4 years. Ukishima Brewing, Coral, Taste of Okinawa (Not a microbrew itself, but they support lots of local microbreweries) the list goes on. The most recent as of the summer of 2019 is Wolfbrau, as you can probably guess from the name it’s German style beer, run by a German gentleman who retired to Okinawa. Their shop does double duty as a coffee and beer brewery!

The beers are all made in house, and are what you might expect to find in Munich. Schwartz, Dunkle, Alt Ale, Weizen, and more. Everything tastes clean and refreshing. Almost all are reasonable ABVs of around 5%. We’ve tried four of their varieties and yet to get a bad one! The owner is very friendly and if he has time will chat with you about his beer and upcoming creations.

I’ll admit we’ve never actually ordered a coffee, but we have had the Coffee Craft beer which is beer that has been soaking in coffee grounds overnight. It had an amazing coffee flavor which made us want to order a latte! The coffee roaster is in the shop and along with the Coffee Craft beer we have seen other customers order a cup and it smells divine.

For food they have a small menu of German inspired fair. We had the cheese tray and the sausages. Both were delicious. The cheeses are made by Cheese Guy John Davis (a famous Okinawa Cheese maker)

Getting There: The brewery is located in the greater Shuri Castle area, if you take the monorail exit the Shuri station. The Gibo station is slightly closer looking on the map; however, there is a steep climb uphill.

Contact Details:

Wolfbrau Facebook Page

Google Maps link

The Cheese Guy

The Cheese Guy in Okinawa is John Davis, he is a UK native who makes all fresh cheese right here in Okinawa. It’s not cheap, but it is the best cheese you can get without hopping on a flight to France!

A Cheese plate at Wolfbrau
Cheese plate and sausages with sauerkraut at Wolfbrau

You can often find John at Food Fleas and other food festivals. His cheese is served in many fine places around Okinawa. If you are looking for awesome European style cheese in Okinawa, The Cheese guy is the place to go!

Cheese Guy Website

Google Maps link to their shop

Sans Souci (& Sudachi udon)

Summer in Okinawa can get pretty hot and humid. What better way to refresh than with sudachi udon? Citrusy, salty, and cold.

Sans Souci in Kitanakagusuku is a Ryukyu x Kyoto style cafe. It is no secret… everybody knows about this place! This cafe is listed in all the cafe books and travel guides for a good reason… the food is delicious! There is udon, both hot and cold, as well as a few other dishes, cafe drinks, and several Japanese style sweets options.

During summer time only they also serve sudachi udon, which is exactly what I needed today. The lunch set comes with a drinn, too.

For dessert I of course had the matcha mini parfait. It was so good… tons of matcha flavor layers.

The price is a bit high, 1550円 total, but definitely worth it for the high quality food at this trendy cafe.

address: サンスーシー(sans souci)

〒901-2315 Okinawa, Nakagami-gun, Kitanakagusuku, 字萩道150-3 パークサイド#1822

098-935-1012

https://goo.gl/maps/PMfZucEqn5p9zPZM9

Coffee: Saving some ¥en (and the Earth, too) in Okinawa

It has been awhile since I have made any updates (I keep meaning to) and I have visited dozens of new cafes and tried new local foods. But I will save those for a little later. Recently it was brought to my attention that some people were unaware of some little yen-saving (and eco-conscious) tricks for coffee lovers here in Okinawa. Hopefully you have read about “eco-bag” or “my bag” that I wrote about earlier in the Food Shopping in Japan. Now to talk takeout coffee.

Some people already know that Starbucks will give you a small discount (20yen? 30yen?) for using your own  tumbler. But did you know places like Lawson and Tully’s do, too?

At Lawson, bring your own tumbler and they give you a 10yen discount… they should automatically ring it up, it has it’s own barcode. So while 10yen might not be that much, it does add up. Plus you are reducing single-use plastics and cups. Unfortunately, their competitor FamilyMart does not offer a discount however you can still use your own tumbler! 7-11 is arriving soon to Okinawa, and hopefully they will start offering a discount (as of right now I do not think they offer any discount on the mainland).

Tully’s offers a 30yen discount when you bring in your own tumbler for takeout coffee. There are a few Tully’s locations in Okinawa, mostly in the Naha area.

Segafredo is a coffee chain, however there is only 1 in Okinawa; it is located in Yomitan  area. They offer a 20yen discount for bringing your own tumbler.

And lastly Cafe de Crie (another chain, only 1 in Okinawa so far located in Naha) offers a 20yen discount for using your own tumbler.

So, there you have it! Save money and the environment, too. Let’s try to keep Okinawa’s beaches clean and beautiful, free of single-use plastics and other debris.

If you visit the mainland of Japan, there are many more places that offer discounts for “my tumbler” use, so be sure to check for them.

By the way, the stainless steel tumbler in my photo is from MUJI 無印良品 and comes in 2 sizes, 300mL and 450mL (I have 450 mL) for a fairly reasonable price (range of 1500yen).


マイタンブラー  mai tanburaa  “my tumbler”  (alternatively 自分のタンブラー jibun no tanburaa, also meaning “my tumbler” but the English-borrowed version is just as acceptable, if not moreso!)

マイボトル mai botoru   “my bottle”

マイマッグ mai maggu  “my mug”  (see a pattern?)

Normally I keep it as simple as possible by saying “マイタンブラーOK?” Sure, this is not sophisticated speech, but why make things more difficult for yourself.

You can also use something like:

このタンブラー使えますか? kono tanburaa tsukaemasu ka?  Could you use this tumbler?

このタンブラーにお願いします  kono tanburaa ni onegaishimasu.  Please put it in this tumbler.

How Tsu 好吃: Steamed manjuu and Tea

How Tsu 好吃 is a hidden gem in back neighborhood of Ginowan, a small cafe with tea and steamed buns.

It is not too difficult to find, but if you didn’t know about it, you probably wouldn’t have followed the signs to get there. The signs lead you to a small alley, with about 1 maybe 2 kei car spaces.

There is a sign outside saying “Open.” And sure enough, as you open the door of what seems to simply be someone’s house… a small tea space and kitchen appears. The menu is in Japanese and English (probably due to the location near to the military base, though I cannot imagine many Americans come here). There are handmade steamed buns: nikuman (meat), taanmuman (taro), anman (red bean), and bao (like a steamed pork sandwich bun). There are also some choices for tea: high mountain oolong, jasmine, herb, and coffee. For 500yen, I got red bean and taro buns with a pot of high mountain oolong. Cheap and delicious.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/yhRyLE8q1Tq

Open noon-7pm. Closed on Mondays.

Nuchigafu: Afternoon Bukubuku tea set

Another bukubuku-cha post! Sorry, I cannot help myself, I love tea culture.

So one afternoon I set out on a mission, and asked if my husband would join me. We headed for the Tsuboya yachimun (pottery) district of Naha. Specifically to the popular Ryukyu-style restaurant, Nuchigafu ぬちがふう(命果報).

This place gained much popularity after the Jimami Tofu movie came out; the owner collaborated with the movie showing and prepared a special lunch set that included all the foods that were found in the movie. Many of my friends raved about it (I forgo due to the copious amounts of pork in most Okinawan cuisine). However, recently, they started offering an afternoon tea set with bukubuku cha, so… of course I most check it out.

The restaurant is located off a quiet back street, but it is easy to find. The architecture is beautiful, and one of the resident cats greeted us. The atmosphere inside is quite nice and relaxing. We ordered one “simple tea set” which included 8 treats (savory and sweet), 3 traditional cookies, and bukubuku tea, and one bukubuku tea set (which comes with 3 traditional cookies). The bukubuku cha was prepared at the table so you could watch the magic happen. Everything on the plate was delicious of course. Overall I highly recommend this place for an afternoon stopover while you are visited the pottery district!

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/Tx4a2zMePG22

Another Vegan Ramen option in Okinawa: Orange Shokudo

Update: Orange Shokudo has closed in Naha and moved to Kin. Just opened as of Feb 2020 there are two! vegan ramen places in the basement of the old mitsukoshi building on Kokasai ( https://goo.gl/maps/kjyGziP91gBpaSJ2A ) . 

Today started as any normal Sunday. It is the monthly Sunrise Market in Naha, and my husband wanted to go. So we set off and parked our car in the Noren Plaza のうれんプラザ as is our usual spot. The monthly market is quite nice and we always find some ono grinds here. Anyway, after we wandered (and ate) through the market, we walked around Naha for a bit before heading back to the car. When we returned to the Noren Plaza, a restaurant called オレンジ食堂 (Orange Shokudo) on the second floor had a sign with something strange that caught my eye.

“Vegan black sesame ramen”
ビーガンラーメン
辛い黒ゴマ濃厚担々麺

I was surprised, so I stopped and inspected further; while this place had meat options, it also had VEGAN options (black sesame, gold sesame, and a regular sesame broth, as well as spicy, little spicy, and no spice). When I first saw the sign I thought maybe it was a mistake, but for sure, I asked the owner and he seemed pleased to say that Yes, he has vegan options. This was crazy, and despite already eating lunch, well, I just had to try this! So I convinced my husband to split a bowl.

When it came out, he gave as an extra bowl, spoon, and chopsticks. He also brought out vinegar and extra spice, as well as an extra bowl of rich black sesame sauce so we could add more.

Delicious. I rarely get to eat ramen as there is pretty much never a vegetarian or vegan option. And while the Okinawa vegan scene is on the rise, the only places I knew of previously were Stripes (not very good) and Rakurobi Kitchen (doesn’t always have it available). So today I got delicious ramen and another place to bookmark for a visit when I feel like a bowl of ramen!

I had never heard anyone mention this place before, and even on GoogleMaps there was not mention of the vegan options. Perhaps it is a new menu he is trying out, and I hope it stays. I hope the vegans living in and visiting Okinawa can all give Orange Shokudo their business!

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/6SXLreaW2GE2
**Second floor of Noren Plaza Shopping Center

In Kin Town

https://goo.gl/maps/XEUZ3xp9WLndVE1N9

Shuri Kannondo & Gassho Conan: 首里観音堂&合掌コナン

In Japan, it is still the New year holidays so I decided to take a small venture out. In Shuri area, there are 4 popular temples that enshrine guardian gods assigned to all 12 of the zodiac animals. While I should have gone to Daruma temple because it enshrines the deity of the year of the dog (戌 is my zodiac year), I instead decided to visit Shuri Kannondo. By the way, Shuri Kannondo enshrines several zodiac deities: Dragon, Snake, Mouse, Ox, Tiger and Horse.

Hatsumode 初詣 is still going strong, even here in Okinawa, so traffic was a mess. After all, there are a lot of temples and shrines in the Shuri area, more so than the rest of Okinawa.

The temple was busy, but overall not as crowded as some of the others in downtown Naha. I was able to get around easily and the lines were short. I was able to pick up some omamori as well.

What was most notable about this temple was the cute little dog character. The year of the dog deity is not enshrined here, so who is it? Well, it is Conan, a very adorable long-haired chihuahua. He is the mascot of the temple. He is called a 合掌犬 gassho-inu, a “praying dog.” He mimics his master, a priest, and joins in the daily prayers the temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar. Gassho 合掌 means “pressing one’s hands together,” usually in prayer or reverence (though it can also be in greeting, gratitude, apology, etc.). The priest taught the dog from a young age the worshipping posture; he quickly caught on and now the dog does it very naturally every day with the priest.

The temple was very busy, so I did not see the celebrity himself, so perhaps next time I will go in the morning when it is quieter. However, I did purchase an ema 絵馬 (prayer board) with Conan’s likeness on it to write wishes of good health and hang up at the temple.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/RsQe5Un5qS22

Iheya Island 伊平屋島: Camping

Iheya Island is the northernmost inhabited island of Okinawa and renown for its natural beauty. In this post I will describe how to get there, cost, and some of the “tourist spots.”

This previous weekend, I convinced my husband to try camping in a tent (first time ever for him). While there was initial resistance, he conceded and we decided to take the morning ferry to Iheya Island with the dog and the car. We made reservations ahead of time (you can call or fax), as per the website, however I don’t think it was really necessary since we went on an off-peak time. Normally we would not take a car on the ferry (it is so expensive to do so, and so much cheaper to simply rent a car), but since we were hauling camping gear, some food, a cooler, etc. we decided it would be easiest and least amount of hassle.

The roundtrip ticket was 15580yen for the car+driver, and the extra person was 4640yen. Our dog was free. We arrived at Unten port (in Motobu) ~30 minutes early to pay for the tickets and line up our car to board. My husband drove the car onto the ferry and we met up on the 2nd floor deck outside (pets are not allowed inside). We chose a nice table in the shade and spread out our snacks for the 80 minute ride, while the dog sat happily on his towel in the chair between us. We got lucky and the weather was particularly gorgeous, the water was glassy smooth.

When the ferry arrived at Maedomari port, we piled into the car and off we drove to our adventure. We circled the main sites on Iheya, as well as Noho, which is connected by bridge. Admittedly there are only a few, and most can be seen within an afternoon (some are described below). Nonetheless, the landscape was quite spectacular. The water was so clear and blue, the beaches felt nearly untouched by mankind. Since we had the dog we ended up not to go snorkeling, instead we opted for playing in the shallow water to cool off. We stopped at a number of quiet, sandy beaches along our route as we explored.

An interesting thing is that rice farming is a main industry on this island and it is not often that people in Okinawa get to see rice growing in fields. The stores sell rice and rice flour to bring home, which makes a nice souvenir.

As we drove, we went to Coral hill observatory where we could look out over the water and see Izena and Gushikawa islands across the way. The actual observatory platform looked perhaps less than structurally sound so we stayed off and just enjoyed the view from the hilltop.

Another legendary spot was “Yagura,” the tomb of the ancestors of Sho Hashi (1st Sho Dynasty, unified Okinawa). Yagura Ufusu is said to be the great-grandfather of King Sho Hashi, who built the first united dynasty of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Yagura Ufusu had two sons (Samekawa Ufusu and Uezato Aji) and two daughters (Gakiya Uyanuru and Gakiya Nuru). Samekawa Ufusu, the oldest son, was the father of King Sho Shisho who is the first king of the First Sho Dynasty. There is a stone grave on the coast and is situated facing the distant Okinawan mainland. Standing there, you can see the ocean and sky in brilliant colors.

Then there was the Nento Hiramatsu Pine Tree, a symbol of Iheya Island and a national monument. This 300 year-old Ryukyu pine was selected as among the most noted trees in Japan. Its wide boughs are beautiful, acting almost like a natural parasol. The park that surrounds is very nice. Off to the side, there is also an Amano Iwato shrine. It was a short walk over to this quaint and small shrine (dedicated to a legend described below).

Further along, we reached Kumaya cave (Hiding place cave), located within a rocky mountain to the north of Dana village. It was created 280 million years ago as the Chert rock was eroded by waves and wind. It is an Okinawa prefectural natural monument. During typhoons and tempests, people would take shelter here, sustained by nearby springs and a plentiful supply of fish and seaweed, heaved up onto the rocks and mudflats outside the grotto. First, we climbed the steps leading up the rock face. From here, there is a very narrow opening to squeeze through. On one side of the cave, there is a small shrine, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. People say that this cave is related to stories about ancient Japanese gods, that the legendary Amano-Iwato 天岩戸, a rock cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu concealed herself.

Continuing along the road, we saw some shisa and some anpan-man type characters constructed from old buoys– it was very cute.

When we packed for the island it did not look like there might be many grocery stores or markets on island, so we ended up to bring all the food/drinks (and a cooler) we thought we would need. Well, it turns out there is a really nice JA mini-grocery store which has nearly everything. So keep in mind if you visit, JA is the best stop for groceries and you don’t need to overpack. There are a handful of izakaya and small cafe/shokudo places on island, but we did not try any of them since we had the dog with us– our plan was to cook out.

We ended up camping at Yonezaki campground (Iheya Island Yonezaki 伊平屋愛ランドよねざき). It is a pay campground with many facilities. So, online it says “no dogs allowed.” But since it seemed quiet and uncrowded we went and decided to try rather than rough it at one of the beach sites. When we arrived there were no signs saying “no dogs” and when my husband went up to get a spot none of the paperwork said “no dogs,” and no one said anything about our dog hanging out in the car… so we decided if you were respectful, cleaned up after your pet, and didn’t cause a disturbance, probably no one actually cares. Maybe during peak season, this will be a different story. Anyway, it was 1500yen for the night.

We scoped out a spot close to the beach and set up the tent. It was so peaceful– there was only one other group (father and son) at the campground. We walked around a bit, cooked dinner, and just relaxed. When night came, you could see so many stars and the milky way.

There was an area for cleaning dishes, grilling/charcoal pits, pay showers (200yen for ~5 minutes), toilets, beach access… it was a decent place to stay. However, we only stayed one night, after all this was pretty much my husband’s first experience tent camping/sleeping on the ground, and we had to “test the waters.” Two nights may have been asking too much so we only planned for one.

The return home ferry was as smooth as the way over; my little dog was tuckered out and slept most of the way home. Overall it was a really nice overnight trip exploring the outskirts of Okinawa.

link to pictures: https://imgur.com/a/EbmvFfI


website (Japanese only) for ferry times, etc: http://www.vill.iheya.okinawa.jp/index.jsp

Coffee Stand Hibari-ya: 珈琲屋台ひばり屋

An oasis in the middle of Naha’s concrete jungle: Hibari-ya coffee stand.

I wandered through the back alley, promising my husband a cup of coffee was waiting for him. Sure enough, we came upon what looked like someone’s backyard garden. We went up to the nice lady owner in the booth and ordered 2 iced cafe au laits; it is a pretty simple menu, no fancy drinks here (which I don’t mind).

We sat in the shade under the awnings, sipping our coffee and enjoying some peace before heading back into the crowded noisy streets around Kokusai-dori. It was the perfect stop while shopping in Naha.

address: https://goo.gl/maps/2Fbcf4nQN8F2

Coffee Specialist Nietzsche: 珈琲専科にーちぇ

珈琲 koohii: coffee


Another day, another coffee. This time I ventured to another retro kissaten (coffeeshop) in Naha, called Nietzsche.

There is free parking in 2 spots: behind the shop (2 spaces), and in the park across the way (16 spaces). It is very cute and inviting on the outside, very spacious inside with 2 floors. Inside is also a treasure trove of retro coffee gadgetry. The atmosphere is really quite amazing. As a word of warning, it is an adult oasis, and young children are not encouraged to enter as a way to keep that peace.

The menu is mostly coffee, and a few dessert options. I got the retro toast set and an ice coffee; it was quite wonderful. If you are looking for an amazing retro kissaten experience in Naha, this is definitely it.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/KLmsxM3RT6r

Cafe detox felicidad

This small yet popular cafe is located in Itoman, not too far from the Ashibinaa outlets area. They offer raw food, vegan and gluten-free menu choices. They also have a vegan/gluten-free sweets counter for takeout.

There is a parking lot next to the building, park in the spaces labelled for the cafe. The inside of the cafe is not very big, but there are a few tables. They have a variety of fresh lunch choices, as well as some smoothies and desserts. While the bill is not cheap, this detox cafe offers some delicious and unique choices here in Okinawa, so I still recommend it. Today we tried the raw food lunch set with the veggie norimaki rolls and the curry lunch plate. I also decided to add on a raw food “rainbow cake” for dessert.

Overall, everything was really good, so if you are looking for a healthy option in the southern part of the island, this place will not disappoint.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/Q9SY6T58kYJ2