Kagoshima and Sakuraima 2023

Our second trip post covid was to Kyushu, and we visited Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Kurakawa onsen. This post is specific to Kagoshima and Sakurajima.

Overall impressions

It was hot on our travel days, and in fact Kagoshima set a record high of 33.5℃ with 90% humidity. As someone used to the cooling trade winds of Hawaii, this was a bit of sweltering weather for me, but since Japan has cold vending machines on every corner, we stayed hydrated with green tea, Aquarius, and Pocari Sweat. But enough complaining about the weather, what did we see and eat!

ShiroKuma (literally polar bear) iced treats

As we mentioned above it was warm, luckily Kagoshima is known for it’s Shirokuma ice. This is a large pile of shaved ice, with sweetened condensed milk, and “fruit cocktail” style frozen fruit. This treat gained popularity after the second world war as a cheap treat that could be made with canned products, as fresh milk and fruit was too expensive for most people at that time. They are easy to find around town, the train station shopping area has shops dedicated to them! We got one at Sengan-en, which is great garden and samuri house that we talk about below.

Now you can see why it is called polar bear! This was a particularly good looking one, but most places try to make it look a bit like a cute bear. The “nose” is vanilla ice cream here. Carolyn also got matcha with a green tea sweet that was good.

Sengan-en – Gardens and the home of the Shimadzu clan from 1658

This UNESCO world heritage site is a great example of Japanese gardens, and the house of a well off local family, whose members were important in Japanese history thru the Meiji revolution. The gardens use Sakurajima (The active volcano, described below) as a backdrop to add drama to the scenery. The house is a prime example of Japanese mixing with the newly opened western world. You can get here on the City view bus (The routes are significantly different post COVID, ensure you follow the maps posted on the bus stops and given to you at information desks. The maps online may be out of date!). In the mansion we enjoyed looking at the different nail covers in the beams. Old style Japanese joinery is renowned for using few metal fasteners, but they are still used, and then covered. Enough talk, lets take a look!

Lots of photos, but it was very photogenic! On to Sakurajima (Literally cherry blossom island, a bit strange for an active volcano, but still pretty!)

Sakurajima Ferry, bus ride, and soft serve

Sakurajima is an active volcano, but the kind that mostly leaks lava and doesn’t explode like Mt. St. Helens. It has had some minor explosive eruptions, but is generally safe to visit (most of the time, pay attention to any warnings, and if things are really going on, they won’t let you on the ferry to the island!). As we lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, and our dog was literally born in the town of Volcano, a lot of the sites reminded us of our history, but if you didn’t live on a Volcano (our house was in Lava Zone 3, which meant USAA wouldn’t insure us! (Lava Zone 3 is a 5% chance of lava over 100 years)) these sites will be exciting. Lots of old lava flows and volcanic soil.

When we were there it was overall very quiet, the tourist bus ride around the island was fun, and is included if you get the CUTE one or two day pass. Now I will say again, the bus routes and ferry schedules have changed a lot the last year or two with COVID. When we went the sightseeing ferry had been suspended (only in March of 2023, just when people are coming back!). I would recommend buying the pass at the information booth at the Kagoshima train station, the ladies there when we went were super helpful and spoke good English, they had guides in English, Korean, Chinese, and of course Japanese for the various routes and passes.

Where is the Ono?

Oh right! More ono needed. In Kasogshima we had a few meals. We were feeling a little unadventurous on the first night and had pasta at Pietro’s in the Sun Terrace. It’s good pasta, we like them better than somewhere like Olive Garden, but it on that level, chain Italian food. We started off with a french onion soup and cheese bread, then onto pasta.

Breakfast the next morning

We went to a Bakery called Backen then next morning. There they had great morning sets of salad, yogurt, choice of “soups” and choice of two fresh baked breads for about ¥1,000. It was all tasty and the bread was fresh. We had black curry and corn soup as our “soups”. It was a little warm for us in the middle of summer, but they would be very comforting on a cool day!

Black pork (Kurabuta) Okonomiyaki at Mangetsu (Full Moon!)

Lastly for our special meals we have okonomiyaki. We have a whole page just on this treat here: OnoOkinawa Okonomiyaki so we won’t go into details, if you don’t know, it a pancake made with a savory batter, cabbage, and other ingredients (like meat, or kurabuta in this case!). Topped with a savory brown sauce and mayo. The brown sauce is it’s own thing, it’s sort of like an A1 steak sauce, but more mild and sweet. More similar to Yakisoba sauce. Most places cook the food in front of you on a hot plate, at some you cook it yourself, and this place was one of those. But in a new twist to us, instead of the staff assisting us an iPad played a movie that had every move and the timing. It was fun, and more importantly it was delicious. Mangetsu (Which means full moon, like what a fresh okonomiyaki looks like!) is a chain, and they had English instruction and menu.


We really enjoyed our two days in Kagoshima city. If we had more time, I think it would be worth renting a car as the more rural aspect of Kagoshima prefecture means that there were things outside the city we couldn’t get to easily on public transit. Everything in this post are things that we really enjoyed doing, we also did some other fun things like their historical museums, riding the tram, and general street exploring. We highly recommend getting the “CUTE” one or two day pass and including the extra money for the Sakurjima ferry ride and bus (if you have the time, we took about 4 hours total on the ferry and bus).

Let us know if you’ve been to Kagoshima and if we’ve missed any of your favorites!

New Year’s Soba Noodle on Oahu

On New Year’s day or eve it is traditional to eat soba noodles for health and long life! Luckily if you live in Hawaii there are a few local choices.

From https://www.facebook.com/kyouhanannnohi.midori Please be their FaceBook Friend!

For 2022 we decided to head back to i-naba, after going there in 2020, and Shingen in 2021. I think i-naba is one of the most traditional soba shops on Oahu. The tempura might be a little better at Shingen, but the noodles are the star here.

Close up of i-naba noodles.
Close up of i-naba soba noodles, with veg tempura in the background.

Due to the extreme popularity around New Years, we went on Dec 30th. Arriving around 10:50, ten minutes before opening, there was a line of around 5 groups. Everyone got a seat, but by 11:30 there was a waiting list, and this isn’t even the official date to eat the noodles! We both got Zaru (cold) noodles. Chris ordered Tempura-A set, which came with 2 shrimp and some veggies.

tempura “A Set”

They didn’t have a specific set for just vegetables, but they did offer veggi tempura as an option, so Carolyn ordered the veg tempura and regular zaru soba.

The noodles are made in house and are delicious. The tempura and pickles are good as well. If you are looking for New Years soba on Oahu, this is one of the best choices. There are a few parking spots out front, or if full there is street parking.

They have several locations and offer online ordering for take out.

i-naba Japanese restaurant on Oahu.

Kinosaki Onsen Fall 2022

On Oct 11th Japan reopened to visitors! We spent 3 days in Kyoto, one in Kobe, and 3 days in Kinosaki Onsen town. We loved Kyoto and Kobe as well, but the internet has about one million reviews of those, so we’ve focused here on Kinosaki Onsen.

Kinosaki Onsen is located in Toyooka prefecture, about a 2 hour train ride from Kyoto and Osaka. There are several express trains from each place, but they only run about once per hour or so (in the case of Kyoto, only once ever 3 hours when we were there), so be sure to do a little train line research. There are more frequent trains, but they can take 3-4 hours to get there with a lot of stops, you want the express!

Kinosaki Onsen just celebrated it’s 1,300 year anniversary as a tourist destination, and you thought Disneyland had been around forever! As American’s it’s always amazing to us that places have so much continuous history.

Kinosaki Onsen town 1300 year anniversary banner.
Kinosaki Onsen town 1300 year anniversary banner.

When you arrive by train to Kinosaki onsen you are greeted by this crab instaliation, which is a hint that this is a seafood area, and crab is it’s specialty. Even though it’s not right on the ocean, it’s only a stones throw away (you can see the ocean from the top of the ropeway).

Crab sculpture at Kinosaki Onsen Station
Crab sculpture at Kinosaki Onsen Station

Of course the main reason to visit any onsen town is the hot springs baths! This town has several and almost every lodging will include a pass to visit all of them (or if you are a day tripper, you can pay per onsen, or buy a pass for all of them for about ¥1,200 (in 2022). We stayed at  Kinosaki-Onsen Sinonomesou, this was a very nice ryokan just off the main street. The room was Japanese style (meaning tatami mats and futon mattresses) and spacious. The town isn’t very big, and it was less than a 150 meter walk to the canal street that you’ve probably seen in all the reviews and photos.

We didn’t get meals at the ryokan since one of us is vegetarian. Most of the ryokan meals are quite expensive, and quite worth it if you can eat the tasty local seafood and beef. Not to worry as there were many good places to eat in town. A couple of particularly good places were the seafood place (which also had a vegetable only tempura set), and the “beer and pizza” place. (If you are on a 1 week trip in Japan, don’t get pizza, but as we have lived there for years, we’ve found we really enjoy “Japanese style” pizzas. Please click on the photos in this gallery for details:

We spent 3 nights in Kinosaki onsen, including one day renting a car from Toyooka station to visit some soba shops and see some rock formations. A thing to remember in Japan is that it’s perfectly normal to rent a car for 6 or 12 hours, since so many city tourists come out and about. You do need an “International Driver’s Permit” to rent a car, or a SOFA license. The IDP is available from AAA in America for about $20, it’s just a standard document that lists your US (or host country’s) driver’s info. You can pick it up at AAA offices in the US on the spot in about 10 minutes, or by mail. We really enjoyed our trip, and we close with some photos of the outlaying areas.

Back to Japan in Oct 2022

It’s been over two years since we were in Japan, a long wait for them to reopen after COVID restrictions shut the country down to tourism. We entered after the Oct 11th change to the requirements. We will go over the procedure of how we entered back into the country after so long away. These requirements are current as of late Oct 2022, they may change of course if the Japanese Gov’t decides to change them, please consult official Gov’t pages (links below) for the latest info!

Booking Airlines and Hotels

We initially started our bookings before the change, as we were willing to go thru the hassles of verification to visit. We got luckily that the reduced the requirements before we visited! If you are from the United States, or most of the countries that previously allowed visa free travel (or visa on arrival to be particular), you can now enter Japan with only vaccine proof, no negative test or other items needed. From America you needed two primary shots and a booster (we both had the second booster as well). You can book flights and hotels just as pre-pandemic, although note that expedia sites (like hotels.com) had limited inventory, direct booking seemed to work better for us. The flights all have an obscene fees for fuel, but I guess they are trying to make back lost revenue.

MySOS App, required! or at least strongly recommended (Not as old May 2023, see edit)

The MySOS App is a Japanese gov’t app that they have used for most of the pandemic. Now it is used to verify your passport and Vax cert. Is it required? I’m not entirely sure, but upon landing people without it were herded into another area that looked like it took a while. I’m guessing they can manually verify your documents there.

Registering with the MySOS app was somewhat straightforward, but not instant, you have to take photos of your passport (and wait for it to be verified, took about 1 hour) and the Vax card (took about 15 minutes). All of this you can do at your leisure long before you head to the airport (we did ours about 3 weeks before). After verifying you will have a “Blue” mySOS screen, and that’s what you want! You will walk by that coral of sad people that didn’t have theirs. Edit: As of May 2023, Japan has dropped it’s Corona procedures and you can enter as before the pandemic from the US, and most other elisa countries.

Arrival at Kansai International Airport (KIX) step by step

After landing at KIX, we deplaned in a normal fashion. Then we started walking down a long walkway above the gates (the normal walkway to passport control & customs). Down the line we walked back down stairs to some empty gates. There were several pleasant people with signboards asking to show your MySOS App screen, if you were blue or green, you were pointed towards the next area, if you were red or didn’t have it you went to another holding area where it looked like they were verifying medical details. As we both had blue screens I’m not sure entirely what happens there, I assume with no Vax you are required to quarantine like the old days.

The next step was a health check area. They had about 30 desks set up and someone directed you to the next free desk. They took our temperature, and scanned the QR code from the MySOS App. This step took about 2 minutes, we were then given a “health card” which was just an A4 sheet of paper with instructions on what to do if you feel sick.

We then went back up a different set of stairs and continued on our way towards passport control and customs. Before we got there, there was another set of “health desks” that verified we had a health card. This took 5 seconds, they literally just looked that we had the a4 sheet from before, I guess to catch people trying to sneak around? Maybe it did more before the rules changed? We don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this step goes away.

After this we were in the old style passport control line, just like pre-covid. We got our tourist entry stickers and went thru customs and were out in Japan! On the whole I don’t think this took any more time than pre-COVID, as after the health checks the passport control line was still like 15 minutes from the previous flight.


It’s almost as easy to visit Japan today as precovid, assuming you have your 3 shots. Please come and give some tourist dollars to the hurting tourism economy!


MySOS app on iphone: MySOS

Current Japanese entry requirements, including which countries need real visa: MOFA Japan

A little more Ono a little less Okinawa

Sadly we had to move back to Hawaii from Okinawa in the summer of 2020. I mean it’s not too sad, it’s not like we had to move to somewhere like North Dakota. (We both consider anything less than about 20C/68F to be frigid and require heating. ) We still have a bunch of Okinawa sites to add! We could never add them to the site as fast as we could enjoy visiting them! But in order to keep current we will also add some Hawaii sites. Now Hawaii sites have tons of English info, so it’s more to give our spin.

Otto, the Faithful OnoWienerDog enjoys a new tropical island.

Wait you say as you do a little mental math, you moved to Hawaii in the summer of 2020, wasn’t there something going on then, like a pandemic that means you probably shouldn’t have traveled half way around the world by plane, car, and well just planes and cars. YES! you are correct. Unfortunately our employer didn’t agree, and refused our requests for extensions. We were as careful as we could be, and as of December all our COVID-19 tests have come back negative. We will be soon posting an article about traveling during the pandemic. It was scary, and interesting. We had to travel to California, drive over 7 days from LA to SF, then fly to Hawaii due to canceled flights, and lack of space for our dog.

We have also moved hosting of onookinawa to the west coast of the United States. About 2/3rds of our visitors are from the US, and about 1/3 from Asia (mostly Japan, with Hong Kong and Singapore in there a lot, I assume because of the large English speaking populations. ) Still with Amazon Web Services, so it overall should be a smidge faster for those in the US, and a smidge slower for those in Japan, but not that different overall. Please let us know if you see anything broken!

Arashi’s Ramen (嵐 ラーメン)has vegetarian ramen for a limited time!

Arashis is a well know ramen chain in Japan. While meat easters love their garlic fried rice and porky ramen (both great!) if you want to stick to the vegetarian side you have been limited; however, for a limited time they have vegetarian ramen!

After our trip to the new DMM Kariyushi Aquarium we worked up a hunger; while the mall had lots of options, we had read that Arashis has a limited time vegetarian option and so headed to the one close to the mall. After pulling into the parking lot that was a little too small for easy parking, we went in, ordered from the ticket vending machine (the staff offered us English menu, but we came in knowing what we wanted!) We ordered two vegetable ramens and one vegetable gyoza plate (came with 5 gyozas). Chris ordered a spicy habanero topping (Order the generic topping ticket for ¥120, then tell the staff Habanero when they ask which one, or whichever topping you like!)

After a small wait the food was delivered! The bowls were brimming with veggies and both the noodles and gyoza had a green tint. The green is from spirulina, a type of seaweed that doesn’t have a strong taste.

It’s really good. The noodles are tasty, although they may be a little soft for those that like their noodles al-dente (not sure if this is due to the make up of the noodle, or if ours were a little extra done). The broth was salty and flavorful, just as you’d expect from a ramen broth. The best part: Only 411 calories for the whole bowl! This is about half a regular ramen bowl.

The gyoza were good as well, sadly you can only see the corner of them in the middle picture above, the insides had soy “meat” and veggies. Quite tasty but next time I’d skip them as the ramen was more than enough to fill us up!

We highly recomend it while they have it! If it sells well I’m sure it will return. No doubt this campaign was set up to provide vegetable options to the many expected foreign guests during the Olympics, of course they were postponed due to covid-19 , but we can still enjoy it if you are already in Japan. This is not just in Okinawa, Arashi locations nation wide have these noodles!

Info Box

Place name: Kagetsu Arashi

Location: Nationwide chain, we went to this one in Tomigusuku: https://goo.gl/maps/nMJXg5sxrTeEg8Zk7

Price: Ramen about ¥880, Goyza around ¥350

Ijas Mall and DMM Kariyushi Aquarium in Tomigusuku Okinawa!

COVID-19 restriction are lifting and Okinawa is starting to get back to normal a bit, although of course there are almost no tourists! As of today, June 27th 2020, there has not been a positive case in Okinawa since April 30th, almost two full months! Congrats to us on mask use, social distancing, and staying home, now we can reap the rewards!

The Aeon Ijas mall was scheduled to open in time for Golden week, but the opening was postponed due to the Coronavirus shutdowns, but it’s open now! This is probably the third largest mall in Okinawa after the San-A Parco Mall and the Aeon Rycom Mall. It’s geared towards tourists with lots of Okinawa merch shops and the kinds of things that foreign and domestic tourists like. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun for locals! The mall has been quite crowded the last few weekends. It has a lot of fresh fish places to eat in the food court, and a similar assortment of shops to the Aeon Rycom mall. Something it has that no other mall has is a full aquarium!

DMM Kariyushi Aquarium

We left the mall and headed across the corridor to the aquarium. We pre-purchased our tickets on their web site (DMM Kariyushi website) and so could skip the short wait at the ticket counter (The line was about 10 people long and looked to be moving fast). We were reminded that masks were required at all times inside and given a squirt of disinfectant on our hands. We went into a waiting queue that was mostly empty, scanned our QR codes and lined up in a hall waiting for some magical black doors to open.

After about two minutes the doors opened and we entered into a theater room with standing bench seats, we sat down excited for what was to come! A movie with no words started with jelly fish and led us thru an adventure under water and into the air of Okinawa! It nicely set the tone for what was to come, and of course help regulate the crowds entering the aquarium proper. It has a little surprise too!

Due to the ongoing Corona virus issues, some things weren’t going, they had a touching experience area where you could touch turtles, owls, and other wildlife, but it was closed off, in addition the tanks with starfish and the like that you would normally be able to touch, you could only look. I would have liked to pet an owl, but I’m happy to miss it to have the island stay safe! No idea when these things might open up. There was a small cafe going that had soft serve ice cream, beer, soft drinks and small snacks that you could eat while enjoying looking at the largest tank. We didn’t try any as we were headed to Arashi’s to try their new vegetarian ramen! (It was better than expected and delicious!)

The Aquarium is a little expensive at ¥2,400 for an adult, ¥1,500 for children under 12 and ¥2,000 for teens. It’s not as big as the main Okinawa Aquarium, but it’s close to Naha and requires a lot less driving for most. They had a nice intro movie and then into the exhibits. They have an app for guidance and it’s nearly a must, as none of the tanks have labels! The app will provide you info in all the major languages and it quite well done. If you have checked it out, please leave us a comment! We (and other readers) love to hear your thoughts!

Info Block:

Name: DMM Kariyushi Aquarium and Aeon Ijas Mall

Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/pwPFdkLWDNfoh8cc8

Cost: ¥2,400 adults, discounts for kids and teens

Website (English) : DMM Kariyushi Aquarium

Nearby to the Ashibana Outlets and lots of other shopping.

Anime store Ani-Mall (アニマール) on Kokasai Street

This store is located on the 2nd floor of a Kokasai street shop. On this day after lunch we were wandering down the street and found it quite by accident when we noticed their large signboard facing the street:

A photo of the Ani-mall Okinawa front sign on Kokasai street in Naha Okinawa. The photo shows a anime style drawing of a lady wearing traditional Ryukyu wear.
Spying the Ani Mall store sign

The Japanese writing on the large picture says “Ani Menso-re” which is a clever pun on Anime and Mensore, Mensore means welcome in the Okinawa language (Learn some Okinawan words: Uchinaaguchi ) . We had been to the Animate store down the street many times, but never to this new one, and one that calls it self a mall!? We went to cross the street and investigate closer. As we waited to cross the street, a side view of the building shows an arrow pointing to the back, oh and it seems there is always a huckster out here trying to get you to try a steak restaurant, we had just eaten at the new Ramen Street down the way, and have never tried the restaurant. The sign on the street says “Anime” (アニメ)and has an arrow to the back of the building.

A side view of the Anima-ru anime store sign showing arrows pointing down an alley

We’ve been in Okinawa long enough that we don’t have any trepidations about going down random alleys, there are all kinds of legitimate businesses down them, quite often they turn out to be better than something on the main street, as they have to be to stay open. About 10 meters down the alley we are greeted by this definitely-not-JigSaw looking fellow inviting us upstairs. Hmmm, this seems less like a mall, and more like the stairs to Comic Book Guy’s apartment.

The entrance to Anima-ru (anime mall) off Kokasai street, showing a small mannequin with a slightly terrifying rubber mask.
Would you like to play a game…er buy some Anime Merch?

We had already walked those 10 meters from the street and felt committed, so started to climb the stairs… (I mean we’re writing this article, so you know we made it out alive) The trip up the stairs continued to feel like we were going to someone’s apartment…

The stairway up to Anima-ru in Okinawa
Heading up the stairs…

At the top of the stairs turn right and you are at the store!

The Anima-ru (アニマール 沖縄 )store
No food or drink, Jigsaw will be watching 24hrs!

Once inside it was a decent sized shop of anime merch, they had shirts, posters, tapestries, figurines, buttons, and all the stuff you’d expect in an anime merch store. Some of the merchandise seemed a littler seedier than Animate, but we didn’t notice any actual hentai or NC-17/R-rated material. One thing they didn’t have much of is actual manga, they were focused on the merchandise. I would say the store is about a third of the size of the Animate store down the street, but if you are into Anime and Manga and in Okinawa it’s worth visiting both. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and if anyone visits that steak house.

Info Block:

Anima-ru Website (Japanese)

Google Maps link : https://goo.gl/maps/3SWCS1z2ZLWSjL2g9

Apple Maps link: アニマール

See also: Our write up on the Animate store

AmForward , shipping things from the US to Okinawa

So if you want things from America in Okinawa, you have a few choices. Since you are reading this in English, it’s overwhelmingly possible that you have a US based FPO or APO address, but since you’re here, you probably want something from Amazon, Target, Walmart, or another American based retailed that won’t ship to said address! This is annoying, but there is a solution!

The cheapest (probably) way is to order from Amazon Japan, which will ship to off-base addresses. If you live on base, don’t despair! You can ship to any connivence store (Family Mart, Lawson, or 7-11). For more info see our page on ordering from Amazon Japan.

If none of these work, there is still hope. A company we have used several times with good luck is “AmForward”. This is a place in Oregon (no sales tax!) that will let you have an American address, suitable for USPS, UPS, FedEx, and ‘other’ delivery. They will then package up your items and ship them via USPS to your FPO/APO address.

We have had three separate shipments with them. As we don’t use it a lot, we have paid by the shipment. It’s free to register and get your address to give to the despicable online retailer who won’t ship to APO/FPO. Then they charge the actual USPS rate plus about US$9 per shipment (on the pay per use plan). We’ve done it happily 3 times. It sucks to pay $9 plus postage to get something that probably had free shipping in America, but it’s often the only choice. For one fee they do consolidate, so if you have a few small things you can only pay one $9 fee plus postage.

If you don’t have an FPO/APO address, they will ship to your physical address in Japan as well. Obviously this will cost a bit more for international shipping, but if there is that one American thing you have to have it may be worth it! The set fee (~US$9) will be the same, but the postage will be higher.

Corona Virus (COVID-19) in Okinawa

Let us start by saying we are not medical professionals. We’ve just seen a lot of people have questions about what is going on with COVID-19 on Okinawa. Also please leave a comment down below and let us know how COVID-19 is affecting you!

The following has the official total for Okinawa updated in real time. The left most number in the chart is the total number of cases.

Sept 26th: *final update for a long time* It’s been a while again, although I think now the commercial sites are more than capable of keeping up with the news. There are still ~20ish cases a day, less than a few months ago, but still requiring caution. Please continue to be safe, don’t take risks you don’t need to and enjoy life!

July 27th: It’s been a while since an update, but it’s not good. There were 18 cases with the local population and zero cases today on base, but the on-base total is close to 200 so far. The base cases seem to be largely isolated to a few barracks, but still a large number! The high number of local cases seem to indicate that COVID is spreading within the population at large.

July 11th: The US bases don’t release figures, but the local newspaper is reporting that “several sources” have told them the number of cases is over 60, including a 38 person cluster on Futenma. In addition there were two new confirmed cases by the Okinawa gov’t for a total of 4 active among Japanese. https://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/entry-1154634.html

July 9th: Sadly there was one new case today, in addition to “several” cases on the US bases as reported by MCIPAC’s official Facebook page. Stay safe everyone!

June 27th: Congrats everyone we are getting near 2 months! Keep up the good work! Here at OnoOkinawa we have been able to get out, and even add some new content on the new Ijas Aeon mall and DMM Aquarium!

June 5th: Over a month with no new cases! The military is relaxing it’s restrictions as well. Everyone should keep on being careful, as air travel from the mainland is opening back up as well.

May 26th: No new cases for over 20 days! Way to go Okinawa! The Japanese gov’t has lifted all states of emergency, although everyone is asked to continue wearing a mask and practice social distancing. Domestic travel is open, so keep in mind that folks may be traveling here from the mainland where there are still some (but declining) cases. Be smart, stay safe!

May 12th: Zero new cases for 12 days in a row! The local gov’t is looking to reopen a lot of thing on the 15th or 20th, depending on the item. Please continue to wear face coverings, wash your hands, and keep 2 meters away!

April 29th: Today there were zero new cases! We can all hope that this continues thru and after golden week.

April 20th: Today the Okinawa gov’t declared a state of emergency. This is in addition to the nationwide state of emergency the federal gov’t issued a few days ago. The Governor hopes to reduce the rate of infection to 1/5th of what it is currently. He has asked stores to limit the number of people allowed inside and for everyone who can telework to do so. Here is a Japanese article: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/562334

Stay safe my friends!

April 17th: Another grim milestone of over 100 infected, I’m not sure that these daily updates are still needed. I’m working on a few comprehensive pages, the bottom line is COVID-19 is in Okinawa, and it’s spreading in the community.

April 16th: 8 cases, one death.

April 15th: 10 today! Total is now 87, not including any who may be infected on US bases.

April 14th: 4 new cases today, and the Okinawa Governor has asked people to avoid eating in restaurants. Lot of non-traditional places have started takeout this past week, even some Izakayas! Article about the governor request: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/560049

April 13th: There are 7 new cases today, including the first in the Yaeyama islands (Ishigaki) . 5 new cases on Okinawa Honto (main island)

April 12th: 9 new cases today
April 11th (2nd): 8 more cases today.

April 11th: We wanted to let you know that we just keep updating this page is it’s listed in several search engines and we want you to have the most up to date info on the first click. There are more cases today but as of 1500 Japan time they haven’t listed the number, this is quite common as they want to confirm details and then they have a press conference. The below graph was posted to day on OkinawaTimes website, which shows the cases/person graph of several prefectures in Japan. The top green line is Tokyo, which has climbed to almost 10 cases per 100k people. The bottom most red line is Okinawa, which has climbed quickly to a little over 2 cases per 100k people.

A graph of the COVID-19 cases per 100k people in Japan. The top Green line is Tokyo, which has the most at almost 10 cases per 100k. The bottom most Red line is Okinawa now growing to a little over 2 cases per 100k people.

Update 10 April: 7 new cases today.

Update 9 April: Only 3 new cases today bringing the total to 43. Or 2.6 cases per 100,000 people. compared to around 9.5/100k in Tokyo.

Update 8 April: 5 new cases today. If this was 5 days ago 5 cases would seem a mountain, but it’s less than half yesterday….so yay!? Keep strong Okinawa!

Update 7 April: Today there are 12 new cases in Okinawa, more than double the highest daily number of cases seen before. (article here: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/557092 )

Update 6 April: Another 6 new cases today in Okinawa, unknown number on the bases. Internet rumors say the mid-teens but no official numbers means they are just that, rumors.

Update 4 April: Six (6)! new local cases today and an unknown number of new cases on base. https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/556065

Update 3 April: 2 new local cases, both men, one in their 20s and one in their 30s. The US Military is no longer reporting cases, but they have started to screen people at the gates, so I think you can assume “a few”.

Update 2 April: No new local cases, the US Military is no longer reporting numbers.

Update 31 March: No new local cases, a 3rd case confirmed on Kadena. In addition the US Military said it would no longer release numbers of cases…so I guess now an unknown but probably more than 3 on Kadena.

Update 28 March, Three new cases today. Yesterday (the 27th there were no new cases.) Todays are a woman in her 20s, and one in her 30s, bringing the total number in Okinawa to 9, 3 in early Feb and 6 since 21 March. There was an additional case confirmed on Kadena Air Base, the American had been in quarantine since arrival and should not have caused spread:

Japanese Article on the locals: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/552746

Facebook on the American:

Update 26 March: Today another new case, a man in his 30s.


Update 25 March: Today there are no new cases, all of the tests came back negative, a little good news!

Update 24 March 2020: A sad pattern, another new case today, this time a 40 year old male. A little lack of detail right now, but he was staying in a hotel in Okinawa for a few days.

Update 23 March 2020: A 20 year old male, unrelated to the lady from Spain has tested positive in Okinawa. He was a hotel worker at the Orion Royal hotel in Naha just of Kokasai street. Japanese article here: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/550506

An updated article with more info, he was a hotel worker in Naha. https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/550590

Update 21 March 2020: A young woman returning from Spain thru Narita to Okinawa has test positive on the island. It’s unclear how much interaction she may have had with the Okinawa population, she came thru Narita on the 20th and continued to Okinawa.The Japanese story is here: https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/549888

Update 20 March 2020: Still no new cases. Rumors on island are running rampant about cases on the US bases, but as of 4:24pm local time there is nothing official. The local stores continue to be stocked with everything except masks and hand sanitizer, the on base shops have seen some runs on supplies but are generally mostly stocked. Please only consider official sources when deciding on your plans!

Update 16 March 2020: There have continued to be no new cases in Okinawa since Feb 20th, On Monday March 16th the main malls, the aquarium, and some local schools have resumed normal schedules (This week was scheduled to be the start of the spring semester break, but some schools have resumed classes to make up for the last 2 weeks of COVID related closures) . Of course it just takes one case getting on the island to cause trouble again, so keep on washing your hands, avoiding handshakes, and using best sanitation practices!

As of today, 16 March 2020: There have been 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Okinawa; however, there have been no new cases identified in the last 24 days, over 200 tests have come back negative. 2 of the 3 cases were related to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Okinawa before heading towards the mainland. The last positive test was Feb 20th, 2020. Two of the three cases were older taxi drivers. The third case was a farmer from Tomigusuku. So as of 16 March, it does not appear that any COVID-19 is spreading thru the community of locals or the American bases.

The Japanese gov’t has requested that all public events nationwide be curtailed thru March, so many American and local events are canceled to adhere to the central government’s wishes, although after the 21 day period since the last infection some events are restarting.

Toilet Paper: There was a report out of Osaka that TP would run short; however this was mistaken, Japan gets 98% of it’s TP domestically, and although I saw every baa-san in San-A buying TP on Sunday the 1st, as of Sunday the 8th (Edit:16 March, still in stock everywhere I’ve seen! ) the commissary, San-A, and Cainz were fully stocked with TP and facial tissues. Masks and hand sanitizer though seems sold out everywhere.

TP ready to ship from Awate prefecture on March 4th

Where can I go for information?

The latest and most authoritative information for Japan is directly from the Gov’t of Japan’s Health, Labour, and Welfare office (roughly similar to the American CDC in this case). Their site shows number of cases, and has a link to cases by prefecture on a map. Their English information is here:

Gov’t of Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare COVID-19 English Page

Of course the American Center for Disease Control is also an authoritative source of general best practices and the status of the outbreak.

America’s CDC COVID-19 Page

Okinawa media sites are also sometimes useful, but they are only in Japanese. Be aware that Google translate can sometimes mix words up.

The Okinawa Times has a page dedicated to Corona Virus: Okinawa Times COVID-19 page

The two main local newspapers are Okinawa Times and The Ryukyu Shimpo. They will both have current stories of COVID-19 in Okinawa.

As I’m sure you’re all aware things are in flux daily. So stay safe, wash your hands, and be good to your neighbors. Leave a comment below and let us know how you are doing!

Craft Beer Crawl – Bar Hopping in Naha (バー巡り Bar Meguri )

So you may have noticed that we’ve reviewed three bars in a row, did we suddenly turn into alcoholics? No! We were doing “research” for our bar route map! After doing the hard work of testing beers in downtown Naha and Shuri area, we are ready to recommend a Craft Beer Route for Naha! As with any drinking recommendation, know your limits and don’t be bad guest in Okinawa, and feel free to only do a portion of the route! But do enjoy all the delicious beers that are on tap in the city! At the end of the route there are two great food options that we recommend, the newly opened “Ramen Street” in the basement of the old mitsukoshi department store, or the “food stall street” which has outdoor stalls designed to remind you of old timey food stalls!

First Stop – Wolfbrau

A beer at WolfBrau
A beer at WolfBrau

Our first stop is a bit outside of town, but a quick 10 minute walk from the Shuri Monorail station. They also open at 2pm, so you can start a little early! It’s the German style brew-pub, Wolfbrau. This brew pub has delicious German beer, in our mind it’s the highest quality beer of the bunch. If you are from Europe, or German style beer doesn’t excite you then maybe skip this one; however, the beer is great and the bar food is tasty. If you look on Google Maps it will show the Gibo station is closer, but it has a steep uphill climb making the Shuri station your easier bet. Once you are done with Wolfbrau you can feel free to head down the hill towards Gibo station and head to the second stop –

Second Stop – Ukishima Brewing

A Beer Flight at Ukishima Brewing
A Beer Flight at Ukishima Brewing

Ukishima brewing is a great brewery with a wide range of beers, you can see our Ukishima Brewing article for photos of the menu at the time we went first. Every time we’ve been they’ve had a wide variety of good beers on tap. They are almost all in the 5% range and middle of the road in terms of flavor, color, and taste. Like many things in Japan, Ukishima brewing has more subtle flavors, I wouldn’t expect anything to smack you in the face, but everything we’ve tried has matched up with their description and been tasty. For food we’ve only had the fried potatoes here as this has been our second or third stop (Taste of Okinawa is like 2 blocks away).

Third Stop – Taste of Okinawa

The front of Taste of Okinawa

Taste of Okinawa is a nice place that has done a lot for the back end of the shopping streets in Naha. Five years ago these streets were nearly abandoned. Taste of Okinawa, along with other proprietors , has brought this area up, and made it enjoy a real renaissance! They are a key player in the Sunrise Market, which sees the area full of people and vendors one Sunday a month. They also offer cooking classes in Okinawa Soba. None of that matters to you, our pub crawling friend! They don’t brew their own beer, but they do have many local and Japanese mainland beers on tap.

Forth Stop – Helios Pub

Helios pub is perhaps the oldest pub on Kokasai that serves their own beer. A few years back they moved from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor, but the beer is still good and cold. At this point you are probably ready for some serious snacking, we enjoyed the sausages and 1/4 baguette of garlic bread in addition to some beer. They have about 8 beers on tap; as you can see in our detailed review on Helios , they brew their beer near Nago and are a small regional brewery, a bit bigger than a microbrew. The flavors are good, and they have some Okinawa special taste beers like Goya.

After 3-4 stops of beer you’re probably hungry, so our last stop is food! (and more beer if you’re still inclined!) It’s a choose your own path, as there are two very close and very good options to end your night.

Final stop – Ramen street or Food Stall Street

Ramen street (Well basement)

You’ve had a long evening drinking, it’s time for some salty Ramen to re-hydrate and fill you up. Our number one choice is the Ramen Floor on the basement level of the old Mitsukoshi department store (There are no markings left indicating this is what it was, but locals will know it!) On this floor there are six(!) different ramen shops as of Feb 2020, including two with vegan ramen options. Everyone in your group can try their favorite! Our favorite is the Michelin guide recommended Soranoiro (ソラノイロ). This ramen shop has a famous location in Tokyo Station, but now has opened in Okinawa! They have a great vegan tan-tan men, and Ramen. There is also Hokkaido style ramen, and many others on this floor. You order at the individual restaurants, but they don’t mind if you sit at their tables and bring over ramen from a neighboring shop, it’s sort of a food-court style. If you haven’t had enough to drink there is also a nice bar in the ramen area that serves many local brews, including Wolfbrau and Ukishima (on tap when we visited in Feb 2020), as well as some other Japan microbrews, so if you need a bit more you’re in luck!

Food Stall Street

The food stall street area has a bunch of small stalls serving traditional Japanese street stall food. You can find tempuras, seafood, sushi, and others here. Most of the stalls are open air, although some have covered or indoor areas. Everyone in your group pretty much has to pick one stall, as they aren’t set up for someone to order at one and sit at another. Most of the vendors have drinks, although it’s mostly limited to Orion, Asahi, and highballs.

Maps Links

WolfBrau Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/U39s39oXZh2oKSgEA

Ukishima: https://goo.gl/maps/kajsA5EWCwkbEKYN7

Taste of Okinawa: https://g.page/okinawacraftbeer?share

Helios: https://goo.gl/maps/eNwLtGVv3cu6ks2h9

Ramen Street: https://g.page/kokusaidori-norengai?share

A Ramen Street in Okinawa ( ラーメン横丁 )

Lanterns in the basement Ramen and Izakaya Floor

In Feb 2020 a new ramen yokocho ( ラーメン横丁 , in English this translates to Ramen Alley, or Ramen Street ) opened in the basement of the old Mitsukoshi building. (The name of the building is Kokusui Norengai 国際通りのれん街 , although most locals still call it by the old Mitsukoshi building) This building has a bit of a rough history, Mitsukoshi closed around 2013, soon afterwards “happiness Okinawa” opened with anime themed shops and food stand. After about 2 years this closed, then a “food hall” opened with some small food stands and a basement cafeteria. Some of the food was good, but it seemed a little thrown together, and it closed after about 1 year.

Now, in Feb 2020, it has reopened as two new floors. They have put a lot of money and time into this endeavour, and I think this time it will stick! The street level floor has many different restaurants that make you think of a crowded city food district. Seafood, steaks, and the like all have their own shops…but for me, the real magic is in the basement, which has been completely redone with wood effect beams, and not one, not two, but six(!) ramen shops, including the Michelin recommended Sora No Iro Ramen, and two of the shop have Vegan ramen options. Here! in Okinawa!

As of this post we’ve eaten at two of the Ramen shops, but we plan to try them all and update as we go. We hit the vegan ramens first, as they are still rare here in Okinawa.

Sora no Iro ( ソラノイロ ) Vegan TanTan Men (坦々麺)

Vegan Tantanmen in Okinawa from Sora no Iro
Vegan Tantanmen in Okinawa from Sora no Iro

Tantan-men is my favorite style of ramen. It has a thick goma (sesame) soup with ramen noodles. It usually has spicy chili oil, and a scoop of spicy meat (like a taco meat) on top. This version is 100% vegan with soy meat on top but all of the deliciousness throughout! In addition to their primary site, they opened up a new collaboration directly to the right of the shop with Okinawa style Soba in a sort of Ramen style. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looked good!

Shinbusakiya ( 炙り味噌らーめん ) – Hokkaido Ramen – meaty/vegan/Gluten Free options — Maybe closed after COVID, please let us know if you have been recently!

This was the second shop we tried (on a different day! Ramen is heavy!) We also tried their vegan ramen. As a plus this shop also offers gluten free ramen! It is quite rare to find gluten free or vegan ramen in Japan, let alone Okinawa! We noticed that the gluten free versions are marked vegetarian, and not vegan. I’m guessing the gluten free noodles use egg or milk, but we didn’t ask. We tried the vegan spicy miso flavor, with gluten. The taste was good, but it was more like miso soup than a true ramen. Carolyn and I both liked the Sora no Iro taste better on the vegan side. The ordering is done via a touch screen kiosk. After you have inserted your money & selected your ramen, the machine will give you some tickets. Given the tickets to the folks at the counter and they will give you a “pager” that will beep when your order is ready.

Shinbusakiya ( 炙り味噌らーめん ) vegan & vegetarian Gluten free screen on their kiosk. Use this kiosk to order and pay, then hand the tickets to the counter.
Shinbusakiya ( 炙り味噌らーめん ) vegan & vegetarian Gluten free screen

We did get the fried chicken, well not Carolyn as she is vegetarian, but it was a generous portion of tasty, crispy, fried chicken cutlet. As we ordered one ramen with a side of chicken the cook gave us an extra bowl to split, so kind! The corn was briefly stir fried and and had a pleasant taste. Their website (Japanese only) is located here:

shinbusakiya miso ramen with a side of chicken
shinbusakiya miso ramen

Other Ramen Shops

There are 3 other ramen shops that we haven’t mentioned. We haven’t tried them yet, so can’t comment on how tasty they might be (although really, I’ve never had a ramen that was truly bad). Please visit the Naha Kokasai Dori Ramen street and try their ramens!


There is also a bar on the floor, which is open only at night. They have a wide range of local brews like Wolfbrau, Ukishima, Sango (Coral) , and others. They are a little more expensive than if you buy them directly from the breweries, but if you like beer with your ramen this is the place to go.

Other eats on the floor

Outside of the “ramen zone” there are 3 or 4 other restaurants on the floor, closed during lunch but open at night. We haven’t tried them but they looked mostly like seafood izakaya fare. We will be sure to check them out and report back soon!


The Location is on Kokasai street. Across the street from the Mega Donki store. About a 5-8 minute walk from the Makishi monorail station depending how you hit the lights.

Google Maps location: https://g.page/kokusaidori-norengai?share

Helios Pub

Helios brewing is probably one of the first “small” breweries to open up in Okinawa. It’s not a micro-brew that brews in house, but it is a small regional brewery based near Nago. You can take a tour of their brewery there with some samples (map link at the bottom), but their pub is located in the heart of Kokasai street in downtown Naha. It’s a good place to stop for a beer and a snack!


A cold glass of Helios Ale at their pub in Okinawa

The pub is located on the 3rd floor of the building, there is an elevator or stairs to get up there. It has a modern Ryukyu village decor. In general they have all their beers on tap. I like the stouts and darker beers, while Carolyn likes the ales. They also have some kitschy beers like goya beer, which is actually pretty good, like an ale with a little bitter melon aftertaste.

On the whole nothing here will blow you away, it’s pretty standard beer, but they have a decent variety (8 beers on tap when we went) and none of them are losers. I think it is a good place that everyone can find something they like, so the picky drinker isn’t sitting in the corner pouting!


They have a decent menu, we got the “assorted sausages” and the 45cm long garlic baguette quarter (you order by the quarter). The sausages were all tasty and the baguette was as expected, essentially a long piece of garlic bread. The other folks there with some of the more substantial food looked pleased.

It’s not a real big place, when we went on Friday night there were plenty of seats, although it was the off season and there was a hint of COVID-19 fear starting to hit Okinawa. They have a bar, tables for 2-6 people and a large table for a group of 10-12. It’s super easy to get to in the middle of the Kokasai street tourist area and the service was friendly and fast.

Map Links:

Helios Pub: https://goo.gl/maps/eNwLtGVv3cu6ks2h9

Helios Brewery (Nago Area): https://goo.gl/maps/DGJoPdv3kRQjPUkc6

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