Blog

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.

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 30 March, One new local case, second confirmed case on Kadena. As of 30 March there are 10 confirmed cases on Okinawa plus 2 confirmed cases on the American Kadena Air Base. The Air base made a point that both cases were new arrivals that have been quarantined. The Okinawa local was a man in his 40s. Article (Japanese) on the local:

https://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/entry-1098392.html?fbclid=IwAR1KA4Is0obW19q1zc_JWyMlGXOg6FomCmDPQUq7rDUJp4D4E35w4-n5H7I

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.

https://www.okinawatimes.co.jp/articles/-/551734

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!

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.

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! You can view their website here: Sora no Iro ( ソラノイロ ).

Shinbusakiya ( 炙り味噌らーめん ) – Hokkaido Ramen – meaty/vegan/Gluten Free options

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 ( 炙り味噌らーめん )

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!

Beer!

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!

Location:

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!

Beer

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!

Food

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

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.

img_2132


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!

IMG_1797.JPG


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 in Okinawa’s own Ramen Street

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!

IMG_1860.JPG

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.

IMG_7464.JPG


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

Camino de Arab: カミーノ・デ・アラブ

Again, my coffee and cute cafe addiction cannot be curbed. This charming cafe is located in Urasoe, and there are some parking spaces in front of the shop.

I went here after seeing some pictures on social media– and wow, this was indeed a good place to try out. Inside is bright and cheerful with a sort of middle-east inspired vibe, and the decor beautiful. Outside there is a hammock and some additional seating. The owner is a friendly world traveller as well. Also there is free wifi (yay!) so you can stick around and do work for awhile.

The menu had a few things on it; I went with the cheese sandwich set (soup, salad, and drink) and a cafe latte. Everything was delicious and fairly reasonable price. Definitely a fantastic stop for lunch or an afternoon coffee/snack! I brought my laptop and got some work done in this relaxing environment while enjoying my lunch coffee.

IMG_7351


address: https://goo.gl/maps/5zSTmy53vyn

Retro Kissaten in Okinawa: 沖縄のレトロな喫茶店

喫茶店 kissaten: traditional Japanese tearoom/coffeeshop serving drinks, sweets and light meals; often they have a nostalgic vibe as most of the shops look as if they’re stuck in time.


I have a thing for the retro kissaten. Something about them just feels peaceful once you step through the front door. Sure, there are tons of trendy, cute, modern, hipster cafes with high-end coffees and stylish desserts sprouting up everywhere but for the quintessential Japanese coffee shop experience an old-style kissaten is where it is at.

Today took me to CoffeeShop Laramie コーヒーシャープララミー. There is no parking at the shop, so you need to go to the paid parking lots (there is one around the corner for 100y/30 min). This place is only open Fridays and Saturdays, from 1-5pm.

As I walked up, the outside says “Coffee & Pancakes” plainly on the outside. A step through the door, and you are in a difference time and place. There are 2 working jukeboxes, some table seating, and counter seating. A quick warning, the seating is a little low to the ground; if I had brought my husband (194 cm) he would have had a hard time fitting. The menu is pretty simple, pancakes, desserts, and drinks. I think they may occasionally have some light meal on the menu but there was not today.

I ordered the pancake and coffee set for 850yen, with the Laramie blend coffee (might as well try out the house coffee). While I was waiting for my food, an older gent came in got a coffee, played some songs on the jukebox, and read the newspaper. It added to the retro atmosphere. There are vaguely some “Hawaiian”-themed items up, which made me chuckle a bit and the shop is entirely wood-paneled.

I noticed when I went to pay that even the cash register is retro! I admit, I thought that was a nice touch. Anyway, the shop staff was kind, the food and coffee was really good, plus an awesome retro atmosphere. If you are looking for a retro kissaten in Okinawa, I would definitely recommend trying out this little place in Naha.

IMG_7350


address: https://goo.gl/maps/QDuWEYZtdF92


looking for more retro kissaten in Okinawa? More posts coming soon, but also check out Genten 原点: Coffee Specialist in Okinawa.

Gongfu cha (Chinese tea ceremony) 工夫茶 in Okinawa

工夫茶 (Japanese spelling: kunfuucha): gongfu tea ceremony


As a tea “enthusiast,” I am always interested in trying any type of tea available. While in Taiwan and Shanghai, I have enjoyed gongfu “tea ceremony” on a few occasions. Recently, I began to discover that Okinawa has a few cafes that specialize in this type of tea ceremony. So while I am currently taking Japanese tea ceremony (茶道,  or 茶の湯) lessons, I love a good cup of tea wherever I can find it.

This post will not get into all the specifics of how to perform gongfu cha, etc., but I will give an insight into where you can try this here in Okinawa. Honestly, the tea purveyor of the shops will be able to demonstrate and give a much better explanation for you.

Most of these cafes are in Naha. First up is Ryukyu Chakan 流求茶館, located not far from Kokusai-dori. It is in one of the neighborhoods, along a back street, where you come to a small shop. Inside is gorgeous! There is counter area, and tables, so choose your preference. They offer light meals, in addition to tea and tea drinks. As for the tea, they have many different varieties (at different prices) to choose from; they also have a nice little picture system to indicate which are used for the tray (tea ceremony), mugs, and pots. For gongfu cha, be sure to choose a tea with the tray icon. As a word of warning, the menu is entirely in Japanese and I do not believe they have any English available; that being said, if you do not know much Japanese, just bring some patience and your smart phone translator. The staff is very friendly and kind, and will demonstrate how to prepare your tea when it comes out. Oh, and the tea sets are more than enough for 2 people! In addition to the tea, they will bring out some small dish of chinsukou and dried fruits. Overall the price was reasonable for an afternoon tea for 2 people, and my husband and I had a fabulous time.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/zD7m4QMz5AD2

The next place is  Camellia Sinensis カメリア・シネンシス (yes, the name means tea plant!). This place also has gongfu cha, in addition to many teas such as “flowering” teas (blooming teas). Another nice place to check out in Naha.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/gF6V8349qot

In Naha there is also the Taiwan Teahouse 台湾茶屋; I have not made it here yet, but they appear to also offer gongfu cha.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/uYfcTnAcUBM2

And lastly, there is a teahouse located in Nanjo area; I wrote a blog post about this place earlier (though at the time I wrote it, I hadn’t realized she offered gongfu cha): Tea house Ichiyou: 茶房一葉. I highly recommend this place, it has several types of Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese teas. The last time I was there, I had gongfu cha, in addition to a delicious light meal. Again, like the other places, everything is in Japanese, but the owner is quite kind, so bring your patience and do your best.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/NwkYkiHFFUu

**At all of these shops, you can also purchase various types of tea to take home.

IMG_7352

Citta: Vegan & Gluten-free snack

A new shop in Okinawa has opened up, conveniently right next to my university gate. It is called “Citta” and they specialize in vegan and gluten-free snacks, like crackers, cookies, and cakes.

I went to visit this clean, bright shop the other day. The price tag is not particularly cheap, but not unreasonable considered it is handmade specialty goods. While I was there I also ordered a soy latte, which was really tasty. I took home some shikwasa cookies, tomato and basil crackers, and asa (seaweed crackers). Everything was really good, and went well with tea that afternoon. Not all their products are gluten-free, but many area. Everything was made from all-natural ingredients and vegan. I definitely recommend checking it out if you have these type of special dietary needs, as it is uncommon to find this type of shop normally in Okinawa.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/Y5ANPC83EN72

Dining Sumirakuen ダイニング炭楽園

We decided to try another izakaya 居酒屋 not too far from where we live. I have passed it dozens of times during the daytime, as it is close to the university. So finally we thought it was time to give it a try.

Dining sumirakuen is located in Nishihara, on the corner of Rt.s 29 and 34. It has a few spaces in front of the restaurant, as well as a huge lot across the street. Inside is nicely decorated with plenty of tables and seating, so we had no problem getting a table with no reservation. You will need to remove your shoes when you enter the establishment and store them on the shoe shelf. As with most establishments, there is a “sitting fee” (called otoshi お通し) and they bring you out some sort of appetizer.

 

They surprisingly have an English menu in addition to the Japanese menu, however, not everything is listed on the English menu, so you may want to check out their specials written in Japanese. One of these is the iburi gakko cheese いぶりがっこチーズ. I ordered this on a whim, since one of the Google reviews said it was awesome; to be honest I was not 100% sure what it was. Anyway, out it came along with our beers… DELICIOUS! Iburi gakko is a smoked and pickled daikon, a specialty of Akita prefecture 秋田県. The slices of smoked pickle were then stuffed with a creamy tasty cheese. It was smoky, creamy, crunchy… a really good combination of flavors that went well with drinking (they recommend nihonshu, a.k.a. “sake” 日本酒, but we were having beer). I definitely recommend coming here in and trying this… it is a very unique dish that I have not seen anywhere else in Okinawa!

We also tried many other small dishes, that were also really good. But the iburi gakko cheese stood out as the most interesting. The beer was cold, the prices reasonable (not super cheap, but reasonably compared to other standard izakaya), and the food was all really ono (oishii). I can’t believe we had not tried this place in the 4 years we have been here… we will definitely return.

羊羊 Yoyo An Factory: Japanese sweets confectionary

Recently, a new Japanese sweets shop has opened up in Kishaba (Kitanakagusuku, central) called Yoyo an factory. As like others, it is located in the back of a small neighborhood with narrow roads. There are hardly any signs outside the house marking it, but you will see some plain white-ish shop flags in front of the door. There is space for probably about 5-6 cars to park.

Walk up the concrete stairs and step inside the old converted US military house. Inside, it is very organic and simple feeling, but very beautiful in its simplicity. There are some old wooden Japanese candy molds on display, with various shapes and designs.

You can get dorayaki and daifuku (160 yen each) to go, or you can eat-in with a drink. Your choice of drinks are coffee, ice tea, and matcha (500yen). I ordered a matcha with 1 dorayaki and 1 daifuku, with tax the total was nearly 900yen. An average price for these types of things, though maybe a little bit high. Everything was really good though. I think this was a really nice space to take a tea break, and the location is very good. If you live in Okinawa and want to try some Japanese style confections, this is a lovely place to do so.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/M92UhqJhM5P2

The Kurashi Store of Hokkaido (in Okinawa)

北海道くらし百貨店: Hokkaido Kurashi Hyakkaten; basically the name of the shop translates something like “Hokkaido lifestyle and department store”


I heard a rumor that Sapporo Drug (サツドラ “satsudora”) on Kokusai-dori in Naha had Hokkaido craft beers. This sounded a bit odd, but it caught my interest, and honestly alcohol sold in a drugstore is not unusual. So I explored the next time I was in Naha.

Turns out, it is not the Sapporo Drug itself, but if you go inside the Sapporo Drug there is a staircase leading to a bright and clean second floor… this is where the Kurashi store is located!

I was surprised, but up we went to check it out. It is kinda like a big Hokkaido omiyage store! Apparently it is not nearly as big as the one in Hokkaido, but I was still impressed with all the variety it carried. There were lots of Hokkaido foods, drinks, and other goods to choose from. They even had huge frozen crabs! There was also a restaurant serving some various Hokkaido dishes.

What did we end up buying? Well, craft beer, apple cider, some miso ramen, and yogurt. I probably could have spent a lot more though.

If you live in Okinawa, you should definitely check out this store and try some of the great products from Hokkaido.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/J69MLHcYDEm