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

Sans Souci (& Sudachi udon)

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

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

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

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

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

address: サンスーシー(sans souci)

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

098-935-1012

https://goo.gl/maps/PMfZucEqn5p9zPZM9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

マイボトル mai botoru   “my bottle”

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

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

You can also use something like:

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

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

How Tsu 好吃: Steamed manjuu and Tea

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

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

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

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

Open noon-7pm. Closed on Mondays.

Nuchigafu: Afternoon Bukubuku tea set

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

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

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

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

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

Another Vegan Ramen option in Okinawa: Orange Shokudo

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

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

In Kin Town

https://goo.gl/maps/XEUZ3xp9WLndVE1N9

Coffee Stand Hibari-ya: 珈琲屋台ひばり屋

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

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

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

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

Coffee Specialist Nietzsche: 珈琲専科にーちぇ

珈琲 koohii: coffee


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

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

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


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

Cafe detox felicidad

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花

和 wa: this has a dual meaning, “harmony” or “Japan/Japanese,” specifically the concept of peaceful unity and conformity within a social group. It is also one of the 4 tenets of Japanese tea ceremony (“wa,” “kei,” “sei,” and “jyaku” meaning harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility).


Wa cafe Nodoka is a rather recent addition to the Minatogawa Stateside town in Urasoe.

As for parking, there are some spots in front of their store, otherwise you may have to go to the pay area. The cafe menu is in both Japanese and English, offering some lunch plates (including their lunch bento of the day) as well as sweets and drinks.

As for me, I chose to get a matcha 抹茶 and a dorayaki どら焼き, the brown sugar-cream cheese-dango flavor (黒糖ちーどら kokutou chii dora). My husband opted for the daily bento with shikwasa juice.

Everything was superb, and beautifully presented. This Japanese-style is not actually as common in Okinawa as you might think, so it was a really nice change of pace.

Afterwards, I enjoyed admiring all of their matcha tea bowls (抹茶碗) with cute Okinawa inspired designs.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/uwkiNNJwbtM2

Cafe Mondoor

Yes… ANOTHER coffee find from the magazine (Coffee & Donuts in Okinawa City, More Coffee in Okinawa). Cafe Mondoor is located in Itoman, in the southern area of Okinawa. It was not the easiest to find, located off some back street. And parking is not obvious… I parked in a location with a sign (in Japanese) that said for people visiting the surrounding neighborhood establishments, so don’t panic when you get here, there is parking next to the alleyway that leads to the cafe. Maybe when they finish the construction in the area, it will be a little less of an adventure to find.

Cafe Mondoor is located on the second floor; inside is a little trendy, but in a good way, with lots of wood accenting. The atmosphere was pretty relaxing and comfortable. I ordered the Einspanner coffee (Viennese Coffee which is espresso and whipped cream) and tiramisu, both were really good. This was yet another excellent find– I have certainly gotten my 500yen worth out the magazine. I can recommend this lovely stop if you happen to find yourself visiting the Itoman fishing port area.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/bguBBzSg82v

Genten 原点: Coffee Specialist in Okinawa

原点 genten: origin

珈琲 koohii: coffee


The other day I came across an amazing find: a quiet coffeeshop nestled into a small neighborhood of Okinawa city. Down a side road, and then into an unpaved sort of parking area it stood before me.

It’s name is “Genten.” From the outside, you may think it almost looks only like someone’s house (well perhaps it was at some point). There was another customer just leaving as I entered; I was greeted with a delightful atmosphere reminiscent of another era.

Recently, I have been “cafe hopping” カフェ巡り, and have seen so many super-hip, trendy, vintage-inspired, retro-modern coffeeshops, but those were all very modern and very hipster… places to see and be seen. This was different. I had the impression of a late Meiji-era kissaten (喫茶店, coffeeshop). And while it had a charming retro feel, it was clean and bright. I was seated, and he asked “iced or hot?” This is it for the menu, guys so simple! So I said “iced” and the gentleman started preparing his special roast (from beans he roasts himself)… some minutes later out came coffee and a slice of homemade cake.

Simple, yet delicious. And so relaxing. For only 500yen.

I think even if you don’t speak Japanese, the communication here is simple. It is a nice place to relax, chat, have some coffee, and perhaps forget the modern world.

I am amazed this type of place can stay open, so hidden away. Then again, if customers and tourists were constantly streaming in and crowding the tables, it might lose its charm. I highly recommend this stop in Okinawa. It may just spirit you away.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/Gtsbsn7GHwQ2

Cafe Hopping in Okinawa: カフェ巡り

cafe meguri カフェ巡り: cafe “hopping”


A frequent pastime (hobby) here in Okinawa seems to be “cafe hopping.” Perhaps because there are so many small, and large chain, cafes dotted around everywhere from the hills to the beaches to the city blocks. Each of them have their own theme or things that make them a little different or special, and many people enjoy going around and discovering what that is.

I have written many posts on different cafes I have come across (search the keywords or check out Okinawa Restaurants, Cafes, & Stores). I haven’t made a post about every cafe I have ever been, nor have I posted them on Instagram, because there are far too many! I try to keep it down to the smaller ones, or the lesser known ones to foreigners. Some are very trendy, and others are a bit quieter. I find the best ones have almost no real menu, just the specials of the day. And, although I feel like I shouldn’t need to say this, always take yen (not US dollars or credit card), since most simply are not set-up for electronic transactions.

If you visit Okinawa, be sure to look for some of these hidden gems all over the island. While the ones in places like American Village, Senaga-jima, Kokusai-dori, and other major tourist hotspots are easy to find, there are many more “off the beaten path” that may surprise you.

 

 

Cokofu: Sweets shop in Okinawa

Cokofu is located in the eclectic Minatogawa Stateside Town in Urasoe. The name stands for: Coconut × Kokuto 黒糖 (brown sugar) × Fu 麩 (wheat gluten).

It is a mix of Okinawan style and some Kyoto style… it is interesting!

The best part? Vegan-friendly! I ate delicious soy milk and Okinawa brown sugar ice cream, drizzled with brown sugar syrup and sweet crispy fu on the side. I also had the fizzy kumquat juice drink (so really more like a soda than a juice). All the sweets and cafe drinks are made with soy milk, no regular milk is even available. There are several types of teas, coffee, and natural juice drinks to choose from. The menu is in Japanese and English, with pictures, so it should be easy to order.

Everything looked so good, and I actually wanted to try some of the Kyoto-style sweets, but it was warm out, I had already ate lunch (and was kinda full), so I opted with something a little smaller. Overall– AMAZING! I will definitely be back here to try everything else.

**There are some parking spots (maybe 2-3) for the store so you do not have to pay for parking!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/UMpyHoHjoNG2

Essence963 Hammock Cafe

Time to share a small gem located in Ginowan. It is on top of a hill up a narrow road off of Pipeline-dori, actually situated in a peaceful neighborhood near a lot of Americans… but somehow this place remains untouched.

There are other hammock cafes in Okinawa that you hear about all the time. But this one is really nice and quiet. It has a beautiful view overlooking Ginowan, plenty of parking, sweet and friendly owners, and the lunch plate is mostly (if not all) vegetarian and vegan. How has this place stayed so hidden?

For 1200yen you get a plate of the day, drink (hot/ice coffee or herbal tea), and dessert. It was all really good. Admittedly service was a bit slow/haphazard, but hey, we are on island time. This is a great place to relax with a slow, healthy, and delicious lunch! There were many colorful hammocks to relax in. It was perfect for a beautiful day. Keep in mind if you go, the menu listing was all Japanese and I had the impression only Japanese was spoken since no one attempted to speak English with me (all our conversation was in Japanese). That being said.. there is no menu to really choose from, just the plate of the day is offered, so why not go for it (oh and remember to remove your shoes at the door)!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/qPWQpJ12d8G2

Three Little Pigs Cafe: 三匹の子豚

三匹の子豚 sanbiki no kobuta: 3 little pigs


I finally stopped for lunch at a cafe I have passed dozens of times, but never really noticed before. The building is aging a bit, and the sign was never very obvious; I vaguely knew there was something there, but never really sure if it was open or not.

The name in English is “The 3 Little Pigs,” like the fairytale. Inside was a little eclectic, with some piggy decor and other random things, but quaint and clean. There are 9 parking spaces outside the cafe, too, so plenty of parking available unlike some other places. After I arrived, several tables starting filling up fast. I was a little surprised, but apparently many local people know about this place!

Anyway, the menu is in Japanese and the staff probably only spoke Japanese, though there was a mix of kana and kanji on the menu, you can probably stumble through with minimal knowledge of Japanese. I ordered the cheese and egg sandwich (which also came with a mini yogurt)), as well as the cake/drink set. You can choose from 5 different cakes and between coffee, tea, or soft drinks. I chose the coffee cheesecake and hot blend coffee.

Service was fairly quick, and the food was really good! Plus it was a good price: 600yen for the sandwich set, and 750yen for the cake/drink set (the drink included 1 free refill). I was impressed overall. This is definitely a nice stop for a decent lunch in Ginowan.

Oh, and the bread made in shop is gluten-free! I don’t know that most menu items were actually gluten-free, but they sold small loaves of their bread at the counter~~ Also the main dishes use genmai 玄米 (brown rice) instead of white rice to be a little healthier!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/qyn9Z8uNmS92

Tasokare Coffee: たそかれ珈琲

Coffee adventures continue (also see Coffee & Donuts in Okinawa City, Yamada Coffee: 山田珈琲More Coffee in Okinawa).

This time I was headed to a small shop to pick up some tea ceremony supplies in Naha. Nearby was one of the coffee shops listed, so why not check it out as well.

This area is typical pay parking lots, but there is a few just around the corner from the shop. Tasokare Coffee is subtly located on the bottom floor of a building, and does not stand out much until you are right in front of it. I entered, and was greeted with an interesting site; this place definitely has a low-key hipster city vibe. Anyway, it was lunch time and packed… I got the last table. So I checked out the menu (only in Japanese, but simple Japanese so if you can read hiragana/katakana you will have no problems). I ordered a latte and a bean-paste tomato sandwich. I was eying the cheesecake, too, but decided I wouldn’t be hungry enough for that.

This place was humming with activity despite being rather small. It was sort of nice to be around the chatter and not the dull silence that other places offer. I would definitely recommend this place for a friends outing; your talking will not disturb anyone here.

My food and latte came rather quickly, and it was quite delicious as well as reasonably priced and filling. This was a nice choice for a quick and reasonable lunch.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/UPWra6sZ5oT2

More Coffee in Okinawa

I am still continuing through my Okinawa Porte magazine, so here are some more of the shops I have visited.

Kramp Coffee (Awase): Parking is down the street, 2 spaces in a lot marked for Kramp Coffee. Otherwise.. well, there is a MaxValue shopping strip across the street with tons of parking; so you should probably not abuse their parking lot, but I doubt they notice. Anyway, I ordered the “melted latte” and lemon cream crumble, both of which were delicious. It was kinda expensive though (1100yen total). You can order in or takeout.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/SxaK766ccRP2

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Tamagusuku Coffee Roasters (Naha): This is in Naha, so you need to use a pay parking lot. The coffee is very good, the owner has several beans you can check out before ordering. I ordered a coffee and waffle, the price was decent and it tasted really good. The atmosphere was very chill.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/5pHnNUEc6zr

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Mahou Coffee (Naha): not in the book, but I stopped by anyway. The atmosphere here was unique, though kinda strange. Very vintage hipster, but very quiet (house rules: no picture-taking, loud chatter, etc). A good place if you want silence and no conversation or music, otherwise you will want to do takeout or go elsewhere. I got the No.10 Cappuccino; it was a house recommendation with 3 shots of espresso. It was indeed a very nice cup of coffee.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/2ZHNcerzM5n

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Previous coffee posts, some are from the magazine and some are others I have visited:

Yamada Coffee: 山田珈琲

Coffee & Donuts in Okinawa City

35 Coffee: Coffee that supports Coral Conservation

Miyazatoya Coffee: 宮里屋

Rainbow Coffee: レインボーコーヒー

Book Cafe: ブックカフェ

 

LaLa Zorba ララゾルバ

LaLa Zorba is another vegan restaurant in Naha, not too far off from Kokusai-dori. It recently started opening for lunch! It is billed as “ethnic vegan” food.

Since it is in the downtown Naha area, parking is pay parking lots. The restaurant is located on the second floor of a small building.. look for the Tibetan prayer flags at the stairway. The restaurant decor is definitely hippie-ethnic style.

I entered about noon on a Sunday, and it was pretty quiet. I chose the “plate of the day” with Indo-style curry. I also could not help but add on a side order of momo (dumplings). The service was actually pretty quick and it didn’t take too long until my food arrived. The plate was beautiful, and tempted you to eat it; very tasty. But the momo dumplings… SO delicious. If you come here, the dumplings are a must. They also had gyoza but I did not try these (yet… I will definitely be returning to try more food from this place). Overall, it was a bit spendy (plate was 1300yen, dumplings 300yen) but I think it was worth the cost, especially those dumplings.

Again, another vegan place in Okinawa that proves you don’t need to be vegan to appreciate vegan food!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/6DqkDwoBvam

Yamada Coffee: 山田珈琲

Yes, another coffee post (read the previous post). But I cannot help but hit all the spots in the Porte magazine.

Today’s stop was Yamada Coffee in Ginowan, not far from the intersection of Rt 32 and Rt 330. I have actually passed this coffee roaster dozens of times, always meaning to check it out but just never getting to it. So I pulled up, but there are only 3 parking spots, so luckily there was just 1 left. The outside is a little plain, and the inside is sort of that industrial-hipster kind of vibe.

I sat down at one of the counter spots and checked the menu– fairly simple, all drip coffee was 500yen per cup (and you could get a refill for 150yen!). The main choices were by taste/roast: Winey, Velvety, Mellow, Bitter, and some other choices of the day that change. There are also some milk coffee drinks, parfaits, and cheesecake.

I ordered the Mellow, and of course, a piece of cheesecake. So I watch the artist making their creations, and after some time I am served. So good! The coffee was definitely a superior quality bean and a professional roast. And the cheesecake was delicious, more of an American style than the Japanese “rare” or baked cheesecakes you usually find. Overall I was very impressed. It may not be an everyday kind of place, but worth the occasional indulgence for sure.

They also do carryout, as well as sell their roasted beans~ definitely stop by here for an amazing cup of coffee. Next time I want to try one of their parfaits… they also looked amazing.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/7ygXUXyKgMU2

Mofgmona: モフモナ

Mofgmona is a a really quaint cafe located in Ginowan that serves both lunch and dinner, as well as having various pottery and handcrafts for sale. There is a parking lot with marked spaces for the cafe just past it.

From the outside, you cannot help but want to enter. Inside is so cozy, but plenty of space several customers. The menu is fairly simple (Japanese only), with only a few choices. Upon request, a vegetarian plate-of-the-day can be made; lots of local vegetables are used in every dish. You also can choose between turmeric rice and brown rice. Sometimes the service is a little slow, but it is because they make everything there; one time service was incredibly slow, but the waitress brought me out a free dessert, so really it was a win for me. The price is reasonable enough as well. I can’t help but recommend taking a slow and relaxing lunch at this lovely cafe!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/ZKnGmJGG8612

Coffee & Donuts in Okinawa City

コーヒー, or 珈琲: coffee

ドーナツ: donut(s)


Recently I decided to investigate some places listed in an Okinawa monthly magazine (Porte, sold at bookstores and convenience stores for 500yen). This month’s theme was coffee… and I love coffee.

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BB Coffee (Awase): Very hip space, both indoor and outdoor (as well as plenty of free parking). Stanford-chan is the resident doggy, very adorable. I got a cafe latte and caramel donut; both were outstanding but pricey. In the morning from 7am until 11am you can actually get a free breakfast set (toast and salad) with ANY drink purchase… good deal. Since I was there for a donut, I actually skipped this offer which I am sure was strange to them. The outdoor space is dog-friendly. As an update, we returned and brought the dog along for breakfast, it was quite nice. My husband got one of the sandwiches and enjoyed it immensely.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/TixX1nLaioJ2

 

Theater Donuts シアタードーナツ (Koza): This is actually a movie theater and donut shack all in one! There is a separate theater space (ticket required, it seems they mainly show documentary type films), as well as a regular eat-in space overlooking Koza. I got the sunny lemon donut and cafe au lait. The coffee was nothing special, but the donut was really good. I love the decor here, it is very cool. Parking unfortunately are pay-to-park lots in Koza, otherwise the price was pretty reasonable.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/CRvyLppt1Rr

 

Miyazato Tofu Donut Shop 宮里豆腐ドーナツ店 (Takahara): This shop also sells tofu… I guess they got the idea to sell soy based donuts as well. There is no eat-in area here, and parking seems to be the side of the street. Anyway, there are a few different options to choose from; I chose the walnut brown sugar (くるみ黒糖) which while tasty was wayyyyy too sweet for me. You can also order fresh soy milk to accompany it (yum, definitely recommend this!).
address: https://goo.gl/maps/4G6SkTDDDpN2

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Outside of Okinawa city area

Matayoshi Coffee farm 又吉: Actually this is located in Higashi, but was featured in the magazine. My husband and I drove up on a nice weekend to explore. The coffee is grown in Okinawa, and they sell Okinawa coffee as well as blends. It is pricey… the taste is fine, it isn’t like Kona coffee delicious. Anyway, they also sell baked goods from Bakery and Cafe Coo (located in Nakijin) which are really tasty. You can also walk around the farm area, and there are cabins/camping spaces for rent. Overall, it is a cute little day trip.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/iGAqmDmi5Yk