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

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.

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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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

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

Mokupuni Melon Pan: モクプニ

メロンパン melon pan: “melon” bread.


Today we went up north for a bit, and took a diversion to Sesoko-jima (connected to Motobu by bridge). There we found a little Hawaiian-inspired building called “Mokupuni” モクプニ selling Japanese melon bread (melon pan).

Melon bread is not named for the flavor, but rather the appearance. The outside is crunchy like a cookie crust which is supposed to resemble a melon rind, and the inside is beautifully soft.

At this little shop there were a few options, but I just went with the cream-filled melon pan. It was so good and fresh! Places in Okinawa will sell melon pan, but typically packaged and not usually quite so fresh as this was. Now, the price was 350yen, which is not terribly cheap, but not too bad either since it was stuffed with cream.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/rX4r2LtGFTt

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

Jimmy’s Bakery Okinawa

How has it been this long and I have never made a post about Jimmy’s? Well, Jimmy’s is a local Okinawan chain: part bakery, part import foods store, and part restaurant. And it is SUPER popular. I always get gifts from Jimmy’s– the cakes, cookies, and such are decent. Not really spectacular, but just fine. I guess they are sort of “American-style,” or at least that’s the idea. I wouldn’t go in expecting American cakes or anything, but it is definitely a little different than a lot of the Japanese-western dessert shops.

I have never eaten at their full restaurant (Jimmy’s Island Grill), but maybe one day I will try them. They also have a few shelves of random import goodies.

There are several of them around island; some are big stand alone stores, and others are smaller size stores in the mall, airport, Makeman メイクマン (DIY/Home store), etc.

People really love Jimmy’s, so I recommend getting gifts or omiyage there. Or if someone special is having a birthday, order a cake and see what you think.


Just put Jimmy’s or ジミー into Google Maps to find locations; or be sure to check out their website for locations: http://jimmys.co.jp/

 

Sunny Side Cakes: サニーサイドケークス

Today I needed a little cheering up, so I decided to check out a place offering sunshine– Sunny Side Cakes, located in the northern part of Ginowan.

Just some quick info: here are a few parking spaces by the shop building, so no need to park on the street. There is an eat-in area of the shop as well, and they offer some drinks and dessert sets, or you can do take-out. They also do custom cakes.

Anyway, I entered the bright and cheery shop. Some info was English but most of the labels were in Japanese, so of course I was asked if I understood. Well, yes, of course, but it may be nice to know for those of you uncomfortable with reading/speaking Japanese that someone who speaks English is available.

There were a fair number of choices, but I had already decided that the shop’s “cookie sandwich” was a must. There were quite a few flavors, but I predictable ended up with “Cafe Nuts” which was a coffee and nuts flavor… delicious!! I also went ahead and got what was labeled as a “German Cake” of some sort (I forget the name now); it tasted similar to a non-chocolate German chocolate cake. Anyhow, I liked both confections quite a bit, and they were reasonably priced. I would definitely recommend checking out the cute shop if you find yourself in the northern part of Ginowan near Rt 330 (not far from the Ginowan town office).


address: https://goo.gl/maps/gT2aKxFuXyj

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

Nanan Pipeline (bakery)

Located in Ginowan, on Pipeline Road (パイプライン道), is a small and tasty baked goods shop. But this is no ordinary baked goods shop… this one has some items not easily found in Okinawa. This is another gem from the Porte magazine mentioned in a previous post.

I winded my car down the erratic Pipeline road, until finally GoogleMaps told me I had arrived. Tucked away, with 2 parking spaces out front, I saw the sign for Nanan Pipeline. When I entered I was greeted with some samples of the goodies in the showcase; lemon-poppyseed cake, fruitcake, carrot cake, poundcake and more. Some items were labeled as gluten-free, too, for those who have special diets. Oh, the choices… everything looked really good. Unfortunately their coffee was sold out for the time being.

Well, I ended up getting a carrot cake, lemon-poppyseed cake, and a ginger biscuit sandwich for about 500yen! Not too bad a price, and everything was top-notch. It has been a long time since I have had a really good carrot cake and this did not disappoint!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/1qwWU6g5qnE2

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

 

 

 

Croissant taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry) at ゆんたくカフェWan

クロワッサンたい焼: croissant taiyaki (read here for more info on taiyaki)


Yuntaku Cafe Wan ゆんたくカフェWan is a very small “cafe” located in Kunigami 国頭村 (Northern part of Okinawa) that specializes in croissant taiyaki. It is located near the Okuma resorts.

When you first pull up, it is super charming, and there is a faithful dog who comes out to greet you. The lady inside is very friendly and has built the shop along with the various tables and such herself~~ she is a superwoman! There are some outdoor spaces for eating, or you can get takeout.

We purchased 3 taiyaki to go: sweet potato, potato salad, and bitter chocolate. We then proceeded to the seawall to indulge while enjoying the unusually beautiful weather and the view.

Anyway, these croissant taiyaki are by far the BEST I have had in all of Okinawa! It was definitely worth the drive. I definitely recommend both the sweet and the savory versions, they were all amazing. Even my husband regretted not getting more (we bought 3 total) after tasting them; he initially rolled his eyes at the idea of taiyaki when I first suggested it, but I remained firm as I really wanted to try this place after I had seen some pictures online. Once he tasted it, it couldn’t believe how delicious they were. The owner won an award for these delicious treats, and we can definitely understand why after tasting them. These are far and above soooo much better than the croissant taiyaki that the Gindaco chain serves!


address: https://goo.gl/maps/15FyzpDhkGA2

Cake Shop Asahi-ya: あさひ屋

和洋菓子店 wayougashiten: Japanese-western confectionary shop


Near 2 of the military bases in Ginowan, Futenma and Foster, there is a small confectionary shop next to the Union grocery store. It is called “Asahi-ya” あさひ屋.

When you pull up, you may not notice the small sign for “parking” at first. It is really just one space next to the shop, by the sidewalk. There is a sign indicating you should pull your car all the way in and not block the pedestrian sidewalk. Or you could just park at the Union since it is next door.

When you enter, it is not much to look at, and may seem a bit dated. There is a small area where you can eat-in or you can take out. They have whole cakes, cake slices, and even some Japanese and Okinawan style confections. The cakes may not look super impressive at first, at least not compared to some of the expensive and trendy shops, but if you look closer you will notice they have a lot of different flavors and types.

On this day, I purchased a shikwasa mousse cake slice… it was delicious and decently priced! The slice was 195yen, which is not too bad considering what some of the other shops charge. I would definitely recommend stopping into this “retro” cake shop and trying a slice of cake!

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/e358RuCYdVz

Cafe Station

Cafe Station is located in Urasoe, fairly convenient from Rt.38. It shares a building with HottoMotto (fast food chain bento store), and there is plenty of parking.

When you enter, you order and pay on the first floor, then go to the second floor where the eating area is. Pick a nice comfy chair and relax; they will bring your order up to you when it is ready. There are about 6-7 lunch set choices… I usually choose a pasta. The menu is all in Japanese, no English, but they have pictures and it is mostly katakana since it is more “western-style.”

In addition to lunch sets, you can get dessert sets. The desserts come from a really fancy bakery, Piednue (which has a store front elsewhere if you want to try just it). The baked cheesecake and the chiffon cakes are divine. Overall, it is a really nice cafe to check out while in Okinawa.


address for Cafe Station: https://goo.gl/maps/TiFTjavgYKK2

address for Piednue: https://goo.gl/maps/PQ341kaLNa52

Coronets at Pippi: コロネ

コロネ korone: coronet

At a little place called Pippi in Ginowan, you can find amazing little treats called “coronet.” They have a crispy outer shell and are filled with a cream; you can choose from all sorts of delicious flavors. Honestly, I don’t know how I could choose a favorite from all the flavors… maybe Earl Grey or Salt Caramel. Or Apple. Or… well, it is tough to choose since they are all so good.

Anyway, you can get take away or eat-in. They also have some lunch sandwiches of some sort, but I have never tried any of those. Only the coronets. I definitely recommend them for a special treat.

Just as a note, some bakeries make a different type of coronet: a soft bread shaped like a shell and filled with some sort of cream. These are also good, but that crispy, flakey shell at Pippi filled with unique flavors is amazing.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/MaaLHgWQp6S2

Animate Store in Naha

Okay, so I will admit it… I have a few anime that I enjoy. And I really, really love cute things. Anyway, there are not a whole lot of stores in Okinawa with a wide selection of anime merchandise. Manga Souko マンガ倉庫 has second-hand stuff, and sometimes you can find some stuff at Village Vanguard (chain store kinda like a “Spencer’s”). There are the crane games at the arcades, and sometimes the bookstores or convenience stores have the lottos with anime goods. But overall, it is a little bit lacking.

UNLESS you visit the Animate store in Naha, off Kokusai-dori. Now first of all, many people may walk down this street and never know it exists. Some people may look for it and never find it (this has happened according to a few google reviews). It is a little bit hidden on the 4th floor of a building, but they have recently added some blue signs out front (though they are not particularly eye-catching). The bottom floor is a drugstore– but to get to the Animate store, do not go inside the drugstore. Turn around so you are facing the street from the drugstore entrance; you will see a grimy old elevator, which you might think just goes to a girls bar or something (which actually I think the 5th floor is…). If you look closely at the elevator buttons you will notice it does in fact have a small label for the 4th floor that says Animate. Once you arrive on the 4th floor, a whole different world greets you. And it is mostly packed with high school age kids… perhaps I should be embarrassed as a middle-aged lady?

Basically, this place has a lot. Not everything, but a lot. I spent quite awhile just browsing through everything. Needless to say, I made quite a few purchases before forcing myself to leave. They, of course, like every other store, have a point card which if you fill up can earn you a discount, reserve online goodies, etc. It is also good for online purchases and purchases at other Animate stores.

The Animate store also has a bunch of the different “lottery” ticket draws (like ichibankuji 一番くじ) where you pay (usually) about 600yen and the random draw determines which of the prizes you win. I haven’t tried it at this location though (just the convenience stores and Village Vanguard, it is very easy to do). But it is on my list of things to do…

If you are visiting Kokusai-dori and decide to hit up Animate, you may also be interested to check out the Jump! Station store down the street (though honestly, I don’t think it is nearly as good unless you are into OnePiece). Additionally, there is also another small anime goods store down Kokusai-dori, called Ani-Mall アニマール; it has mostly cute and sexy anime girl goods (but not super pervy or anything). You can’t miss the huge blue sign pointing to this one.

Anyway, keep in mind we don’t have anything like Akihabara in Okinawa, but there are some places you can find anime and manga merchandise.


There is a second Anime themed store just a few hundred meters down the street from Animate, Anima-ru . It’s not as big or as famous, but if you are interested in anime and manga it is worth the visit!

address: https://goo.gl/maps/Rm4mvm6FLJE2

Miso 味噌 in Okinawa, part II

Previously I made a post about a special type of miso found in Okinawa, called andansu. But this is not the only miso you will find, as you can find all the regular Japanese varieties of miso as well. Sometimes you can find locally produced miso, and other brands will be big nation-wide corporate brands (not necessarily a bad thing). So let’s take a look at some of the things you should know about finding the right miso for you in Okinawa.


To start, things to look for on the label:

White miso 白みそ: this is a “light” or mild miso.

Blended Miso (Awase miso) 合わせみそ: this is usually pretty versatile and the one I typically keep in my fridge.

Red Miso 赤みそ: this is usually dark and salty, but so good. My husband prefers this darker, saltier miso but it can be pungent if you are not used to it.

dashi (fish broth) added だし入り: you probably don’t want this. It is so much easier to add your own dashi (and you can make it vegan by using konbu/seaweed dashi) and adjust it to your tastes.

organic 有機

additive-free 無添加

reduced salt 減塩


Special Notes:

*for non-GMO, if you look at the ingredient list, and the soybeans 大豆 are from Japan 国産 then you know it is non-GMO. Otherwise, it probably will not say.

*for gluten-free, check to see if 麦 (barley) or 小麦 (wheat) are listed in the ingredients.

*for soy-free (I know… sounds crazy right?), read this previous post I made about finding soy-free foods in the grocery store.


Now, where do I get miso? Well, any grocery store has an entire aisle dedicated to it. The choices are, frankly, overwhelming. It might take a few tries until you find one perfect to your tastes and uses. Look for ones that say 沖縄県産 for brands local to Okinawa; some examples you can find easily in stores are Kumejima miso 久米島みそ, Shuri miso 首里みそ, and Shimagome miso 島米みそ. Other big brands like Marusan, Marukome, TopValu, Maruman, etc. are also commonly found in stores here. I usually don’t go for these, but out of all the big brands, I think Hikari 光 is probably one of the best in my opinion (I don’t have a picture, but it comes in many varieties depending on your preference and says HIKARI on the tubs).

There is a lovely place I went to in the southern part of the island, you can read about it here: Miso chiffon cake, Yume Koubou: 菊みそ加工所夢工房. I bought some of their miso and it was really good, and while not the cheapest, reasonably priced I thought.

There is also a specialty store in the Aeon Rycom Mall, called Kuze Fuku, and they often have many varieties of higher-end miso and specialty miso from different areas of Japan. I recommend checking here if you are looking for something “special.”

Sometimes farmers markets will have bags of homemade miso, usually pretty cheap.

Below are some examples of miso you can find in Okinawa stores:


This is just some info focusing on Okinawa. For a much more comprehensive and explanatory look at miso, as well as some ways to cook with it, I highly recommend reading JustHungry website’s Miso Primer. It is such an excellent resource, I always recommend it to anyone who is first starting out with miso.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day: 3rd Thursday of November

ボジョレー・ヌーヴォー Beaujolais Noveau in katakana.


In 2017, Beaujolais Nouveau Day was November 16th.  It is a red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular “vin de primeur,” being fermented for only a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November.

Beaujolais Nouveau is an extremely popular wine in Japan. Perhaps it is due to its “exclusive” release date? I really don’t know, because I consider it typically not a very good wine… and this year my husband was swayed by the colorful marketing of ボジョパ Bo-jo-pa (translation: it is a shortening of “Beaujolais Party”) in stores, forgetting past attempts to drink this years ago and my admonishments regarding drinking this wine. So he ended up bringing home a half size bottle, and was reminded why we never purchase it. If you would like to find it, just go to any grocery or liquor store in Japan.

In Hakone, the Yunessun onsen (hot springs) has a special wine bath, possibly inspired by the Japanese obsession with this wine… errrr, interesting, right?

Well, anyway, you will see this wine being marketed heavily in Japan during November near its release date. Some people even pre-order it. I have seen event flyers for “midnight release” parties. I fail to understand, as most of it seems to come in the plastic bottles with screw tops. And not to be judge-y, but that typically does not signal a fine quality wine. The labels are often very floral and colorful, kind of reminding me of girly shampoo bottles. But, to each their own… if you like it, enjoy it, and maybe check out Yunessun in Hakone?

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Prefectural Product Fairs

Often times there are prefecture or area product fairs that travel to Okinawa. One of the best locations to host these is the Ryubo department Palette Kumoji store in Naha, though often times you can find smaller scale fairs set up in the Aeon and SanA malls.

Kyoto and Hokkaido seem to be the most common, but they come from all over (previously I posted about a tea and sweets set from a pop-up cafe at the Mie products fair). One of my favorites is the Italian fair that comes through about once a year at the Ryubo… so many amazing Italian wines, cheeses, and more. We often buy the wine set (usually 3 -6 bottles per box), of assorted wines selected by a sommelier.

Recently I visited the Kyoto fair at Ryubo that comes through at least once a year. There was even a geisha and maiko traditional Kyoto dance show. There were tons of samples of nihonshu (sake), tea, candies, snacks, pickles, etc. There was a pop-up specialty cafe, as well as several special Kyoto-style bento sellers for the event. I made a few food purchases of items not easily found in Okinawa. And of course, I indulged in buying a mini wagashi set for later to have with tea; I simply could not resist the beautiful designs.

If you live in Okinawa, I highly recommend not missing these special events when they come to the area. You can indulge in samples and purchase all sorts of quality products that the regular stores don’t usually carry.

 

Minatogawa Stateside Town: 港川

Minatogawa 港川 is located in Urasoe 浦添市; in this neighborhood is an area called “Stateside Town.” It is old military housing which has been converted into trendy small cafes and shops.

First thing I must mention: parking can be AWFUL. There is only one pay parking lot, and while some of the shops have their own parking spaces, it is pretty limited. If you decide to visit, try to go during non-peak hours and days. Not only is the parking terrible, but the roads are very narrow and thus with so many tourist cars, it can get hectic. But all this said, don’t let this deter you from visiting this cute neighborhood!

Within this area are many tasty things to try. I won’t list all of them but I will give you an idea…

Recently I tried Secondo Casa (it used to be the location of Pizzeria Onda, now relocated to Naha). I went for lunch and ordered the mushroom cream pasta which comes with salad, bread, and drink. Honestly at 1400yen it was a bit expensive, but still very tasty. But everything in this neighborhood is a little on the expensive side, so it is not out of place.

La Vita is a French/Italian type of place; when I went for lunch a few years ago it was so-so. Not particularly amazing, but decent.

Matsudaira Japanese Soba was also very good; you can read about it in the separate blog post linked.

oHarcorte is a local chain and VERY popular. What I have tried there has always been very good but damaging to my wallet. So… proceed with caution.

In between eating, you may want to browse through some of the small but cute shops, such as Portriver Market.


Address for Minatogawa Stateside town: https://goo.gl/maps/gjypb2jRaHz

 

Places for Wagashi 和菓子 in Okinawa

和菓子 wagashi: Japanese style sweets

製菓 seika: confectionary

Another post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for way to long. So here it is.


There are many types of wagashi. Here in Okinawa, it is difficult to find ones that are nearly as intricate, beautiful, and delicious as the mainland, but there are some places where very nice wagashi can be found. Here are a few of my “not-to-be-missed” spots:

  1. Usagi-ya うさぎや: literally the rabbit shop. This place is lovely but easy to miss, located on the busy road Rt. 34 in Ginowan. There are flags outside that say どら焼き (dorayaki) on them, but otherwise the store front is fairly unassuming and might not catch your eye. The sweets here are absolutely lovely. You can find many types here.  https://goo.gl/maps/iZSm55Yag6o    Closed!
  2. Chinen seika wagashi shikisai 知念製菓和菓子「四季彩」: Chinen Japanese confectionary “Shikisai” (4 seasons) is larger shop located in the Shuri area (there is also a second smaller location as well). This place is a very nice location to look for seasonal wagashi.  https://goo.gl/maps/qHbSQ3wJkzF2
  3. Shirobara (chain confections store) 白バラ: literally, “white rose.” This is a nice chain shop which makes it convenient since there are multiple locations. There typically is not a lot of variety of just wagashi as it is also a patisserie shop, but some seasonal items come and go. The main location is here:  https://goo.gl/maps/Cfb5n4oFTKt
  4. Miyabi Teahouse. Read about their ohagi and dorayaki in a separate post here. I recommend trying these traditional sweets with green tea in their relaxing teahouse.
  5. 羊羊 Yoyo An Factory: Japanese sweets confectionary: here you can find daifuku and dorayaki, be sure to try them with a bowl of matcha! *Update: they also carry a few more Japanese sweets items now.
  6. Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花: these are sort of “modern” dorayaki, try these with a bowl of matcha, you will not be disappointed.

Special Mention: Suehiro Confectionery 末廣製菓 in Makishi market area. They have a mix of items, mostly more Western or Okinawa sweets, but some Japanese confections mixed in as well. I wouldn’t expect to find any actual fancy wagashi, but may be worth a stop if you are in the Makishi area.


Of course, if you go to the Ryubo department store in Naha, you may also be able to find several of these in one location; some are local and some may even ship in from the mainland.

PABLO Cheese tarts

PABLO is a popular Japanese chain store that sells cheese tarts; I think they have even opened some overseas locations. There is a location on Kokusai-dori in Naha, Okinawa.

So, the big question is, are they worth the hype?

My verdict: Yes! Very delicious and creamy, they are dangerously tasty. Plus, the price is reasonable for Japan in my opinion. So I would say worth it, very much so. I had read about them online and wasn’t expecting it to be anything more than average, but I ordered the mini Okinawa limited edition Beniimo (Okinawan purple sweet potato) cheese tart and it was sooooo good. I can’t speak for the other flavors, but the beniimo paired so nicely together with the cheese tart. You can eat in their cafe space, or take out.


Kokusai-dori location by Mega DonQ:  https://goo.gl/maps/Xp5uyuNX1pT2

Gusuku Manjuu: 城まんじゅう

Manjuu 饅頭, or まんじゅう, is a popular Japanese wagashi, specifically a rice cake, often with a sweet red bean paste filling.

*also sometimes romanized as manju.

城まんじゅう Gusuku manjuu is a manjuu shop located in Kitanakagusuku village. Of course, I love manjuu but this place is a little special. First, there are 3 types of handmade manjuu sold here: aasa (アーサ, a type of Okinawan seaweed), sesame (ごま), and azuki bean (小豆). Second, the manjuu here are steamed in fragrant shell ginger leaves (called サンニン sannin in Okinawan language), similar to famous “No” manjuu in Shuri and muuchii. Since the leaves of ginger shell have bactericidal effect, in the old days Okinawan people would often wrap rice balls and muuchii with the leaves.

My friends bought some of these manjuu the other day and gave me some… they were very delicious. The delicate smell and taste of the shell ginger leaves infused into sweets has grown on me since living here.

The shop sells both individual and packages of manjuu; good for omiyage or tomb offerings, particularly for shiimii.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/d34HAGF2Tx82

Farmers Markets in Okinawa

I decided I would post some of my favorite fruit and vegetable markets here in Okinawa. Most of these are near to RyuDai (University of the Ryukyus), not necessarily the American bases. I prefer the markets with less foreigners (since most of the ones that cater to Americans import a lot of their produce to satisfy demand) and more domestic/local produce, rather than imported goods. It is always import to check/read the labels to see where your produce comes from– just because it is sold locally does not mean it is grown locally. That being said, some products simply are either not grown locally, or very expensive compared to imported versions, so sometimes you have to pick your battles.

A good example of this is garlic: Chinese garlic is incredibly cheap, and a lot of the garlic sold in Okinawa comes from China. Garlic from Aomori prefecture is pretty expensive, and while it may be higher quality and tastier, it can be hard to justify the price especially when you are on a budget. Locally grown Okinawan garlic is seasonal, so it is important to buy it while it is cheap during Spring time! Of course, it only lasts so long.

Anyway, first check out the key terms for locating a farmers market in GoogleMaps, then I list some of my favorites. If you are in Okinawa looking for fresh local fruit and vegetables, these are some of the best places to look in the South-Central area of the island. Perhaps later I will add some of the Northern area markets in… (like Onna-no-eki, a great place to check out if you go up there!). There are also plenty of supermarkets around, but often times you will find better deals at the farm markets, so it is worth checking them out.


Key terms:

青果 seika: fruit and vegetables

青果店 seikaten: fruit and veg shop

青果市場 seika ichiba: fruit and veg market

八百屋 yaoya: greengrocer, or produce market

ファーマーズマーケット: farmers market, written in katakana

野菜 or やさい yasai: vegetables

果物 kudamono: fruit


List of recommended markets (I will update with some more as I have time):

Nakagusuku Farm Minami 中城ファーム南 (Nakagusuku): This place usually has a lot of stuff cheap. It is my “go to market” whenever I need something.  https://goo.gl/maps/AQjmqmgEXDD2

HappyMore ハッピーモア市場 (Ginowan): Sometimes cheap, sometimes not so cheap, it depends on the item… but it has a lot of chemical/pesticide-free and “organic” items, as well as a curry cafe with smoothies. It is a really nice market overall. Sometimes I can find interesting things.  https://goo.gl/maps/Z8kbW8tFeho

Kariyushi 軽便駅 かりゆし市 (Nanjo): Tons of locally-grown stuff, and usually the cheapest prices around. It is a bit further from me, so I don’t go there as much as I would like. I only ever see locals in here, never foreigners. Also this place has a lot of fresh cut flowers for cheap, as well as potted plants. https://goo.gl/maps/djLtDsgPBs42

JA Agarihama あがりはま市場 (Yonabaru): One of the Japan Ag (JA) stores. Usually not too crowded (unlike the JA stores near the bases). Sometimes a bit more expensive than the other farmers markets, but cheaper than produce at the supermarkets/grocery stores.  https://goo.gl/maps/cqA1wfFXvJo

JA Kugani くがに市場 (Haebaru): Also one of the JA stores, this one is brand new. It has a lot of variety and things I have not seen in the other JA markets. There is also a gelato stand outside here… dangerous! https://goo.gl/maps/BhYwQHaWB8K2

Agri-house Kochinda アグリハウスこちんだ (Yaese): Lots of cheap, local produce, as well as eggs (there is an egg farm next door). You can buy eggs in bulk here.  https://goo.gl/maps/RU5kid6kcjH2


Need help with names of vegetables in Japanese? Look here: Vegetables Names

Or here for some Food Vocabulary.

And here for Japanese Phrases for Food Shopping

Okinawa Pottery: やちむん

yachimun やちむん (焼き物): ceramics/pottery in Okinawa language. In Japanese, this would be read as “yakimono.”


There are many pottery areas in Okinawa; in Naha, is a district called Tsuboya 壺屋 which has a street lined with ceramics shops. There is also Nanjo (south), Yomitan (north-central), and many other smaller areas scattered about.

Tsuboya yachimun street is a lovely walk on a nice day, and you can see many examples of Okinawa pottery and visit various artists, as well as a museum. Especially featured are the Okinawa shisa dog statues. You can also find ishigantou in addition to plates, cups, bowls, and more. If you get tired of looking and shopping, there are some cafes to have lunch or bukubuku-cha.

Over the years, I have collected quite a few pieces: mostly mugs, plates, and shisa. Every year, areas like Yomitan, Nanjo, and Tsuboya hold yachimun a “festival” where you can find a lot of discount pieces from artists.

 

 

Kin Kannonji (temple) & Awamori Cave

In Kin town 金武町 (Northern part of Okinawa), there is a temple and limestone cave where a shrine is located as well as bottles of awamori 泡盛 are stored for aging.

The first thing you need to know is that there are 2 entrances to the cave: the one at the temple is FREE, but is blocked off from the awamori storage. You will still be able to see pretty stalactite and stalagmite formations and descend into a portion of the cave BUT you will not see the area where the awamori and tofuyo 豆腐よう are aged. The temple itself is not very grand, but it is one of the typical old temples in Okinawa (of which there are very few).

If you want to see where the awamori is stored, you will need to pay the fee for the tour (adults are 400yen, the tour is only offered 3x per day). To do this, head to Tatsu no kura 龍の蔵, awamori and tofuyo store (you can also try yummy samples here) which is located just across the street from the temple. Tatsu 龍 means “dragon,” another reference to the importance of the dragon god in the Ryukyu kingdom. The shop is named this since the cave is known as the auspicious birthplace of the dragon god faith. We bought tickets for the tour, which started at 1:30 that day. I would post a schedule for the tours, but honestly it seems to change randomly and the tour times available when we arrived were completely different from what it said on their website, so I would call ahead unless you randomly are lucky like we were.

The cave is a chilly 18 degrees Celsius and the tour is offered in Japanese. But you can still join and enjoy the scenery if you do not understand Japanese. Bottle storage services are offered for 5, 12 and 20 years; many customers store bottles here to commemorate a wedding or birth of a child. A lot of the bottles are decorated with messages.

Normally aged for just 3 months, the tofuyo here is aged for a year or more! It is pricy here, but really delicious… I recommend sampling it all. We bought some to take home. I have previously visited their branch store in Naha and ate their tofuyo, but it was the first time for my husband. It was interesting being able to see the cave where everything is aged and stored.

check out some pictures here: http://imgur.com/a/qJET5


address:

Kin Kannonji 金武観音寺: the parking lot is across the street from the temple.  https://goo.gl/maps/5f94bKcMJXQ2

Tatsu no kura 龍の蔵: https://goo.gl/maps/dPy3C2BeQoF2

Mother Leaf Shave Ice

かき氷 kakigouri: shave ice. Or snow cone, for those of you from other places.

Anyway, rainy season has ended and summer time is upon us in Okinawa. Today was pretty darn hot, so I decided to make a short trip to the central portion of the island north of where I live. My main goal was to try a different shave ice shop: Mother Leaf.

Mother Leaf is pretty popular, so this is not necessarily a “hidden gem” (it even has English on the menu). But it is tasty and so refreshing on days like today. Apparently several other people had the same idea as me. Even though I say it was busy, there was a decent amount of parking and the line goes pretty quick; also the inside had plenty of seating. I had no issues on a hot Sunday afternoon, so I can recommend stopping by even at the busiest of time since this shop can clearly handle it.

I ordered the shirokuma-mango 白くまマンゴー at a whopping 650 yen; everything else was actually much cheaper and reasonably priced, but I really wanted the mango. It is a mango and condensed milk kakigouri. Anyway, it was really huge and quite good, but next time I would stick with a cheaper item.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/oEP4fsPS4gD2

Recommended: Ryukyu Confectionery Shops

I realize most foreigners are more interested in strange KitKat flavors than traditional confections, but for those who would like a true flavor of the Ryukyu Kingdom (you know, besides westernized beniimo tarts), here are some must-try places.

Ryukyu sweets are quite different from Japanese sweets, and are probably more similar to Chinese sweets since they were mostly developed to entertain the Chinese envoys when they visited the Ryukyu Royal Court. Most of these traditional confectionaries are centered around Shuri and Naha.

  1. Jahana Kippan: The Jahana family has been creating 2 types of traditional sweets for a long time; tougatsuke and kippan. These are exquisite and I cannot recommend them enough.
  2. Arakaki Kami, Arakaki Honpo and Arakaki Honke: these 3 shops are all descendants of the same ancestor, hence their similarities. But they are all 3 slightly different, so it is worth a look to check them out. They carry chiinsukou and chiirunkou, and I know Honke carries hanaborou, senjukou, and tauchiichau (described in a previous post here).
  3. Matsuhara Shop, located inside Makishi Market: You can try a lot of interesting things here at this shop, from sata andagi to muuchii, and even things like machikaji and kunpen. The sata andagi comes in many flavors, like brown sugar, beniimo, and more.
  4. Zaha Confection Shop: I have made several small purchases here. It is a bit of an odd mix of western style alongside some traditional Ryukyu items.

And of course, no trip to Okinawa would be complete without trying bukubuku-cha, tea of the Ryukyu royal court. Most places serve the tea with small traditional Ryukyu accompaniments, such as chinsukou, kunpen, kuzu mochi, etc.

Some of the more common confections such as chinsukou can be purchased in regular omiyage shops, airport stores, and grocery stores– but for something special (and possibly quite unique) I recommend you check out some of the places listed above.


address:

  1. Jahana Kippan: https://goo.gl/maps/vhUKgGsApJu
  2. Arakaki Honke: https://goo.gl/maps/kcFvzXA6BvQ2
  3. Arakaki Honpo (multiple locations, this is one is on Kokusai-dori): https://goo.gl/maps/hcwT4fMGPrw
  4. Arakaki Kami: https://goo.gl/maps/BgVJvnYJj3S2
  5. Matsuhara: https://goo.gl/maps/iJ91rdQeDm32
  6. Zaha: https://goo.gl/maps/6chzqKoLBiE2