Kippan: きっぱん (橘餅)

きっぱん (橘餅)kippan is a traditional Ryukyu confection. It is made from kaabuchii カーブチー citrus (also called “kunenbo” 九年母) which grows in Yanbaru (northern Okinawa). The outside skin is peeled and the entire fruit is then used. It takes 4 days to make! It was one of the 16 different kinds of fine fruits, desserts and sweets served to the Royal Court, especially when entertaining envoys from China, but eventually became available to the common people as well.

There is only one shop in Okinawa that continues the laborious process of making this luxurious confection– Jahana Kippan-ten 謝花きっぱん店. They also make tougatsuke, preserved winter melon sweets.

Anyway, these are made with no preservatives or artificial flavors. Just simply a luxurious dessert to go with tea. The flavor is deep and rich, my husband said it was reminiscent of a fruitcake with the dried preserved fruit flavor. It is recommended to be paired with a fine tea or dessert wine. The kippan does not come cheap at ~420yen per piece, but considering the care and labor that goes into making each one by hand it is worth the luxury.

Address: Okinawa, Naha, Matsuo 1-5-14

Uruma Gelato: うるまジェラート

ジェラートjera-to: gelato

Awhile back, on a beautiful warm day, I was on my way towards the bridge that connects Henza-jima, Miyagi-jima, and Ikei-jima. The weather was so nice, I could not help myself and I stopped for gelato at Uruma Gelato. Obviously gelato is not traditionally common in Okinawa, but it has started to gain a lot of popularity in recent years.

There are many flavors like beniimo, Okinawa brown sugar, shikwasa… but I ended up with Yamashiro koucha 山城紅茶 (made with black tea from Uruma, Okinawa). It was so ono! The prices are not too bad here, considering it is all homemade. I took my gelato towards the seaside area and relaxed before continuing on my journey. It was a great place to stop and take a break.

I don’t have a picture of the outside, but it is in among some other shops in a big building clearly labeled, with plenty of parking. I am pretty sure everything is in English there as this area is usually popular with tourists.



Pork Tamago Onigiri: ポークたまごおにぎり

ポーク po-ku: pork

たまご tamago: egg

おにぎり onigiri: riceball

In this case, “pork” refers to spam. As any good Hawaiian will tell you, spam is most definitely an appropriate filling for musubi/onigiri (riceballs wrapped in nori/seaweed). They are eaten for breakfast, a quick snack, lunch, whenever. Here in Okinawa, people feel the same way. So that’s where this cute little shop called Pork Tamago Onigiri comes in– super fresh onigiri with spam, cooked in front of you.

Now, I don’t eat pork. But my husband does. When he heard about this shop he wanted to try it, so since we were in Naha, off we went towards the Makishi Market area to find it. The shop is located in an alley off the Makishi Market area and not hard to find at all; I remembered passing it a few times before while I was in Naha and wondering why so many people line up for spam onigiri.

It was a Sunday morning, but luckily there were only a few people ahead of him in line. He chose the spicy carrot, egg, and spam onigiri (it is called supaishi ninjin shiri-shiri スパイシー人参しりしり on the menu). I think the menu had English to some degree, and at least pictures, so it is not difficult to order. It took about 15 minutes until his order was ready; they were back there cooking and assembling… everything is made fresh to order! It was actually a pretty huge serving and my husband quite enjoyed it. This is not your typical conbini onigiri that has been sitting on the shelf for a few hours. Needless to say, now I know why it is always so busy at the small shop! They are even opening a branch at the Naha Airport~~ if you are a spam-lover, definitely check out of these shops.


Taimo (taro) Pie: 田いもパイ

田芋 or 田いも taimo: type of taro

パイ pai: “pie” in romaji

In Nakagusuku village there is a small shop called Nakatomi Kashi-ten なかとみ菓子店  (Nakatomi sweets shop) that specializes in taimo pie. You can often find them selling their small fried pies at food events on the island or visit their shop.

The shop is on a small road off of Rt. 29 in Nakagusuku; at the turn their are purplish colored flags with the words 田いもパイ on them. Following the small signs down the road you will end up at their small shop where you can purchase the pies. Sometimes they have some seasonal sweets as well, but mostly it is just the taimo pies which are 100yen each.

The pies have a crispy fried outside and are stuffed with taimo filling. Very delicious. I recommend taking them home and reheating them, maybe adding a side of ice cream. This is one of the many unique sweets you can find in Okinawa!


Interested in more unique Okinawa Sweets? Check out these previous posts:

Kunpen: くんぺん

Chinsukou: ちんすこう

More on Ryukyu Sweets

Machikaji: まちかじ (松風)

Tougatsuke: 冬瓜漬

Okinawa Sweets: 沖縄のお菓子

Famous “No” Manjuu in Shuri: のー饅頭

Fuchagi: フチャギ (more Okinawa mochi!)

Okinawa mochi, pt.3: Nantou ナントゥー餅

Sangwachi gwashi: 三月菓子

Muuchii: ムーチー

Okinawa Zenzai: 沖縄ぜんざい

Personal Seals: Hanko 判子 and Inkan 印鑑

Hanko 判子: refers to the actual physical seal

Inkan 印鑑: refers to the ink

Hanko and inkan are “personal seals” or “stamps”; the terms seem to be used interchangeably among native speakers, so I would not be too concerned about which word to use when. Since many other articles discuss these, I won’t get into all the details and talk about all the different types of hanko and inkan, from personal use to bank use to “official registered with the city office” use, but if you are a foreigner living in Okinawa you may need to obtain a very basic bank seal since they are almost always required for opening up a bank account and other “official” business. I also personally use mine for all of my university documents; it is much easier than trying to sign in the tiny spaces provided on the forms. Plus it feel more “official” somehow when I bust out my hanko. It is also makes it easier when parcels are delivered to your house and need a signature.

So how and where do you get one?? Easy! There are several options: go to a hanko shop (like Hanko21), order online through a Japanese website, OR go to an easy-to-use hanko-carving “vending machine!”

As for me, going to the machine is the easiest, quickest, and cheapest! These machines are located in DonQuijote (“Donki”) and Tokyu Hands stores.

How do you use it?? Well, it actually is not too difficult though it is all in Japanese. That being said, the Tokyu Hands machine has an “English Guide” printed out. It is not the best but using this guide will help you through the process. It is actually fairly simple (just be patient!). I have used both machines (DonQ for my hanko, and Tokyu Hands for another foreign student’s hanko)… I think the Tokyu Hands machine is easier for foreigners to use, and has more options for customizing. The DonQ machine is more cookie-cutter with less options. Both machines are the same prices for hanko (see below).

You will have several options when making the hanko; you can use katakana, hiragana, or romaji-English characters (most foreign names don’t have kanji, but if you happen to have a Japanese or Chinese last name then you could use this option). I personally use katakana on my hanko, and I think this is usually what most banks prefer, so make sure you figure out how to spell your name in katakana before coming to the machine.

Next you can also choose to use both last and first name or just last name (I use just my last name). Keep in mind there is a limit to either 1 or 2 lines, with 4 characters per line maximum. You can also change the direction of reading (horizontal, vertical). I use mine in a 4 character box-shape, which also an option should you desire it, though depending on your name this may not be very possible. I think it looks interesting in that way.

From here you can change the font style, as well as thickness of the lines. One last option on the Tokyu Hands machine is you can even get a little picture design– just keep in mind this likely will not fly with banks, so if you are getting it for official purposes I would hold off. If it is only for personal reasons, then by all means get the kitty or flower design!

How much? The price for the smallest (10.5mm) generic hanko is 500yen. A slightly larger hanko (better for bank usage, 12, 13.5, or even 15 mm) is usually about 800-1500yen. Mine is only 12mm which was fine with my bank (and my husband’s is only 10.5mm which is also okay with our bank), though I see some people online saying you should go with 13.5-15mm. If in doubt, ask the bank you want to open an account with.

You have some different options on hanko material color (such as blue, pink, white, black, etc)… yes, mine is girly pink. You can even go use the fancier materials but the price increases accordingly, usually up to about 3000yen. If you want to use a lot of characters (or add the picture design), then the machine will also tell you that you need to purchase the larger size hanko. You can even add on a case, though personally I just went to the Daiso and bought a 100yen cheap plastic case (with ink pad built-in) from the stationary department. Obviously you can splurge on fancier cases.

Once you go through the steps of choosing your design, insert the money into the machine and hit the OK button. The machine takes as little to 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the seal size, to carve out your hanko, and voila, you are ready to go.

Hanko vending machine located across from the Tokyu Hands, in the SanA Mall in Ginowan.

35 Coffee: Coffee that supports Coral Conservation

35 can be pronounced “san” (3) + “go” (5). サンゴ sango is also the word for “coral.” So 35 coffee is actually pronounced sango coffee (not thirty-five coffee); it is a brand of coffee in Okinawa that supports coral research and conservation, making it a very eco-friendly coffee! It is a decent brewed cup of coffee, at any rate.

You can get brewed cups from the 35 coffee stands (one is in front of DonQ on Kokusai-dori and some others are located in the monorail stations, and another in the Naha LCC airport terminal, and probably more, these are ones I can remember) or purchase beans from many stores (including DonQ, Aeon, and even the airport souvenir stands).

The coffee itself is made using coral fossils during the roasting. Obviously coffee beans  are imported since Okinawa is not a coffee producer.

The roasting method using the coral fossils is similar to a stone roasting method. The green coffee beans are roasted with coral fossils at 200 ℃ or higher for a long time to create a mild coffee.

It is normally banned to harvest corals according to the Okinawa Prefecture Fisheries Regulations, applicable to even the fossils of corals, which means only companies that have permission from the prefecture can collect them. The 35 Coffee company acquired a permit from Okinawa Prefecture to use weathered corals for the roasting process and to purchase them from authorized companies.

A portion of the profits received from the sales of the coffee go to the “Coral Reproduction Project.” So I think it is good to support the corals in the Okinawa ocean and try some 35 (sango) coffee when you get the chance. Corals globally are effected by increasing ocean temperatures and human industrialization, and numbers have been dwindling for several years now.  Thriving coral reefs play an important role in the balance of ocean eco-systems, and can even provide some protecting and mitigating effects on storm waves and tsunami to help protect human populations that live along coastlines.


address of Kokusai-dori coffee stand:

Cat Cafe: 猫カフェ

猫 neko: cat

ニャン nyan: meow

ニャンコ nyanko, or even ニャンちゃん nyan-chan: a somewhat childish or cute way to say cat, like kitty

カフェ kafe: cafe

Have you ever wanted to experience a Japanese cat cafe (neko cafe)?

Today I visited a neko cafe in Naha, not far from Kokusai-dori. The name of the cafe is にゃんそーれ “Nyan-so-re”, a playful version of “menso-re” めんそーれ which is Okinawan for “welcome.” An English cat version would be more sort of like “meow-so-re,” I guess if that makes sense.

Anyway when you enter, like many Japanese establishments, you remove you shoes and put them in the cubby, donning a pair of cute cat-themed slippers. There are also small lockers for your purse (back by the cashier, she will give you a key). The cafe is divided into 2 rooms: the first is the dining area, where you can watch the kitties through the glass while eating. The second is the area where you can play with the kitties.

They have different plans you can choose from, and not to fret… they have English translations, so even if the workers don’t really understand/speak English, you will not be lost here if you do not speak Japanese. The time rates for play-time start from 30 minutes (500 yen). They also have drinks, light meals, and desserts. You may have drinks in the kitty area, but eating is only outside the kitty room. When you are ready and have ordered what you would like, let the staff know when you are ready to play with some cats and they will give you a pass with the time your entered written on it. There will be a connecting area with a sink to wash up before and after playing with the cats.

Inside is the fun part… kitties everywhere! There are handouts with their names and pictures, tons of cat toys, manga and books (some cat-themed), air-conditioning, couches. Some of the cats will sleep and some will be social, and some may even be playful. It was a nice way to spend some time, since my husband is allergic to cats, and the price was pretty reasonable. I payed about 1200yen for my time and drinks/food there (30 minutes play time/iced tea with the kitties, then affogato while I watched and relaxed on the other side for almost another half hour).

They also have many, many cat-themed goods available for purchase. It was hard to resist…

Note: You may take picture of the cats, but no flash.

address for Neko cafe Nyanso-re 猫カフェにゃんそーれ:

**There are 3 FREE parking spaces right next to the cafe!

Taiyaki & Dorayaki: たい焼き&どら焼き

If you have read any previous posts, you are probably aware of my love (obsession?) with Japanese-style sweets. So this will be yet another entry dedicated to the wonderful world of Japanese sweets.

Today is about taiyaki たい焼き and dorayaki どら焼き. Neither of these are especially popular in Okinawa, and are probably a little more common on the mainland, however there are some places in Okinawa to find these tasty treats.

Taiyaki is a fish-shaped pastry with a filling inside, usually sweet bean paste (an). There is the traditional type, with many different filling choices, at a small stall in the basement food (depachika デパ地下) floor of Ryubo department store in Naha (also known as Palette Kumoji). My favorite is probably the kinako きな粉 (toasted soy bean); it is creamy kind of like peanut butter inside. There is also a new fad of “croissant taiyaki,” (クロワッサンたい焼) which is a flaky twist on the traditional favorite. This is actually easier to find in Okinawa since it is sold by the chain takoyaki store, Gindaco 銀だこ. I prefer the traditional style, but the croissant taiyaki is okay, too. Whenever the Kyoto products fair comes through the stores, there is almost always the Le Mans booth which sells many flavors of this croissant-style taiyaki– I like this better than the Gindaco ones, personally.

**Recently, I have had an incredibly delicious taiyaki at Amane 天音 near Kichijoji station in Tokyo! I 100% recommend stopping by and trying it if you are ever in that area!


Dorayaki is like 2 little tasty pancakes with a filling between them, again, usually sweet bean paste. But they are not quite pancakes or hotcakes… they usually have more pockets of air creating a nice fluffy texture, and the batter is usually sweetened with honey. These are ALL over, you can even find these in the convenience stores (like Lawson)! Some are even “Okinawa-style” since they use Okinawan kokutou 黒糖 (brown sugar). I will have to think about where my favorites are located… probably just the small booth that sets up outside the local grocery store once a month since there are always so fresh!

You can also find some small dorayaki at a specialty shop that also sells ohagi: here.


Culture note: Some people say how you eat taiyaki tells about your personality:

The person who eats the head first is an optimist.

The person who eats the tail first is a romantic and detail-oriented.

The person who eats the fin first is sensitive.

The person who eats by tearing it in half is a man of action.

A majority of people seem to eat the head first, but funny enough I usually eat the tail first.

Bakery Lulu

Yes, yet another post about a bakery here in Okinawa.

This time it is about Bakery Lulu in Nakagusuku. They are a fairly recent bakery, but they have some really good stuff. This pan-ya is really close to Nakagusuku Minami Farmers Market.

Today they had hanami dango pan 花見団子パン– flower-viewing “dango” bread. It was a stick with three types of small buns with bean paste fillings to resemble the 3-colored hanami dango! So cute, and so delicious. The pink was, of course, sakura bean paste, the middle was I think sweet potato bean paste (honestly in this context I could not tell for sure), and the last was a sweet green bean paste.

I have had many good things from this bakery, and I feel like some of their items are unique, so if you are near Nakagusuku, check them out!


Manga Souko 漫画倉庫

漫画倉庫 Manga Souko is a nationwide secondhand store. In Okinawa, there are 3 of these stores. 漫画 manga means Japanese comics, and 倉庫 souko means warehouse. They are open 24 hours!

First word of caution: when you enter, it is extremely noisy inside. Not just a little, but a lot. If you go, you will see what I mean. It can be a bit overwhelming.

Second word of caution: their buyback rates are not very good, so don’t expect to get a lot of money for your books/clothes/cds/comics/etc that you sell them. And there prices tend to be slightly higher than some other places in my opinion. That being said, they also have the best variety, especially for anime, manga, and related goods.

Anyway, despite their name being “manga,” they actually have everything from games, consoles, cds, dvds, comics, figurines, clothes, shoes, small appliances, kitchen and household, sporting goods, instruments… the list goes on. So even if you don’t care much about manga or anime, there is a lot more to this interesting secondhand shop. I will admit, I have made more than a few purchases here.

Keep in mind, on a weekend or holiday it gets pretty busy… many people will go to the comics section and just read for hours without buying anything.

To find the closest to you, just copy and paste 漫画倉庫 into GoogleMaps (there are 3 locations in Okinawa: Awase, Urasoe, and Naha).

I will post some pictures of the outside and of some of my purchases soon.


More on Ryukyu Sweets

Today I went to Arakaki Chinsukou Honpo 新垣ちんすこう本舗, an omiyage sweets shop in Shuri which has been in business since 1908. There are also 2 locations in Naha, near Kokusai-dori. An interesting note, there are also 2 more shops called Arakaki Honke 新垣本家 and Arakaki Kami 新垣カミ which are from the same ancestors that make chinsukou and other traditional sweets. Obviously, they are most famous for their chinsukou, however today I went for something a little different; some lesser-known traditional Ryukyu sweets:

千寿こう(せんじゅこう) senjukou (also romanized as senjuko): peanut butter, sesame seeds, and kippan (citrus peels that are boiled with sugar), then wrapped in lard-based pie dough with rainbow colors. Its shape is similar to the image of a lotus flower. It was re-introduced after a long time after being featured in a popular period drama called “Tempest.” This is the only shop in Okinawa which sells senjukou, and quantities are limited every day since it is made by hand.

闘鶏餃(たうちいちゃう)tauchiichau: traditional treat fried in lard, a sesame bean paste wrapped in a stiff pie crust with red and green dots added. It is named as such since it resembles a cockscomb (rooster comb).

花ぼうる hanabouru: ryukyu cookie with a hard texture and intricate decoration that is carefully shaped like a wisteria flower.

Clockwise, starting on the left: senjukou, tauchiichau, chinsukou, and hanabouru

These sweets are perfect for tea-time, especially if you choose sanpin-cha (jasmine tea). Or if you want to be fancy, try recreating bukubuku-cha. Today though I decided on hibiscus tea.

At this shop, you can also find many varieties of chinsukou, as well as a few other traditional sweets only found in Okinawa. The staff was very friendly and had some samples out. If you make a purchase, they will give you a free chinsukou cookie to take with you. My husband liked the chinsukou best of the four items, but for me I think it was definitely the senjukou with its nutty taste with a hint of citrus (plus it is so cute looking!). The hanabouru would have actually gone better with coffee in our (westernized) opinion. As a reminder, these are not for strict vegetarians or others who don’t eat pork since all of these contain pork lard.

I am quite fascinated by all the various traditional Ryukyuan sweets and their differences from traditional Japanese wagashi; they developed independently, with influence from both China and Japan. The names of more than 200 sweets are found in literature, but almost all of the recipes were lost with the overthrow of the dynasty and then the mass destruction during World War II.

address for Shuri location; free parking (3 spaces) next door:

Secondhand Books in Okinawa

古書店 koshoten: secondhand bookstore

You can find new books, comics and magazines at the bookstores around island, usually in the malls or shopping plazas, and even some at the conbini (convenience stores). But if you are looking for something a bit older or cheaper, you need to look at the secondhand bookshops. Plus, I feel there is almost nothing more exciting than entering into a used bookshop, you never know what you may find… possibly I am a tsundoku 積ん読, one who collects/piles up books but does not always get around to reading them, or a book hoarder (as much as my husband tries to prevent it). I have had a love affair with books since I was very young.

One major chain you can find in Okinawa is BookOff ブックオフ (which is literally all over Japan). They have an assortment of magazines, books, novels, music, etc. I go there occasionally and usually purchase older manga or magazines for a reasonable price, but the selection is always varied– sometimes you get lucky and sometimes it is impossible to find what you want.

Another chain is MangaSouko 漫画倉庫 (literally: “comic warehouse”). There is a lot of choice here, but sometimes the prices are not as cheap as you would hope. It is easy to find popular and (fairly) current manga here actually (that someone read and immediately sold back), as well as some of the oldies.

A really interesting bookshop is located in Ginowan, just on your right as you turn onto 241 off Rt. 34, called BOOKSじのん (Books Jinon). There are a few parking spaces out front, otherwise turn down the road to the paid parking lot. This shop has a lot of literature about Okinawa and the Ryukyu Kingdom. They have an assortment of books on Okinawa food and recipes, uchinaaguchi (Okinawa language), WWII, history, handicrafts, culture and more. If you go in, you will undoubtedly find something you want. There is a very small selection of books about Okinawa in English, but sometimes I think the food and cooking books especially you can read without having to know much Japanese. Of course, some of these books are a bit uncommon, so the prices reflect that. That being said, I think this shop is worth the time to stop by and look around, especially if you are interested in learning more about Okinawa.

recent acquisitions

address for Booksじのん:

Jacaranda Blue: Gourmet Chocolatier in Okinawa

One day I set out to look for some fancy chocolates for my husband. I saw about this small chocolate shop located in Ginowan, so I set off on the hunt.

It was surprisingly close to the university, just off a back neighborhood. I went up the narrow alley roads, uncertain that this was the right way, when all of a sudden there it was, modest and barely visible in the shadow on the first floor of a building: Jacaranda Blue.

As soon as I stepped inside, it was bright and cheerful with many chocolate displays. The chocolatiers are professional crafters, and the quality was exquisite, like something you would see in a western chocolate shop. They studied abroad and brought their skills back home to this small, quiet neighborhood in Okinawa. The chocolates take 2 or 3 days to make into perfection.

What drew my attention was the fact that they incorporated local ingredients into the chocolates, which they call “uchinaa chocolate.” They have 9 types of bon-bon chocolates: turmeric (ukon in Japanese, ucchin in Okinawan), mugwort (yomogi in Japanese, fuchiba in Okinawan), miso from Miyako, sea salt (shima masu), island chili pepper (shima tougarashi), orange (tankan), peanuts (jimami), brown cane sugar (kokutou), and island peppercorn (pipaachi). Each chocolate is a different scent and taste of Okinawa!

The price was not cheap, but my husband was very delighted when I came home with these! He was very impressed with the shine on it and commented on how professional the tempering was (he knows wayyyy more about chocolate than I do). So for a special occasion, these chocolates are worth it, you will not be disappointed.

address: 沖縄県宜野湾市長田1-8-7

Finding Malasadas in Okinawa

Today is Fat Tuesday (day before Lent), so a good malasada is in order!

Of course, in Okinawa, malasadas are not traditional, and neither is Fat Tuesday nor Lent. Luckily, Hawai’i themed things are pretty popular in Japan! In Okinawa, there are a few places you can find a malasada (which by the way, these are NOT just donuts).

The BEST place in my opinion is Mermaid Bakery in Ginowan. While they are not necessarily fried in front of your eyes and piping hot (unless you happen to arrive right when they cook them), they have all the key elements of a good malasada and as close as you’re gonna get in Okinawa: right taste, just enough airy/fluffy mochi-mochi texture, cooked evenly and thoroughly with a nice outer layer, good amount of sugar, just fatty enough but not oily. They even have different flavors if that floats your boat, but honestly I just like a good solid plain malasada. Nothin’ fancy. My only complaint is could be cooked slightly browner on the outside, but being away from home I will take what I can get.

There are not a lot of places to find legit malasadas on island, but there are 2 other places that I know of to get a malasada (and no, while I love Lawson, their prepackaged “malasada” is nothing more than a regular donut, ugh). I have not tried Agnes Bakeshop Japan yet… I will eventually get over there to see how legit it is. Malasada Garage is in the food court of the Aeon Rycom Mall, but I cannot really recommend them… I was devastated last year on Fat Tuesday after eating their subpar malasada; even though they cook it in front of you, mine came out a) undercooked, b) taste was off, and c) too greasy with clumpy sugar.

At a few food fairs there have been vendors selling “malasadas” but they have never been even a little close to the real thing. I think many people just see a malasada as a sugar donut, and don’t taste/see/understand the difference, so maybe for them finding a legit place is not very important. But for me… you just can’t start Lent without one!

So for this Fat Tuesday, my husband picked up malasadas from Mermaid Bakery (after I demanded it of him), and they were darn good… maybe not quite Leonard’s or Tex Drive-In (or even the poi malasada from Kamehameha Bakery), but they satisfied the craving!

address for Mermaid Bakery:

Okinawa Sango Beer, Nanto Brewery

At the Okinawa Food and Flower Festival, the newly renewed Nanto Brewery had a booth promoting their Okinawa Sango beers. Their new beers are made with water filtered with Okinawa corals. Previously, their beers (under the brand Nihede) were quite horrible. At first we walked by their tent, unconvinced, but then thought, with this new line… better give them another try, right? Especially since it was on draft.

So, my husband and I decided to go big and pay for the 1000yen, 4 beer sampler set. The set included:

Saison- I liked this one, but my husband does not like saison-style. This is a seasonal beer and not on their usual rotation.

IPA- We both agreed this was probably our favorite. Citrusy and refreshing. My husband does not usually like IPAs but he liked this one… I don’t think it really tasted much like an IPA, but either way, it was good.

ALT- I don’t know what exactly an alto German beer is, but it was a reddish-brown beer. Not bad.

Black Ale- my husband liked this one; I don’t like a lot of black ales, so this one was not really for me.

Overall, these beers were way better than their previous incarnation. That being said, I probably wouldn’t pay 500yen a bottle, but on draft… probably I would, if I was feeling fancy.

The Nanto brewery is located out of Okinawa World in Nanjo, so you can give them a visit.

Machikaji: まちかじ (松風)

In Okinawan language it is pronounced machikaji まちかじ (松風). The 2 kanji that make up the name are “matsu” 松 meaning pine and “kaze” 風 meaning wind.

Machikaji is a type of senbei せんべい (cracker or cookie) that is colored red (well, more like pink), tied in knot. A red knot is an auspicious symbols, usually used for marriage, so it is commonly eaten at engagement or marriage ceremonies. Machikaji does not have to be limited to just engagements, so it is also eaten for other big celebratory occasions as well.

Today I purchased a machikaji at a shop called Zaha kashiten 座波菓子店 (菓子店 kashiten means “sweets shop”). I brought it home and ate it with tea; it was very delicious. A little sweet but not too much, with a little sesame flavor and crispy.

As a side note: I recently received a photo of my friend’s “engagement” (actually, official entry into her husband’s family registry) and there was a large plate of traditional treats including machikaji~~ I was amused.



address for Zaha kashiten: 沖縄県那覇市首里石嶺町3-6-1

Machikaji can also be found at Nakamura Confectionary 中村製菓 in Shuri:

I have also spotted Machikaji in the Makishi Market~~ see if you can find it with a few other traditional Okinawan treats!

Interested in more traditional Okinawan and Ryukuan sweets? Read more:

Tougatsuke: 冬瓜漬

Kippan: きっぱん (橘餅)

Okinawa Sweets: 沖縄のお菓子

Fuchagi: フチャギ (more Okinawa mochi!)

Okinawa mochi, pt.3: Nantou ナントゥー餅

Sangwachi gwashi: 三月菓子

Chiirunkou: ちいるんこう (鶏卵糕)

Kunpen: くんぺん

More on Ryukyu Sweets

Chinsukou: ちんすこう

Butcher Shops in Okinawa: 精肉店

精肉店 seinikuten: butcher shop

I personally do not eat meats, but my husband does, and many people I know do. So I am putting together a list of butcher shops that I am familiar with for ease-of-use (I will add some more over time as I hear about them and confirm that they are open). At these places, you can order just about anything– special cuts, intestines, etc, with much more variety over the regular grocery stores. Meat from pork, beef, chicken, as well as lamb, goat, duck, and horse are usually available (though places may vary with selection, you can usually make special requests to the butcher and they will help you out). Many of these places even have a small following of foreign customers so even if they don’t speak much English, they have a system in place to help you. I also have some charts showing the names of cuts of meats in Japanese… I will find them and post them here as well.

Check Japanese meat vocabulary here so you know what to look for: Meat

Until I create map links in GoogleMaps, just copy and past the addresses (or phone numbers) from the list into your maps program of your choice.


Shimabukuro Seinikuten


Higa Seinikuten


Ishikawa Meat

Miyagi Meat

Nakanishi Shoten
沖縄県 うるま市 字昆布916-1


Chuo Meat


Marutake Meat


Uehara Seinikuten

Looking for more? Here is a link to a site in Japanese (use Google Chrome if needed) for butchers and seafood stores in various areas of Okinawa, you can click on your area to see a list with addresses and map links:

Special Note #1: if you are looking for something non-local, Ivano has a decent selection of imported frozen meats and some other items. There are several locations in the Naha area, here I have posted the Urasoe location. address:沖縄県浦添市字牧港1196 phone: 098-877-3605

Special Note #2: if you are looking for Halal meat, your best bet will be to check out Gyomu Super 業務スーパー, a grocery store chain with some frozen halal items.

Some Staples in the Okinawa Pantry

Well, maybe just “Japanese Pantry” in general, with a few Okinawan items thrown in the mix.

So I was thinking about shopping in the grocery stores here, and what we always keep on hand, and what new transplants to Okinawa might be curious about or want to use in recipes but are not sure what to look for. I guess it feel a bit odd, since everything we stock here is actually the same as what we always keep in stock in Hawai’i. There are some minor additions, but nothing particularly earth-shattering. But what is normal in Hawai’i is not necessarily what is normal to other Americans, or westerners in general. Coming from Hawai’i, the biggest change for me was just reading ingredients in another language (which can be intimidating in itself).

So I will start off very basic: I made a “welcome” goody bag for new family here in Okinawa when they moved into their house a little while back, and thought about what I should add; you know, nothing too crazy for the average American, but some things I simply wouldn’t be able to live without. So what did I give them? First I will mention that they are a bit health-conscious (somewhat similar to myself), so I checked into mostly additive-free, organic type of stuff for them. They also come from a different background and were not quite familiar with Japanese food and ingredients yet (but interested), so the very basics were necessary!

miso 味噌: I chose an additive-free, organic miso paste (Hikari brand). I chose a medium colored mixed miso; a good, solid in between the white miso (lighter taste) and the rich umami red miso (heavier taste). This choice makes it easy to use, very versatile and not so pungent that they will scare away from it. Hikari brand is a high quality miso with headquarters in Nagano.

shoyu 醤油: I chose another organic koikuchi shoyu, Yamasa brand. Yamasa is a decent choice, and personally, I prefer it over most of the Kikkoman shoyu. The price is right– one of the few reasonably priced choices for organic in the local supermarket. Again, a solid choice, and one that is easy to find and identify in the local super should they go looking for it.

brown rice vinegar 玄米酢: Next up was rice vinegar. There are so many choices, but I splurged on this buy… brown rice vinegar. It is a bit more than regular rice vinegar, but worth it for me.

goma oil ごま油: sesame oil is, no question, essential. The flavor is packed into even the smallest drop. I find the pure sesame (not mixed) is really the best… I mean, you probably keep the others in your cabinet anyway, so if you want to mix it just mix it yourself. The cheapest brands add vegetable or canola or something along those lines and the flavor is really lacking in them.

yuzukoshou 柚子胡椒: this was a bit random, but I knew they liked spicy things, and what better than a paste concocted of spicy green chiles fermented with salt and yuzu! It gives a great kick to foods, a little spicy and citrusy. I love having this stuff around.

Japanese soba noodles (dried) 日本蕎麦: I bought a middle-of-the-road dried buckwheat noodles (made in the mainland). I added this as a “healthy” treat, to give a little variety and hopefully introduce them to the beauty of traditional Japanese noodles.

These items made up the basic “care package.” Now obviously there are a lot of other things that I would add to this list as being “essential.” Again, I just chose a few very basic items that I thought an Average American Family could actually use and enjoy from my local grocery (and nothing too weird that they would not know how to use!).

Some other ingredients that I maintain are essential but did not make it into their care package:

koregusu コーレーグース: in Hawai’i, this is equivalent to chili water. I wrote about this in another post.

mirin みりん: rice wine for cooking. Careful here, many of these contain different types of sweeteners, so if you are picky, read the ingredients. It is not uncommon to find HFCS. I usually stick with 本みりん (but this is more expensive). Many people don’t care that much, and some even say the cheaper ones taste is the same, so take it as you will. I probably agree the taste is about the same (doubtful that I could do a blind taste test), but I prefer to avoid HFCS when possible, so I usually suck it up and pay the higher price.

fu 麩: wheat gluten. Used in lots of things here in Okinawa, miso soup and stir-fries especially. I also wrote a post on this.

dashi だし: fish broth, or it can also come in the form of konbu (seaweed) broth. Fish is probably much more common, but there are ones made with just seaweed, making it vegetarian-friendly.

furikake ふりかけ: furikake is just like magic little dust you sprinkle on rice (onigiri or whatever really). Ever heard of furikake chex mix? It’s awesome, as probably every single person from Hawai’i will tell you. Just ask them, but be careful, it is addicting.

Okinawa brown sugar 黒糖: Okay, yeah, it is just sugar. But it is seriously good stuff. While we have other sugar, I always prefer using this when I can.

rice 米: we usually have some of every type of rice; polished/white, brown, purple, as well as the mix-ins like mochikibi. What cabinet would be complete without these?

kewpie mayo マヨ: a brand of Japanese mayo. It tastes different. It’s good. I know… MSG. But I cannot live without it.

Tonkatsu sauce とんかつソース: also you may hear this called Bulldog sauce (Bulldog is a famous brand). I actually buy Ikari brand though. I will admit, I use this more than I should. But again, it is addicting. Sometimes I even use it if I run out of yakisoba sauce or okonomi sauce.

shikwasa juice: this is like lemon juice, but shikwasa (Okinawa lime-citrus). Just buy 100% shikwasa juice and substitute for lemon juice in recipes. Obviously you can find lemon juice here (Don Quijote actually has a great price for a large bottle of it), but it is nice to keep it local when you can. Also it makes for a great addition to homemade ponzu sauce!

goma (sesame) dressing ごまドレッシング: creamy sesame dressing is a must for most Americans. I am a bit indifferent to it, my husband likes it so we have it in the fridge. I hear many Americans send it to family and friends back home as presents.

shichimi 七味: 7-spice, used to kick dishes up a notch in spiciness.

ra-yu ラー油: chili and garlic oil.

Anyway, I will add some pictures to each section later, but this is a quick peek into some of the things you should keep on hand in the pantry for living and eating in Okinawa. With these, I can pretty much make anything in addition to whatever fresh ingredients I buy. I am sure I have forgotten a bunch of items and I will come back later and add in more.


Kouign Croissant Bakery: クロワッサンの屋クイニー

クロワッサン kurowassan: croissant

In my small adventures around the island, I found this croissant shop. Yes, a shop specifically for croissant on Okinawa. How strange, yet intriguing. So I must stop in. It is called Kouign croissant shop.

And amazing they were. So buttery, so flakey… and so many types to choose from, savory and sweet! I actually chose the simple plain croissant for my first try. My mouth rejoiced and I realized I would return there very soon to pick up more croissants. Okinawa surprises me every day; who would have thought such a lovely croissant existed here? Sure there are many pan-ya (bread shops), but this was a speciality item.

The shop is small, but it was busy. There were a few people ahead of me with very large orders to go. Luckily, there is actual a decent amount of parking in the lot next to the shop. Also, how cute is their logo? I love the little sheep with croissant horns.

address: 1 Chome-187-8 Shurisueyoshichō, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 903-0801

Wasanbon, sweets to go with tea: 和三盆

千菓子 higashi: dry wagashi, dry sweets (no or little moisture so they stay good longer). This is the generic term, which can include a few different types (including rakugan 落雁 used for Obon offerings). These are the opposite of namagashi which are made fresh and have a lot of moisture content.

和三盆 wasanbon: a type of Japanese fine grain sugar used to make wagashi. This term is also used for the small sugary shapes that are served with tea melt in your mouth.

I visited a shop here in Naha called 知念製菓 和菓子 四季彩 Chinenseika Wagashi Shikisai. The kanji 製菓 seika means confectionary, and 和菓子 wagashi means Japanese sweets. I wanted to pick out some cute confections to serve with tea sometime. The shapes and colors are often seasonal, with a few year-round standbys. These sweets are basically just pure sugar with some added color, contrasting perfectly with the bitterness in tea. If you buy them individually, each little sweet is 70yen at this shop (though if you buy a bag of the same shapes, you save money on the per piece price). I like variety and did not need many, so I chose a few individually that I liked.


address: 〒903-0804沖縄県那覇市首里石嶺町2-260-1

Tougatsuke: 冬瓜漬

冬瓜漬: tougatsuke, tougadzuke. The first 2 kanji are 冬瓜 tougan, which is “winter melon” in English. The last kanji is 漬 (usually ‘tsuke’) meaning “pickle” or “preserve.” So the meaning of this term is something like pickled/preserved winter melon.

Tougan is also known as shibui しぶい in Okinawan language. It is a very hearty and cheap vegetable here in Okinawa. The word winter melon is sort of funny, because it is actually harvested in summer, but it is easy to store these and they will last all winter, so hence winter melon.

Anyway,  I recently visited the Jahana Kippan Shop 謝花きっぱん店 in Naha. These shop is the only shop that still makes 2 very famous Ryukuan sweets called kippan and tougatsuke. During the Ryukyu kingdom era, these sweets were enjoyed by the emperor and high ranking nobles as delicacies, one of the 16 types of special fruits and desserts served in the Royal Court. This shop has amazing quality sweets, everything I sampled was so good; since I am a student, my budget was the “imperfect” pieces that they sold in small bags instead of the beautiful perfectly shaped ones.

To make tougatsuke, the juiciest flesh from tougan is used, as well as Okinawan sugarcane. There are no preservatives or artificial flavors here, just natural food made in the same style as the Ryukyu kingdom era. It is amazing that a simple tougan is turned into this sweet concoction! They recommend keeping it chilled, slicing thin pieces, and serving with tea or dessert wine. It is hard to describe the exact flavor– it was very sweet, and a little juicy, sort of melts in your mouth. An excellent pairing with some green tea.

Update: I later purchased the shiqwasa flavored tougatsuke and it is also delicious. I sampled the Okinawan sugarcane rum flavor in the store as well, and it was nice with a hint of rummy flavor.

Address:Okinawa, Naha, Matsuo 1-5-14

Tofuyo: 豆腐よう

豆腐よう: Tofuyo (toufuyou).

This is a fermented specialty food of the Ryukyu kingdom, enjoyed only by emperor’s family and few privileged nobles during the Ryukyu kingdom era.

It is intense and delicate, all at the same time. Creamy, and a bit pungent, sort of like a fancy European cheese, this is not to be missed while in Okinawa! Tofuyo is dried shima-doufu, marinated and fermented in red kouji and awamori (Okinawa liquor).

Perhaps to a westerner, it does not sound appetizing, but I promise it is! When I first heard about it, I actually pictured something closer to “stinky tofu” of Taiwan, and felt a little timid about trying it, but it is much different! The smell is quite pleasant, a little bit alcoholic, and the texture really is reminiscent of a creamy cheese. The taste can be a bit intense, but it is not overwhelming.

These days tofuyo can be purchased in just about any grocery store in Okinawa. Recently I visited one of the fancier producers in Naha, Tatsu-no-kura 龍の蔵. I was able to sample a bit of everything… and it was amazing. A delicacy indeed, though a bit expensive… this is a special occasion food.

It has come to my attention that Tatsu-no-kura has a store and awamori/fermentation limestone cave up North near Kin kannon-ji (temple). There are 2 parts of the cave system, one for the temple (free) and one for the shop (entrance fee), so don’t get then confused! Go to the store in Kin to pay and join a tour… it is fun!


Naha address for Tatsu-no-kura 龍の蔵: 〒900-0014 Okinawa-ken, Naha-shi, Matsuo, 1 Chome 1-9-47

address for Kin Limestone Cave 金武鍾乳洞:

Kin address for Tatsu-no-kura (to visit cave):

Boulangerie a Tete: ブーランジェリー・ア・テット

In Okinawa, there are so many パン屋 pan-ya (bakeries)… and I have found another nice one, this time located in Urasoe called Boulangerie a tete.

The reason why I mention this one is the coconut tart. So good. Flakey tart, baked coconut custard filling, topped with extra coconut. I got a few things to sample, but this was definitely number one.

They had a few of the standards for a Japanese bakery, but some more unique items to the shop. They also labelled many things as to what country of origin the recipe was from (so there was a mix of German, French, Italian). Also another bonus for many people is that one of the bakers spoke English, and even offered assistance right away as everything was labelled in Japanese. While not an issue for me, I can see that this would be very useful for many people.

There are 2 parking spaces on the side of the store in a large parking area.

address: 沖縄県浦添市伊祖2-30-11

Wine in Okinawa: ワイン

No doubt, Orion beer is the drink of choice in Okinawa. And on a nice evening, it does hit the spot. But to be honest I enjoy (and possibly prefer) wine.

Wine is slowly gaining some popularity in Japan and Okinawa, but options are still pretty limited most of the time. Most grocery/food stores (such as SanA, Aeon, Ryubo, Big1, Direx, etc.) will carry some small amount of wine (usually not very good, but sometimes you get lucky), and there are a few liquor stores and wine shops around (though most seem to be in Naha). Here I will list some of the more notable places to check out (there are others that I have not visited or have not been particularly impressed with that are not on this list).

CENTRAL AREA: The Aeon Mall Rycom in Kitanakagusuku has a very good selection near the grocery store. Kaldi Coffee (located in most malls here) have a smaller, but still pretty good selection that often rotates varieties. The Plaza House Shopping Center in Kadena area has a store on the first floor with an acceptable selection as well. There is a small wine shop in American Village (cannot remember the name), but usually it is too inconvenient for me to visit that area. For me, the closest place is the Nishihara City SanA; they have recently added a small “fancy foods” section behind the bakery area which has a few new nice wines for reasonable prices (small selection though).

SOUTH AREA: Cote D’or has 4 shops located throughout Naha; they tend to have some pricier stuff, but definitely a nice place to check out when you are in the area. Another favorite for me is Smile Sake 酒のスマイル near the airport; they have a lot of different types of wine and alcohol. The Ryubo Department store has an extensive wine section in the Basement food floor. The other Ryubo grocery stores that have been remodeled into fancier stores also tend to have a pretty solid selection of wine (the ones I know of are located in Urasoe Barclay’s Court, Shintoshin, and Tomigusuku by the Ashibinaa Outlets).

The BEST time to get good wine (and often good deals) is during grocery/department store events! The Ryubo department store in Naha has an Italian fair once a year– with an extensive wine selection that you can sample before buying. We ended up with a “value box” of 6 various Italian wines for 10.000円 (~100USD), each of them very good. I am already looking forward to the next event. It is definitely key for any “wine lover” in Okinawa to keep their eyes out for these specialty events that are set up in Ryubo, SanA, and AEON stores!

If you want to take a gamble, check out “wine lotto” (usually held around New Years).

Some words to look for on Japanese wine labels:

ワイン “wain”: wine
赤 “aka”: red
白 “shiro”: white
甘口 “ama kuchi”: sweet
辛口 “kara kuchi”: dry
やや “yaya”: somewhat

Typically, the sweet to dry will look like this on wine labels:
extra sweet → very sweet → sweet → medium sweet  → medium dry → dry → very dry → extra dry

-産 “san”: where the wine comes from **This will probably be in the language of origin on the bottle UNLESS it is covered up with a 日本語 label pasted over it!

日本 Japan
フランス France
スパイン Spain
イタリア Italy
チリ Chile
アルゼンチン Argentina
オーストラリア Australia
南アフリカ South Africa
カリフォルニア州: California

Miso chiffon cake, Yume Koubou: 菊みそ加工所夢工房

Today was full of adventure. One reason was Kiku Miso Dream Factory 菊みそ夢工房 in Yaese. This place makes homemade miso… and chiffon cakes!

I read about this place on a Japanese-Okinawa news site. It talked about tasty fluffy chiffon cakes, and the number one seller was made with miso. Well, who can pass that up?! Not me! So I made plan to explore some places nearby and drag my husband there (and it worked!). After a nice veggie lunch, we made it to Kiku Miso Yume Koubou. It was in a pretty quiet area, nice rural surroundings. Inside was clean and cute. There were many types of chiffon cakes (whole and sliced), but my objective was miso flavor. My husband chose coffee flavor. They also sold homemade miso (among some other products) for a very reasonable price, and since we were almost out at home, we decided to pick some up as well.

Anyway, we went to a nearby park and devoured our cakes with some tea. So fluffy and delicious! Seriously, so fluffy! Success.

address: 菊みそ加工所夢工房

254 Tōme, Yaese-chō, Shimajiri-gun, Okinawa-ken 901-0414

Kinjo bakery: 金城ベーカリー

Buffets in Japan are often called “viking” バイキング (baikingu). Tabehoudai 食べ放題 means “all you can eat.”

Kinjo bakery in Shuri has a savory and sweet bread buffet, during morning and lunch/cafe times. It is really pretty good, and the price is not too bad either, especially if you bring your appetite (adults are 648 yen in the morning and 810 yen at lunch, cheaper for kids). You can stay for 2 hours, and there is self-serve coffee, tea, and juice. But it is total carb and sugar overload!

I only stayed for probably 45 minutes, just to get out of my office during lunch break, and nibbled on some breads, but even if I did not take full advantage I was happy with the price and everything was tasty (though I definitely had 800 yen worth of bread and tea). There were so many choices, and the staff kept bringing out more stuff. Next time I will need to bring my laptop and some study stuff, and use up my 2 hours. There were some small groups of people eating, as well as a few one individuals like myself, also students looking for a good bargain. I should have taken more pictures, the selection was overwhelming!

address: 沖縄県那覇市首里赤平町2-51-3

Cute panda face bread


Famous “No” Manjuu in Shuri: のー饅頭

The の “no” character is short for “noshi” のし or 熨斗,  which is a ceremonial origami fold used to express good wishes or good fortune, usually attached to gifts. It is seen at any kind of celebration like a wedding, new baby, New Years, housewarming… people give gifts or money envelopes with this decoration on it. 

ぎぼまんじゅう Gibo Manjuu in Shuri sells special manjuu まんじゅう (steamed buns) with the no character painted in red, known as no-manjuu のー饅頭. The manjuu are only 150yen and come out piping hot, enormous and packed with subtly sweet red bean paste. They are wrapped in sannin サンニン (also known as gettou 月桃 in Japanese or shell ginger in English) leaves, so you have the slight fragrance reminiscent of Ryukyu sweets. It is delicious and absolutely filling. It is highly recommended to visit and try these manjuu!

Although the shop is currently located at Kubagawa in the Shuri area, it was originally by the Seikou temple in Gibo (another area of Shuri), so the name is Gibo Manjuu since the business is over a century old. The number of manjuu sold each day is limited, so be sure to go early!

address: 〒903-0807 沖縄県那覇市首里久場川町2丁目109


Mizu manjuu: 水まんじゅう

水まんじゅう mizu manjuu literally translates to “water dumpling.” Sometimes they are also called “kuzu manjuu” くずまんじゅう.

Mizu manjuu are a popular summer time treat because they are served chilled. The outside is made from kuzu starch (arrowroot 葛) which gives it the translucent effect. The inside filling which you can see through the outer layer is either azuki paste or a fruit-jelly paste with white bean. The taste is so refreshing, perfect to balance the hot summer days. And the outer appearance is so cute and delicate.

The ones in my first picture are matcha 抹茶 and raspberry ラズベリー. The second picture is shikwasa シークワーサー flavor. The third picture is a really creamy and tangy sour cream flavor, no bean paste used.

In Okinawa, you can find these at Shirobara confectionary (白バラ洋菓子) which has a few locations throughout Okinawan main island. Just copy and paste into Google Maps to find the closest to you. I have also seen a few at SanA grocery store during summer.




Dessert Labo Chocolat: デザートラボショコラ

Dessert Labo Chocolat is a patisserie in Shuri. They have many gift biscuits, cookies, meringues, macarons, etc., as well as many types of whole and cut cakes. The reason for my visit was to have an afternoon cake and tea set: for 750円 you can choose any cut cake/pastry in the display case and (ice/hot) tea/coffee/juice. There were so many choices, it was very difficult to choose, but I ended up with a raspberry tiramisu, as well as 2 macarons, with an iced tea. There were tables both inside and out, but since it was a lovely day, I chose to relax outside on the patio, which surprisingly had a rather nice view. Overall, it was quite delightful, and if you happen to be craving something a little sweet and relaxing in the Shuri area, I recommend you drop by.

address: 〒903-0815 沖縄県那覇市首里金城町4-70-4

Lawson Conbini: MACHI cafe

In Okinawa, as summer approaches, the mornings are getting much warmer and the desire for an iced cafe latte grows stronger. Starbucks is too expensive, so where is the best deal for an iced coffee drink? Lawson conbini!

コンビニ conbini (or konbini) means convenience store. Lawson is a major chain of conbini  throughout Japan. Conbini in Japan are amazing, and nothing like what you see stateside! But I will not get into all those details now. Right now, I will focus on Lawson’s machi cafe line.

Inside every Lawson, you can order several types of coffee drinks from the counter. My favorite during summer, of course, is an iced cafe latte アイスカフェラテ. I have tried iced cafe lattes all around the island, but I have found that the best priced (and consistently good tasting) one is at Lawson conbini, for a mere 150円. Comparing this to Starbucks which is usually more than 300円, I would say this is much more reasonable. FamilyMart, another large country-wide conbini chain, has iced cafe lattes for 180円, a little bit more than Lawson (but, also pretty darn good). In Okinawa, there is the occasional Tully’s (but they are not very common) and a scant few other chains with only one location about (Saint Marc ChocoCro, Doutor, Key Coffee), but they are so few and far between that I am rarely anywhere near them.  There is the Climax Coffee chain, located on the other side of the island from me, similar to a Starbucks (similar price, too). There are several small independent shops which also have cafe lattes, but they tend to be fairly expensive, so while very good quality… simply not an everyday drink.

So when it comes down to affordability, taste and convenience for an iced cafe latte, Lawson wins.

Plus for you those of you who desire less caffeine… they just released a 97% caffeine cut series (basically, decaf) as of May 2017! This is great news for my husband, who can now enjoy an iced latte in the afternoon without worrying about caffeine.

Japanese coffee vocabulary: the best part is that it is almost always katakana!

コーヒー   ko-hi   coffee
珈琲   ko-hi-   coffee (the kanji is based on the sounds not the meaning)

ブレンド   burendo   blend
アイス   aisu   iced
フローズン   furo-zun   frozen 
ホット   hotto   hot

カフェラテ   kafe rate   cafe latte
カフェモカ   kafe moka   cafe mocha
抹茶ラテ   maccha rate   matcha (green tea) latte
ロイヤルミルクティー roiyaru miruku ti-   royal milk tea
ココア   kokoa   cocoa
アールグレイティー   a-rugurei ti- Earl Grey tea

砂糖 satou sugar
砂糖なし** satou nashi: without sugar 
クリーム kuri-mu cream 
シロップ shiroppu sugar in syrup (liquid) form

**なし nashi means "without"-- a very useful word!!

Okay, now this part may seem a little silly, but how do you order a machi cafe at Lawson if you don’t really know any Japanese? Let me help; just keep in mind there are often variations in speech patterns, so depending on your clerk, they may use different phrasing, as well as formal or casual speech.

First, before you approach the register, decide what you want from the menu (okay, maybe that is obvious). I get a latte, so let’s practice using that as an example.

ホットカフェラテ、おねがい(します)。hotto kafe rate, onegai (shimasu).

Hot cafe latte, please.

If I want it iced, I used アイス “aisu” instead of ホット “hotto.” Yes, seriously, we use Japanese English in this case.

The clerk will than ask what size if what you are ordering comes in 2 sizes. Sometimes I say the size when I order, but often times they will ask it again to confirm anyway. The shortest and most casual way they say this is as follows. Sometimes they will say it formally, but just listen for keywords.

サイズは?  saizu wa?   What size?

In which you reply:

Lサイズです。  eru saizu desu.     L size.


Mサイズです。  emu saizu desu.     M size.

At this point, they are probably ringing up your total. At some locations, the coffee pickup counter is to the side, so they will say something like:

となりのカウンターお待ちください tonari no kauntaa omachi kudasai.   Please wait at the next counter.

Keep in mind there are many variations on this. The key word here is “machi” 待ち or “matte” 待って, meaning “waiting” or “to wait.”  The other keyword is “kauntaa” which is “counter.”

Some places will ask how many sugars you will want either while they are ringing you up or while you are waiting for the machine to make you coffee. Listen for:

砂糖はいくつ(入れますか)? satou ha ikutsu (iremasuka)?   How many sugars (do you put in)?

Keyword here is “satou” which is “sugar.”

Your response:

なしで。 nashi de.   None.

一個。 ikko.  One.

二個。niko.   Two.

三個。sanko.   Three.

Sometimes they do not ask about sugar and it is self-serve. In this case this will point to the little bin with sugars and stirrers and the like as they hand you your coffee (it will be obvious). They will instead say something like:

砂糖、どうぞ。 satou, douzo.    Please help yourself to sugar.

When they hand you your coffee they often (but not always) say:

お待たせいたしました。omataseitashimashita.   Thank you for waiting.

At this point when you receive your coffee you can respond with a casual “doumo,” or if you feel like “arigatou” or “doumo arigatou,” etc.

Again, keep in mind there are so many variations, and in order to not confuse you, I just put down some basics and keywords to listen for so your transaction can go smoothly! These are the “bite-sized” phrases to simply get you through the process. I like to remind people that in Okinawa, speaking informally is a bit more the norm; besides this, many people appreciate your effort in speaking even just a little Japanese as a foreigner, so worrying about formal/casual language is not nearly so important as many people make it out to be.