Moon Beach Luau: ムーンビーチルアウ

It’s almost that time of year again… time for the annual Hotel Moon Beach resort Hawaiian luau.

“Luau” is spelled in katakana as ルアウ.

This is a huge event, with halau from all over Okinawa coming to perform on stage to live music at the Hotel Moon Beach resort in Onna-son. It is over 2 days, the first Saturday and Sunday in July. Often times, this coincides with 4th of July weekend for Americans.

Last year the military people cancelled all the fireworks at their bases, so Moon Beach was the ONLY place for Americans looking for a fireworks show on the holiday weekend. It usually is not a long show, maybe about ~10-15 minutes, but better than nothing I suppose!

My halau participates every year on one of the days. It is a busy time, but a lot of fun. I don’t have time to do any of the activities like catching fish with nets the traditional way or lei-making or ukulele experience though since we are busy preparing all day. I think the best part of the luau day is the sunset/evening hula on the beach, it is so gorgeous. Well, and my group always performs on the evening stage, so maybe I am biased. Most guests bring blankets and snacks (and likely beers), just enjoying the music and dancing with the ocean as a backdrop.

All the dancers are dressed up in beautiful costumes with flowers and leis, it feels so exciting. Often time we are asked for pictures. An Australian wanted pictures with some of my stunningly beautiful hula friends, but they do not speak English and he didn’t speak Japanese. Lucky for him I was there, he was so surprised to see me and hear me speak English I think. After that, I think my value increased in the group as someone who could communicate with the foreign tourists (lol).

Anyway, if you are in Okinawa the first weekend of July and want some Hawaiian vibes, be sure to check out this free event at Moon Beach resort.

(pictures coming soon).

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 is not really the Hawai’i of Japan

Yes, Okinawa is a SUBTROPICAL island– not tropical, a common misconception. To be brutally honest, it is not the picturesque and beautiful weather that you get in Hawai’i. It sort of grinds my gears when people say, “Oh, Okinawa is just like Hawai’i, right?!” Because quite frankly, the answer is no.

I love Okinawa, do not get me wrong. It has its own sort of beauty and I really enjoy my life here. But it is not Hawai’i. Nor is the weather anything like Hawai’i. Where Hawai’i has mild, pleasant, cooling trade winds, Okinawa is either: a) stagnant in summer or b) freaking cold northern winds gusting in winter. And it gets COLD in winter, especially when that northern wind blows. Okinawa has a winter, like cold-I-need-a-parka winter, while the summers are sweltering and humid (I am often grateful for a/c here). I in fact own and use a kotatsu こたつ (Japanese heated table with blanket) throughout the winter season; granted there are people who would call me a wuss, and they wear shorts, tshirts, and slippahs year-round here, but those people grew up somewhere in the sub-arctic as far as I can tell. Hawai’i is basically the same temperature (+/- a few degrees Celsius) year round. In Hawai’i, swimming and beach activities are all year, too. Okinawa, only during summer months are beach or water activities plausible (without some sort of thick wetsuit!).

Tropical fruit is abundant in Hawai’i. Okinawa has many fruits, but… again… different, and not usually abundant or cheap. And as a reminder: there are almost no coconut trees in Okinawa, because it is subtropical not tropical the weather gets quite cold, not to mention the strong typhoons that knock down any tall trees, coconut trees cannot grow properly (except at the fancy resort areas where they put a lot of money into keeping them alive). The only coconuts are imported from the Philippines, and they usually are expensive and not very good quality. Coconut also just is not part of the Okinawan diet, so it is uncommon to see them anywhere for a reasonable price. Sure, Kokusaidori and Okinawa world sell coconut juice for an absurd amount of yen.. just don’t expect to see coconuts lining the roads.

Hawai’i has absolutely stunning scenery (well, if you get out of Waikiki, that is…). Okinawa has some, but somehow… maybe I am biased, but it is not quite the same. It is a different beauty here, and I can appreciate that, especially once you get out of the concrete jungles that make up the cities. Visiting places like Miyako-jima, Kume-jima, and some of the quieter outer islands are really amazing, and quite beautiful. But it is certainly not Hawai’i, so please stop trying to compare it. I love both sets of islands, Okinawa and Hawai’i, but for very different reasons. The scenes you see in Okinawa are a completely different gorgeous set of scenes than you see in Hawai’i.

I feel like people always try to push that Okinawa is a tropical sort of paradise, but I guess these same people have never experienced a true tropical island. Okinawa is certainly a subtropical climate, but it does not quite make it to “tropical beauty.” Okinawa has many redeeming qualities that Hawai’i does not have though: we can get fresh lettuce here that does not cost a fortune, there are soooo many restaurants in Okinawa (and cheap), conbini are EVERYWHERE, vending machines are EVERYWHERE, green tea is always available, you can ferry to other islands… and probably many other things I cannot come up with right now.

Both places have a relaxed island attitude, so it is okay to be on “island time” and people tend to be friendlier than the mainland in both cases. I am so lucky to have found many lovely people here in Okinawa, while dancing hula and teaching Eikaiwa.

Anyhow, that is my obligatory Hawai’i-and-Okinawa-are-not-the-same rant.