Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book cafe&hall ゆかるひ: Making “oyaki”

oyaki おやき: a style of dumplings from Nagano prefecture

I went to a workshop organized by a company called “Table Watch”— to learn how to make dumplings from an Okinawan obaachan, Yaka-san. Oyaki is a traditional Nagano food.

The Book cafe&hall Yukaruhi is located on the 3rd floor of the Yaka Building in Naha (Yaka-san’s family owns the building, hence the name Yaka Building). There is a big sign in front that says “Vegan OK!” Nice. Inside, it is part crafts workshop, part cafe, part music hall… there are many aspects to this place.

Anyway, I registered with Ayako-san the workshop coordinator for Table Watch, received my name tag and hair net, along with the other attendees (both Japanese and American).

Yaka-san started us off with explaining about oyaki and showing us pictures of different fillings, as well as the more traditional cooking methods in ashes. Then she sang us a special song she wrote about oyaki for the class. It was awesome, and explained the oyaki-making process. She was born and raised in Okinawa, but when she got married moved with her husband to Nagano. She recently returned to open the cafe here in Okinawa.

Then we got to start making our own dough. Just flour, lukewarm water, baking powder, and sugar, mixed and kneaded until the texture was “like a baby’s cheek” (赤ちゃんのほっぺ!). Next the dough has to rest.

For the fillings, we used 3 different types: nozawana (pickled greens) with spicy red pepper added, shiri-shiri kabocha (grated pumpkin sautéed with red miso), and zucchini slices sandwiched with sweet light miso. All 3 were delicious. She taught us the basic techniques for the fillings and let us sample.

Next we divided out the dough, and learned how to make the shape… it is kinda like when you stretch out a pizza dough except you want to keep the center part fat and make it thin around the edges. Add the filling and then wrap the edges up (similar technique to making nikuman or other Chinese dumplings). From here they were flipped over (so pinched side on the bottom), put onto a small square of parchment paper, and steamed for about 10-15 minutes. You can also fry and then steam or just bake if you so desire.

Once we were finished, we got to relax and eat our oyaki with some black bean tea and sobagaki. Sobagaki is another regional dish made form soba flour mixed with hot water and stirred in a bowl, until it becomes a mashed-potato-like dough ball. The dough is then torn into bite-sized pieces and dipped in a sauce, like shoyu or spicy pepper dressing. It kinda reminded me a little of poi, a little sticky and chewy. Everything was delicious and I really enjoyed myself. Yaka-san was so cute and friendly.

Anyway, the cafe is open during the day Thursday through Monday, so be sure to stop in for a delicious oyaki snack sometime! She also serves some meat things and cafe drinks as well as the vegan oyaki. I also recommend trying a workshop organized by the Table Watch company!

pictures on imgur: https://imgur.com/a/KKzT6

address for cafe, open Thurs-Mon 11am-7pm: https://goo.gl/maps/Rgx4vu8bpL72

Oyaki recipe: this is mostly just for the skin, the filling is sort of up to you but I include some ideas!

Makes 10 oyaki skins:

-300 g of Chuurikiko 中力粉: medium strength flour used for udon making (about 9% protein strength)

-1 teaspoon baking powder

-2.5 teaspoon granulated sugar

-180 cc warm water

Mix together the ingredients with chopsticks until it becomes more dough-like then knead like bread, with a little extra flour to keep from sticking, until springy (Japanese like to say “until it is the texture of a baby cheek”). Let it rest for awhile, at least 30 minutes so it gets elasticity.

Prepare your filling, whatever you want (seriously anything), just can’t be too wet as excess water causes the oyaki skin to crack as it cooks!

In our workshop we had 3 different fillings: 1) nozawana 野沢菜, a type of pickled greens from Nagano which is easy to find in Japan grocery stores… spinach or something could also be good, just be sure to squeeze the water before filling the dumpling skin with the cooked spinach. 2) We also used shredded kabocha sautéed with red miso. 3) zucchini cut in 2cm round, then sliced not quite in a half, stuffed with sweet light miso like a sandwich. **Basically, anything goes, just nothing with too much water.

Divide the dough into pieces, then shape into a ball shape. Stretch it out slowly from the sides kinda like when making a pizza dough, keeping the middle a little fat (keeps the skin from breaking while steaming), and thinner on the sides. In the middle add your filling and then wrap the sides up like a little package, pinching in the middle to close it. Yaka-san said don’t worry too much about the shape of the oyaki, if it is rounder or flatter– it shows your personality, apparently. Put them onto a small piece of parchment paper in a steamer basket (if you are steaming them).

Steam 10-15 minutes. OR pan-fry for 3 minutes each side and then steam OR just bake them. In the workshop we steamed them, and this would be the healthiest option.

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.


Kusatsu onsen: Food

While on a trip to Kusatsu onsen, I encountered quite a few tasty foods, so here is a look below at a few of the things I ate, in no particular order.

ぬれおかき nureokaki: The best way to describe this is a grilled rice cracker skewer, with some seasonings/toppings. My husband got the spicy one and I got one with black pepper and mayo. They were really good, but the spicy one was way too spicy. My husband likes spicy food but even he said the spice was too overpowering.


饅頭 manjuu: like any good onsen town, there is a ton of manjuu around. I enjoyed the karintou manjuu (crunchy manjuu) the best, but there are a few types to try out here. The outside of the manjuu is a little crispy and the inside is smooth bean paste.

揚げまんじゅう age-manjuu: so this is manjuu… deep-fried. Oh my. The taste was good, but definitely felt a bit unhealthy! I would limit how many of these you eat, but definitely try at least one.

温泉卵 onsen tamago: eggs soft-boiled in onsen water. When you crack it open into a bowl, the are soft and creamy, cooked to perfection. Usually they have a little shoyu or sauce to add to it, and you just eat it with a spoon. My husband is addicted to these.


温泉卵ソフト onsen egg soft-serve ice cream: okay, so this sounds kinda gross… egg flavored ice cream? But it really means like a creamy egg-y custard-pudding flavor, not boiled eggs flavor. It was really tasty, and I was really surprised at how good it was. I was initially a little apprehensive of the flavor name.


蕎麦 soba: When in mainland Japan, I pretty much always eat soba. Especially whenever I am in mountainous or onsen areas. Soba here was pretty good, so I was not disappointed. We specifically ate at Mikuni-ya 三國家, which had a long line, but it was worth it. So if you want to eat here during the busy season, be sure to arrive early! They had a special plate of soba for 2-3 servings, then you can order your dipping soup and tempura separately. This is probably good for families or very hungry couples, but we each ended up ordering our own individual servings since we knew we would not be able to finish that much food. Plus for 2 people it is probably a bit cheaper to just order individually anyway.


舞茸天ぷら maitake tenpura: maitake is a type of mushroom, the name actual means “dancing mushroom” and is supposed to be pretty healthy for you. Made into tempura it is delicious (but probably not as healthy). I ate it with my soba.


せんべい senbei: some fancy rice crackers were sold; this one was shoyu-negi flavor (soy sauce and green onion). It was a large cracker with a rather sweet chewy outside.


甘納豆 Amanatto: a kind of sweetened beans, which does not bear fruit below 700 meters above sea level. First the beans are dried, then put into water and finally they are cooked in sugar.

Let’s not forget the beer and drinks.

Cider, two types: 湯けむりサイダー Yu-kemuri (not pictured) and 大滝乃湯サイダー Otaki-no-yu (pictured): Awful. Also remember cider in Japan refers to soda pop, not apples or alcohol. I do not recommend unless you really like sweet sugary drinks. It is made with natural water form the onsen area or something.


軽井沢ビール Karuizawa beer: Turns out this area is close to Kusatsu, so many of the beers were available. I have seen 1 or 2 of these in Okinawa, but here I saw so many different types.


草津温泉物語 Kusatsu onsen monogatari beer: We saw 3 different types with this label. We tried them all and enjoyed each one. The price for them was also not too unreasonable, ~500yen.

Special mention: While in Ueno, I could not resist getting a donut from Shiretoko donuts. It is a “wasshoi” festival panda. “Wasshoi” ワッショイ is chant used in Japanese festivals.



Miyama Shabu-shabu: 美山しゃぶしゃぶ

My husband wanted to try a shabu-shabu place for lunch. It is a chain from the mainland called Miyama Shabu-shabu. There is only 1 in Okinawa, located in the Haebaru Aeon Mall (southern part of the island).

They offer a cheap lunch course for 1000-something yen, though the menu has various combinations with varying degrees of price (things like beef, or all-you-can-eat meat). The cheap lunch course though, comes with 2 trays of (imported) pork, thinly sliced with 8 slices per tray; since I don’t eat pork this means my husband will get 4 trays. The lunch course comes with all-you-eat eat vegetables, noodles, rice, pickles, etc. For one half of the pot you also choose 1 of the 4 types of soup for cooking (the other half you get a default basic water with konbu in it); we went with the Korean-style “spicy” which was not really that spicy at all. For an additional 250yen you can also get the soft drink bar. As a fair warning, the menu is all in Japanese but there are some pictures which might help.

Anyway, we got seated and ordered without any difficulty. Luckily we were seated in a back corner so no one could stare at my husband while he ate all the meat and I just stuck the veggies. At the table were ponzu ポン酢 (shoyu+citrus) and goma-dare ごまだれ (sesame dipping sauce). We were also given extra peppers and spicy sauce since we ordered the Korean-style broth. The veggies, noodle, rice, salad, etc. were all self-serve. It was all quite good, and I enjoyed a variety of noodles and veggies with my shabu-shabu. There were Okinawa soba noodles, udon noodles, cellophane (bean thread) noodles, and somen.

Even just eating veggies, noodles, salad, rice, and pickles I felt I got a decent deal. My husband said that 3 boxes would have been perfect and 4 was a little too many, but he ate (and enjoyed) it all anyway. So we both left happy, even though one of us doesn’t eat meat.

address: https://goo.gl/maps/VahHmS42mbC2

AnAn Yakiniku: 安安焼肉

焼肉: grilled meat

Yakiniku is popular; it is really just meat that you grill at a table in front of you. There are many of these restaurants here in Okinawa, ranging from cheap to high-end. Some are tabehoudai 食べ放題 (all you can eat) and some you buy by the plate. Yakiniku restaurants are considered “Korean food” here in Japan, but they are actually quite different from the real thing in Korea. That being said, it is still a fun experience. It is easy enough to do at home (and we do often enough in summer), but then you have to deal with the mess of cleaning it up.

One of the cheaper places is a chain called “AnAn” 安安. My husband and I affectionately refer to it has “cheap-cheap.” Why? Because the kanji 安 is used in many ways, and one of them is in the adjective”yasui” 安い which means “cheap.”

The motto of the store is:

安全 anzen: safety
安い yasui: cheap
安心 anshin: peace of mind

So really, I feel we are not so far-off the mark just calling it cheap-cheap. Anyway, it is a very reasonably priced yakiniku restaurant chain. No frills here. But that is okay, the menu varied enough. You won’t find any high-end cuts of meat here, but there is decent variety of pork, beef, chicken, liver, tongue, intestines, etc. I get all veggies, and there are quite a bit to choose from. There are also quite a few sides and appetizers, such as kimchi and edamame to choose from. The beers are also reasonably priced here even though there is no nomihoudai 飲み放題 plan (for alcohol, there is however, one for soft drinks).

There is a tablet at the table for ordering. You can even switch its language to English. I am sure the cleanliness may vary from location to location, but as for the AnAn above the Big1, next to the Makeman and across from HeartLife Hospital in Nishihara, it is quite nice and new. The window seats even offer a nice little view (partially of the ocean). I have heard people refer to this as “yakiniku for after heavy drinking” meaning they thought the quality was low, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case. While not super high quality, it is good quality for a reasonable price and I have no problem with that.

Overall, I would say this is a decent place for an evening of yakiniku that won’t break the bank.

To find the closest AnAn Yakiniku you, just copy and paste 安安 into GoogleMaps.


Japan’s Bull-Dog Sauce

Recently as I was browsing the bookstore, I came across a magazine that explained various Japanese “ways of life” for foreigners. Of course, the magazine was in Japanese, so I question exactly who this magazine was aimed at (after all, if you already speak Japanese, you are probably fairly aware of many aspects of the culture already). But anyway, I did see an interesting short article and chart explaining Bull-Dog sauce.

Now I am pretty familiar with the Bull-Dog brand sauce (as well as the various spin-off brands) and have long used it prior to moving to Japan. But what I found most interesting was the star chart that evaluated the characteristics for 6 different types of Bull-Dog brand sauces; sweetness, fruitiness, sourness, spice, and viscosity. After all, if you are new to Japan, and hear about this Bull-Dog sauce or maybe you had some at a restaurant and now you want to buy some for home, how do you choose which one to buy when you see these different sauces that all look basically the same?

First, let us start with what is this sauce? “Sauce” ソース in Japan refers to a thick brown, slightly sweet and fruity sauce with a bit of spice, somewhat similar to Worcestershire sauce but developed for Japanese tastes. A quote from the Bull-Dog sauce English webpage:

“The primary ingredients in Japanese sauce are vegetables and fruits, to which vinegar and many spices are blended. This had the effect of deepening the richness and increasing the appetite. Japanese tonkatsu sauce uses a lot of vegetables and fruits like tomatoes and apples, which make it a highly viscous sauce well suited for deep-fried foods, without getting them greasy or soggy.”

Okay, sounds good~~ but…

What is it used for? Well, almost anything, from tonkatsu to okonomiyaki to hamburg steak to stir-fries! It is kinda like the Japanese version of barbecue sauce or steak sauce. Admittedly, I always have at least one (if not more) of these Bull-Dog sauces in my fridge at any given time since it is so versatile and tasty.

Now, back to the magazine article…

Bull-Dog Sauce Chart Comparison

Chart key points: sweetness 甘み, sourness 酸味, viscosity 粘度, fruitiness 果実感, spice flavor スパイス感

From left to right, up to down, here is the quick run down:

#1 とんかつ tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet): sweetness 8, sourness 6, viscosity 10, fruitiness 5, spice 7. Very thick, balanced sauce.

#2 贅沢ブレンド とんかつ luxury blend tonkatsu: sweetness 7, sourness 7, viscosity 8, fruitiness 10, spice 8. Good as a demiglace sauce.

#3 中濃 chuunou (meaning “medium-thick”): sweetness 5, sourness 9, viscosity 6, fruitiness 6, spice 8. Thinner but “punchier” sauce, perfect for fried foods.

#4 贅沢ブレンド 中濃 luxury blend chuunou: sweetness 6, sourness 8, viscosity 5, fruitiness 8, spice 10. With 24 types of herbs and spices, with a refreshing taste.

#5 うま uma: sweetness 8, sourness 7, viscosity 4, fruitiness 7, spice 6. Made more to Japanese-style tastes, with konbu (kelp) and katsuo-dashi (fish broth), garlic and goma (sesame).

#6 スーパープレミアム極 super premium: sweetness 8, sourness 8, viscosity 3, fruitiness 9, spice 9. This is the super premium version of the original “worcestershire” sauce. Balanced and smooth, one of the more versatile of the Bull-Dog sauces.

Of course, there are some more sauces that are not on this chart, but hopefully this can get your started into the world of choosing the best BullDog sauce for you!

Other sauces you may see are the original “worcestershire” ウスター (this is not really the same as English worcestershire sauce), organic versions of the above mentioned sauces,  and even specific takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba sauces! And this is just the Bull-Dog brand… !

For those who would like to delve even deeper into the world of Japanese brown sauce there is an interesting and funny blog post by someone who ate a lot of tonkatsu with different brands of “sauces” and gave them ratings (this was in our beautiful home Hawai’i). Intense, but you will learn a lot!  http://tastyislandhawaii.com/2009/12/07/the-great-tonkatsu-sauce-shootout/

Shabu Shabu: しゃぶしゃぶ

しゃぶしゃぶ: shabu shabu, a style of hotpot dish. The name comes from the sound the ingredients make swishing in the pot.

In Okinawa, there are a few places to try shabu shabu dining. This weekend, we found an amazing place up north. Yanbaru Dining Churashima Kitchen (YANBARU DINING 美ら島キッチン) in Motobu. It is mixed in with the Nago Agri Park, located behind the NeoPark Okinawa. It is in the back corner of the lot, and you will walk by some small stores and cafes to get there.

During lunch, prices are reasonable (1580yen per person): it comes with 100g of meat (Okinawa agu pork and chicken, which I just gave to my husband) and all you can eat veggies, rice, side dishes, soft drinks, etc. This place was great because it featured all Yanbaru produce and greens… there was so much fresh variety. You just grab a tray and fill up bowls with the veggies you want for cooking and they will bring out the broth and the meat (they also have some “specialty veggies” which they will bring out in separate bowls, so if they ask you any questions, just say YES = HAI!). Get some rice, dipping sauces, some side dishes, a salad… then get to work cooking and eating. Once your pot is boiling add veggies or meat as you like– the leafy veggies will cook very quickly, the thicker veggies and meat will take longer. Just use you hashi (chopsticks) to add and fish out the pieces you like. Dip in the sauce of your choice and it is ready to eat.

The menu is in Japanese, so you can order extra meat, but I am not sure you would need it. The workers also only spoke Japanese from my interactions with them, which again, should be fine since it is not so complicated. Just remember the large bar of veggies is for cooking, and the smaller table is for salad use (it says サラダ用 on it). There were many amazing Okinawa veggies, like handama, sakuna, fuchiba, and more.

Everything was delicious and we were quite full leaving. I didn’t get any pictures of the meat or cooking, I was too busy eating…

address: https://goo.gl/maps/TRTRxSu7HYM2


Salmon “Jerky”: 鮭冬葉

Yesterday, my (Okinawan) friend brought something called “sake toba” 鮭冬葉 (or 鮭とば) that she found at the market (I believe Makishi in Naha) to our BBQ party. Sake 鮭 means salmon, and toba 冬葉 means swarm or flock in Ainu, an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido area. Toba is made up of the kanji for “winter” and “leaves,” which is supposedly related to a poetry from the region but I heard since it is not a word used any more, the exact meaning does not seem so clear.


Saketoba is basically just salmon jerky, a specialty product of Hokkaido. It is autumn salmon cut thinly with the skin left one. It is washed with seawater and dried in the breeze by the seaside, so it retains a salty flavor.

So what did we do with this? We grilled it (gently), and pulled into small pieces with a side of mayonnaise to dip them in. It was pretty good! This is definitely a good snack to go with alcohol. You don’t have to heat it or grill it, but it gets softer and more flavorful if you do, so it is recommended.



Snow Monkeys and Nabe: 猿と鍋

猿 saru means “monkey.” 野猿  yaen means wild monkey, meaning the wild Japanese macaque.

After the New Year in January, I took a short trip to Yamanouchi (山ノ内) in Nagano prefecture (長野県) to see the snow monkeys at Jigokudani onsen 地獄谷温泉 (translation: hell valley hot springs) and yaen-kouen 野猿公苑 (wild monkey park). We stayed at the Korakukan Ryokan, literally right outside the monkey park, and obviously wild monkeys are a common site outside your window. It was pretty amazing.

The Korakukan ryokan is a bit “rustic,” to be polite, but despite the older facilities, the location and the food were absolutely amazing. Waking up to monkeys outside is just pretty darn cool. I will admit, the onsen themselves are only okay (but if you are very lucky a monkey might join you, so that is a bonus), and the facilities do take a bit to get used to (so do not come in with high expectations). It may not be the most comfortable place to stay in terms of amenities or luxury, but the experience is one I will never forget.

The first day, we landed in Tokyo and stayed the night, catching the early morning train over to Nagano, and continuing on to Yamanouchi (last stop was Yudanaka station). We stopped here and had Japanese soba for lunch. From there a bus will take you to a bus stop where many onsen resorts are located just outside the monkey park area, but the ryokan that is inside the monkey park area is a a decent hike through the snow (there is another road that gets you closer to the ryokan and park, but it closes during winter, so the bus stops at the area just outside by the beginning of the walking path). Yes, we could have stayed in a classier place, more facilities and luxuries, but all those places were much further from the monkey park than the Korakukan ryokan (which was literally at the monkey park). There is also a recommended area called Shibu onsen 渋温泉, which is an adorable onsen town that we explored one of the days during our stay, but alas, I was going for the monkeys. And since my number one reason for this trip was monkeys, as such the rustic ryokan was it. So definitely consider your priorities before booking this trip: do you want to be right by monkeys all the time (literally outside your window, in your baths, hanging out near the dining hall) or would you prefer convenience (to town, restaurants, or well… everything), nice facilities, small luxuries, more/fancier onsen, less trudging through snow/ice ?

We trudged through the light snow with our luggage (remember, pack light for this one). I would recommend a suitcase that you can carry like a backpack. And those traction things you can put over your shoes is a really good idea, there was quite a bit of ice in spots and especially useful for the downhill parts to not go skidding down on your bum. Luckily when we went there was only a bit of snow and the heavy winter storms had not hit yet (seriously, we missed some awful weather by just over a week), so it was not terrible. We arrived safely, got settled with our belongings, checked out our quaint facilities, and immediately headed to the park to see some monkeys before closing time!

Of course, this place is a happening tourist spot during the day time operating hours, and of course completely empty during closed hours. But I got to see some monkeys and observe them for awhile. They are so cute. But we did have to leave and went down to catch a bath and dinner at the ryokan.

The onsen bath was pretty scalding hot, and the faucet water pretty darn cold, so it was interesting to say the least. However, I got clean so I cannot complain too much. Plus there were some outdoor baths and you could glimpse some monkeys during twilight.

For dinner, nabe 鍋 (hotpot) was the main item for the meal, with several accompanying dishes. If you have never had nabe in the mountains of rural Japan during winter, you must try this! It was amazing. I had a vegetarian nabe, and my husbands was for omnivores. His also came with fried locust; he said they were crunchy and not too bad. With my yukata and coat (known as a hanten 袢纏) on, sitting at the table near the heaters drinking a beer and eating warm nabe with mountain vegetables, life was good. Plus a few monkeys ran down the hall outside the dining building.

The next day, we woke up early, grabbed an early morning bath (the guys bath was lucky and had monkeys join them) and checked out the monkey park before opening. Seriously, I could probably watch monkeys for the better part of a day. Over night it had snowed and so you could see monkey prints throughout the valley.

Afterwards, we headed towards town (through the snow path) and enjoyed touring about, as well as tasting beer at the Teppa Room, sake (nihonshu 日本酒), manjuu, and yet more onsen (a bit more upscale than our ryokan, so… ). There were some temples/shrines, and the town sites in Shibu onsen. When we returned for the day, we went back yet again to look at some monkeys before dinner time. The second dinner was another nabe with a little bit different variety. Again, it was an amazing meal. Throughout the day, I had chatted with various mainlanders about Okinawa, which seemed to interest them. Oh, and it snowed again overnight.

The last day we had to head out early after a quick bath, trudging back through the snowy path to town with our luggage. We trained back to Nagano where we stopped for a walk around and lunch before heading to the airport in Tokyo. I got some fresh apple juice and baked apple goodies; yum! I wanted to take a bag of apples back to Okinawa (apples are sort of expensive in Okinawa), but figured that was not really feasible. But I did pick up some other omiyage to take back home to friends and coworkers.I also got an amazake 甘酒 soft serve (yes in the middle of winter… but it was amazake flavor!). My husband tried a sake (nihonshu 日本酒) sampler . We really enjoyed our stop in Nagano, and realized that we should plan a separate trip just to visit Nagano properly.

Below are some images from the trip. Here is a link to the full album, in case you cannot get enough  monkey pictures. I did not take any inside the ryokan, as at the time I figured it was too rustic.

Hokkaido Uoman: 北海道魚萬

北海道: Hokkaido

Yesterday for lunch we went to a newly built complex made up of mostly some restaurants in Urasoe. We wanted to try this izakaya type place, called Hokkaido Uoman, which serves Hokkaido foods; it is open 24 hours, and although they have morning and lunch specials, you can order off the grand menu any time.

The interior is really fun, and has really interesting “fishing village” elements and decor. It does not feel like you are in Okinawa anymore, but transported up north (and perhaps back in time too). We got to sit in one of the booths that looks like a large barrel. I should have taken pictures but was too distracted looking around. I am easily entertained by the simple details, with the lanterns, the fishing bobs, and various wooden elements.

The menu has a lot of interesting food, and definitely specializes in seafood shipped in from Hokkaido. We ordered a few dishes to split, and everything was really good. The order of 唐揚げいか fried squid rings was enormous~~ my husband was so happy with how fresh they were. He also got the かにみそ crab innards, served in the shell; he said an interesting and tasty treat, though maybe just an occasional one. We also got some typical stuff like 漬物 pickles, cabbage salad, and Hokkaido seafood salt yakisoba. Although some items were a little expensive, our bill only came out to ~2500 yen! Next time we will come for dinner and spend a little more; more husband looks forward to having some of those huge scallops on the table-top grills, and maybe some more crab dishes since all the seafood was good quality here.

Although I have not yet made it to Hokkaido (in October I will fix this, as we have a fall foliage viewing trip planned already), I really enjoyed this restaurant. If you are living or staying in Okinawa and want a small taste of Hokkaido, I think this place is really nice, even though I have no idea if it is “authentic” Hokkaido taste, at least the much of the seafood is from there. The menu even has pictures and English words, so not to worry if your Japanese skills are low.

address: 〒901-2101 沖縄県浦添市西原2-4-1 (P’s SQUARE Building, 2nd floor)