Sans Souci (& Sudachi udon)

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

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

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

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

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

address: サンスーシー(sans souci)

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

098-935-1012

https://goo.gl/maps/PMfZucEqn5p9zPZM9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

マイボトル mai botoru   “my bottle”

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

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

You can also use something like:

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

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

How Tsu 好吃: Steamed manjuu and Tea

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

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

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

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

Open noon-7pm. Closed on Mondays.

Nuchigafu: Afternoon Bukubuku tea set

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

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

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

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

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

Another Vegan Ramen option in Okinawa: Orange Shokudo

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

Today started as any normal Sunday. It is the monthly Sunrise Market in Naha, and my husband wanted to go. So we set off and parked our car in the Noren Plaza のうれんプラザ as is our usual spot. The monthly market is quite nice and we always find some ono grinds here. Anyway, after we wandered (and ate) through the market, we walked around Naha for a bit before heading back to the car. When we returned to the Noren Plaza, a restaurant called オレンジ食堂 (Orange Shokudo) on the second floor had a sign with something strange that caught my eye.

“Vegan black sesame ramen”
ビーガンラーメン
辛い黒ゴマ濃厚担々麺

I was surprised, so I stopped and inspected further; while this place had meat options, it also had VEGAN options (black sesame, gold sesame, and a regular sesame broth, as well as spicy, little spicy, and no spice). When I first saw the sign I thought maybe it was a mistake, but for sure, I asked the owner and he seemed pleased to say that Yes, he has vegan options. This was crazy, and despite already eating lunch, well, I just had to try this! So I convinced my husband to split a bowl.

When it came out, he gave as an extra bowl, spoon, and chopsticks. He also brought out vinegar and extra spice, as well as an extra bowl of rich black sesame sauce so we could add more.

Delicious. I rarely get to eat ramen as there is pretty much never a vegetarian or vegan option. And while the Okinawa vegan scene is on the rise, the only places I knew of previously were Stripes (not very good) and Rakurobi Kitchen (doesn’t always have it available). So today I got delicious ramen and another place to bookmark for a visit when I feel like a bowl of ramen!

I had never heard anyone mention this place before, and even on GoogleMaps there was not mention of the vegan options. Perhaps it is a new menu he is trying out, and I hope it stays. I hope the vegans living in and visiting Okinawa can all give Orange Shokudo their business!

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

In Kin Town

https://goo.gl/maps/XEUZ3xp9WLndVE1N9

Shuri Kannondo & Gassho Conan: 首里観音堂&合掌コナン

In Japan, it is still the New year holidays so I decided to take a small venture out. In Shuri area, there are 4 popular temples that enshrine guardian gods assigned to all 12 of the zodiac animals. While I should have gone to Daruma temple because it enshrines the deity of the year of the dog (戌 is my zodiac year), I instead decided to visit Shuri Kannondo. By the way, Shuri Kannondo enshrines several zodiac deities: Dragon, Snake, Mouse, Ox, Tiger and Horse.

Hatsumode 初詣 is still going strong, even here in Okinawa, so traffic was a mess. After all, there are a lot of temples and shrines in the Shuri area, more so than the rest of Okinawa.

The temple was busy, but overall not as crowded as some of the others in downtown Naha. I was able to get around easily and the lines were short. I was able to pick up some omamori as well.

What was most notable about this temple was the cute little dog character. The year of the dog deity is not enshrined here, so who is it? Well, it is Conan, a very adorable long-haired chihuahua. He is the mascot of the temple. He is called a 合掌犬 gassho-inu, a “praying dog.” He mimics his master, a priest, and joins in the daily prayers the temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar. Gassho 合掌 means “pressing one’s hands together,” usually in prayer or reverence (though it can also be in greeting, gratitude, apology, etc.). The priest taught the dog from a young age the worshipping posture; he quickly caught on and now the dog does it very naturally every day with the priest.

The temple was very busy, so I did not see the celebrity himself, so perhaps next time I will go in the morning when it is quieter. However, I did purchase an ema 絵馬 (prayer board) with Conan’s likeness on it to write wishes of good health and hang up at the temple.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/RsQe5Un5qS22

Iheya Island 伊平屋島: Camping

Iheya Island is the northernmost inhabited island of Okinawa and renown for its natural beauty. In this post I will describe how to get there, cost, and some of the “tourist spots.”

This previous weekend, I convinced my husband to try camping in a tent (first time ever for him). While there was initial resistance, he conceded and we decided to take the morning ferry to Iheya Island with the dog and the car. We made reservations ahead of time (you can call or fax), as per the website, however I don’t think it was really necessary since we went on an off-peak time. Normally we would not take a car on the ferry (it is so expensive to do so, and so much cheaper to simply rent a car), but since we were hauling camping gear, some food, a cooler, etc. we decided it would be easiest and least amount of hassle.

The roundtrip ticket was 15580yen for the car+driver, and the extra person was 4640yen. Our dog was free. We arrived at Unten port (in Motobu) ~30 minutes early to pay for the tickets and line up our car to board. My husband drove the car onto the ferry and we met up on the 2nd floor deck outside (pets are not allowed inside). We chose a nice table in the shade and spread out our snacks for the 80 minute ride, while the dog sat happily on his towel in the chair between us. We got lucky and the weather was particularly gorgeous, the water was glassy smooth.

When the ferry arrived at Maedomari port, we piled into the car and off we drove to our adventure. We circled the main sites on Iheya, as well as Noho, which is connected by bridge. Admittedly there are only a few, and most can be seen within an afternoon (some are described below). Nonetheless, the landscape was quite spectacular. The water was so clear and blue, the beaches felt nearly untouched by mankind. Since we had the dog we ended up not to go snorkeling, instead we opted for playing in the shallow water to cool off. We stopped at a number of quiet, sandy beaches along our route as we explored.

An interesting thing is that rice farming is a main industry on this island and it is not often that people in Okinawa get to see rice growing in fields. The stores sell rice and rice flour to bring home, which makes a nice souvenir.

As we drove, we went to Coral hill observatory where we could look out over the water and see Izena and Gushikawa islands across the way. The actual observatory platform looked perhaps less than structurally sound so we stayed off and just enjoyed the view from the hilltop.

Another legendary spot was “Yagura,” the tomb of the ancestors of Sho Hashi (1st Sho Dynasty, unified Okinawa). Yagura Ufusu is said to be the great-grandfather of King Sho Hashi, who built the first united dynasty of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Yagura Ufusu had two sons (Samekawa Ufusu and Uezato Aji) and two daughters (Gakiya Uyanuru and Gakiya Nuru). Samekawa Ufusu, the oldest son, was the father of King Sho Shisho who is the first king of the First Sho Dynasty. There is a stone grave on the coast and is situated facing the distant Okinawan mainland. Standing there, you can see the ocean and sky in brilliant colors.

Then there was the Nento Hiramatsu Pine Tree, a symbol of Iheya Island and a national monument. This 300 year-old Ryukyu pine was selected as among the most noted trees in Japan. Its wide boughs are beautiful, acting almost like a natural parasol. The park that surrounds is very nice. Off to the side, there is also an Amano Iwato shrine. It was a short walk over to this quaint and small shrine (dedicated to a legend described below).

Further along, we reached Kumaya cave (Hiding place cave), located within a rocky mountain to the north of Dana village. It was created 280 million years ago as the Chert rock was eroded by waves and wind. It is an Okinawa prefectural natural monument. During typhoons and tempests, people would take shelter here, sustained by nearby springs and a plentiful supply of fish and seaweed, heaved up onto the rocks and mudflats outside the grotto. First, we climbed the steps leading up the rock face. From here, there is a very narrow opening to squeeze through. On one side of the cave, there is a small shrine, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. People say that this cave is related to stories about ancient Japanese gods, that the legendary Amano-Iwato 天岩戸, a rock cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu concealed herself.

Continuing along the road, we saw some shisa and some anpan-man type characters constructed from old buoys– it was very cute.

When we packed for the island it did not look like there might be many grocery stores or markets on island, so we ended up to bring all the food/drinks (and a cooler) we thought we would need. Well, it turns out there is a really nice JA mini-grocery store which has nearly everything. So keep in mind if you visit, JA is the best stop for groceries and you don’t need to overpack. There are a handful of izakaya and small cafe/shokudo places on island, but we did not try any of them since we had the dog with us– our plan was to cook out.

We ended up camping at Yonezaki campground (Iheya Island Yonezaki 伊平屋愛ランドよねざき). It is a pay campground with many facilities. So, online it says “no dogs allowed.” But since it seemed quiet and uncrowded we went and decided to try rather than rough it at one of the beach sites. When we arrived there were no signs saying “no dogs” and when my husband went up to get a spot none of the paperwork said “no dogs,” and no one said anything about our dog hanging out in the car… so we decided if you were respectful, cleaned up after your pet, and didn’t cause a disturbance, probably no one actually cares. Maybe during peak season, this will be a different story. Anyway, it was 1500yen for the night.

We scoped out a spot close to the beach and set up the tent. It was so peaceful– there was only one other group (father and son) at the campground. We walked around a bit, cooked dinner, and just relaxed. When night came, you could see so many stars and the milky way.

There was an area for cleaning dishes, grilling/charcoal pits, pay showers (200yen for ~5 minutes), toilets, beach access… it was a decent place to stay. However, we only stayed one night, after all this was pretty much my husband’s first experience tent camping/sleeping on the ground, and we had to “test the waters.” Two nights may have been asking too much so we only planned for one.

The return home ferry was as smooth as the way over; my little dog was tuckered out and slept most of the way home. Overall it was a really nice overnight trip exploring the outskirts of Okinawa.

link to pictures: https://imgur.com/a/EbmvFfI


website (Japanese only) for ferry times, etc: http://www.vill.iheya.okinawa.jp/index.jsp

Coffee Specialist Nietzsche: 珈琲専科にーちぇ

珈琲 koohii: coffee


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

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

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


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

Cafe detox felicidad

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

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

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

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

Camino de Arab: カミーノ・デ・アラブ

Again, my coffee and cute cafe addiction cannot be curbed. This charming cafe is located in Urasoe, and there are some parking spaces in front of the shop.

I went here after seeing some pictures on social media– and wow, this was indeed a good place to try out. Inside is bright and cheerful with a sort of middle-east inspired vibe, and the decor beautiful. Outside there is a hammock and some additional seating. The owner is a friendly world traveller as well. Also there is free wifi (yay!) so you can stick around and do work for awhile.

The menu had a few things on it; I went with the cheese sandwich set (soup, salad, and drink) and a cafe latte. Everything was delicious and fairly reasonable price. Definitely a fantastic stop for lunch or an afternoon coffee/snack! I brought my laptop and got some work done in this relaxing environment while enjoying my lunch coffee.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/5zSTmy53vyn

Retro Kissaten in Okinawa: 沖縄のレトロな喫茶店

喫茶店 kissaten: traditional Japanese tearoom/coffeeshop serving drinks, sweets and light meals; often they have a nostalgic vibe as most of the shops look as if they’re stuck in time.


I have a thing for the retro kissaten. Something about them just feels peaceful once you step through the front door. Sure, there are tons of trendy, cute, modern, hipster cafes with high-end coffees and stylish desserts sprouting up everywhere but for the quintessential Japanese coffee shop experience an old-style kissaten is where it is at.

Today took me to CoffeeShop Laramie コーヒーシャープララミー. There is no parking at the shop, so you need to go to the paid parking lots (there is one around the corner for 100y/30 min). This place is only open Fridays and Saturdays, from 1-5pm.

As I walked up, the outside says “Coffee & Pancakes” plainly on the outside. A step through the door, and you are in a difference time and place. There are 2 working jukeboxes, some table seating, and counter seating. A quick warning, the seating is a little low to the ground; if I had brought my husband (194 cm) he would have had a hard time fitting. The menu is pretty simple, pancakes, desserts, and drinks. I think they may occasionally have some light meal on the menu but there was not today.

I ordered the pancake and coffee set for 850yen, with the Laramie blend coffee (might as well try out the house coffee). While I was waiting for my food, an older gent came in got a coffee, played some songs on the jukebox, and read the newspaper. It added to the retro atmosphere. There are vaguely some “Hawaiian”-themed items up, which made me chuckle a bit and the shop is entirely wood-paneled.

I noticed when I went to pay that even the cash register is retro! I admit, I thought that was a nice touch. Anyway, the shop staff was kind, the food and coffee was really good, plus an awesome retro atmosphere. If you are looking for a retro kissaten in Okinawa, I would definitely recommend trying out this little place in Naha.

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address: https://goo.gl/maps/QDuWEYZtdF92


looking for more retro kissaten in Okinawa? More posts coming soon, but also check out Genten 原点: Coffee Specialist in Okinawa.

Gongfu cha (Chinese tea ceremony) 工夫茶 in Okinawa

工夫茶 (Japanese spelling: kunfuucha): gongfu tea ceremony


As a tea “enthusiast,” I am always interested in trying any type of tea available. While in Taiwan and Shanghai, I have enjoyed gongfu “tea ceremony” on a few occasions. Recently, I began to discover that Okinawa has a few cafes that specialize in this type of tea ceremony. So while I am currently taking Japanese tea ceremony (茶道,  or 茶の湯) lessons, I love a good cup of tea wherever I can find it.

This post will not get into all the specifics of how to perform gongfu cha, etc., but I will give an insight into where you can try this here in Okinawa. Honestly, the tea purveyor of the shops will be able to demonstrate and give a much better explanation for you.

Most of these cafes are in Naha. First up is Ryukyu Chakan 流求茶館, located not far from Kokusai-dori. It is in one of the neighborhoods, along a back street, where you come to a small shop. Inside is gorgeous! There is counter area, and tables, so choose your preference. They offer light meals, in addition to tea and tea drinks. As for the tea, they have many different varieties (at different prices) to choose from; they also have a nice little picture system to indicate which are used for the tray (tea ceremony), mugs, and pots. For gongfu cha, be sure to choose a tea with the tray icon. As a word of warning, the menu is entirely in Japanese and I do not believe they have any English available; that being said, if you do not know much Japanese, just bring some patience and your smart phone translator. The staff is very friendly and kind, and will demonstrate how to prepare your tea when it comes out. Oh, and the tea sets are more than enough for 2 people! In addition to the tea, they will bring out some small dish of chinsukou and dried fruits. Overall the price was reasonable for an afternoon tea for 2 people, and my husband and I had a fabulous time.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/zD7m4QMz5AD2

The next place is  Camellia Sinensis カメリア・シネンシス (yes, the name means tea plant!). This place also has gongfu cha, in addition to many teas such as “flowering” teas (blooming teas). Another nice place to check out in Naha.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/gF6V8349qot

In Naha there is also the Taiwan Teahouse 台湾茶屋; I have not made it here yet, but they appear to also offer gongfu cha.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/uYfcTnAcUBM2

And lastly, there is a teahouse located in Nanjo area; I wrote a blog post about this place earlier (though at the time I wrote it, I hadn’t realized she offered gongfu cha): Tea house Ichiyou: 茶房一葉. I highly recommend this place, it has several types of Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese teas. The last time I was there, I had gongfu cha, in addition to a delicious light meal. Again, like the other places, everything is in Japanese, but the owner is quite kind, so bring your patience and do your best.
address: https://goo.gl/maps/NwkYkiHFFUu

**At all of these shops, you can also purchase various types of tea to take home.

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Citta: Vegan & Gluten-free snack

A new shop in Okinawa has opened up, conveniently right next to my university gate. It is called “Citta” and they specialize in vegan and gluten-free snacks, like crackers, cookies, and cakes.

I went to visit this clean, bright shop the other day. The price tag is not particularly cheap, but not unreasonable considered it is handmade specialty goods. While I was there I also ordered a soy latte, which was really tasty. I took home some shikwasa cookies, tomato and basil crackers, and asa (seaweed crackers). Everything was really good, and went well with tea that afternoon. Not all their products are gluten-free, but many area. Everything was made from all-natural ingredients and vegan. I definitely recommend checking it out if you have these type of special dietary needs, as it is uncommon to find this type of shop normally in Okinawa.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/Y5ANPC83EN72

Dining Sumirakuen ダイニング炭楽園

We decided to try another izakaya 居酒屋 not too far from where we live. I have passed it dozens of times during the daytime, as it is close to the university. So finally we thought it was time to give it a try.

Dining sumirakuen is located in Nishihara, on the corner of Rt.s 29 and 34. It has a few spaces in front of the restaurant, as well as a huge lot across the street. Inside is nicely decorated with plenty of tables and seating, so we had no problem getting a table with no reservation. You will need to remove your shoes when you enter the establishment and store them on the shoe shelf. As with most establishments, there is a “sitting fee” (called otoshi お通し) and they bring you out some sort of appetizer.

 

They surprisingly have an English menu in addition to the Japanese menu, however, not everything is listed on the English menu, so you may want to check out their specials written in Japanese. One of these is the iburi gakko cheese いぶりがっこチーズ. I ordered this on a whim, since one of the Google reviews said it was awesome; to be honest I was not 100% sure what it was. Anyway, out it came along with our beers… DELICIOUS! Iburi gakko is a smoked and pickled daikon, a specialty of Akita prefecture 秋田県. The slices of smoked pickle were then stuffed with a creamy tasty cheese. It was smoky, creamy, crunchy… a really good combination of flavors that went well with drinking (they recommend nihonshu, a.k.a. “sake” 日本酒, but we were having beer). I definitely recommend coming here in and trying this… it is a very unique dish that I have not seen anywhere else in Okinawa!

We also tried many other small dishes, that were also really good. But the iburi gakko cheese stood out as the most interesting. The beer was cold, the prices reasonable (not super cheap, but reasonably compared to other standard izakaya), and the food was all really ono (oishii). I can’t believe we had not tried this place in the 4 years we have been here… we will definitely return.

羊羊 Yoyo An Factory: Japanese sweets confectionary

Recently, a new Japanese sweets shop has opened up in Kishaba (Kitanakagusuku, central) called Yoyo an factory. As like others, it is located in the back of a small neighborhood with narrow roads. There are hardly any signs outside the house marking it, but you will see some plain white-ish shop flags in front of the door. There is space for probably about 5-6 cars to park.

Walk up the concrete stairs and step inside the old converted US military house. Inside, it is very organic and simple feeling, but very beautiful in its simplicity. There are some old wooden Japanese candy molds on display, with various shapes and designs.

You can get dorayaki and daifuku (160 yen each) to go, or you can eat-in with a drink. Your choice of drinks are coffee, ice tea, and matcha (500yen). I ordered a matcha with 1 dorayaki and 1 daifuku, with tax the total was nearly 900yen. An average price for these types of things, though maybe a little bit high. Everything was really good though. I think this was a really nice space to take a tea break, and the location is very good. If you live in Okinawa and want to try some Japanese style confections, this is a lovely place to do so.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/M92UhqJhM5P2

The Kurashi Store of Hokkaido (in Okinawa)

北海道くらし百貨店: Hokkaido Kurashi Hyakkaten; basically the name of the shop translates something like “Hokkaido lifestyle and department store”


I heard a rumor that Sapporo Drug (サツドラ “satsudora”) on Kokusai-dori in Naha had Hokkaido craft beers. This sounded a bit odd, but it caught my interest, and honestly alcohol sold in a drugstore is not unusual. So I explored the next time I was in Naha.

Turns out, it is not the Sapporo Drug itself, but if you go inside the Sapporo Drug there is a staircase leading to a bright and clean second floor… this is where the Kurashi store is located!

I was surprised, but up we went to check it out. It is kinda like a big Hokkaido omiyage store! Apparently it is not nearly as big as the one in Hokkaido, but I was still impressed with all the variety it carried. There were lots of Hokkaido foods, drinks, and other goods to choose from. They even had huge frozen crabs! There was also a restaurant serving some various Hokkaido dishes.

What did we end up buying? Well, craft beer, apple cider, some miso ramen, and yogurt. I probably could have spent a lot more though.

If you live in Okinawa, you should definitely check out this store and try some of the great products from Hokkaido.


address: https://goo.gl/maps/J69MLHcYDEm

Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Cafe Mondoor

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

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


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

Genten 原点: Coffee Specialist in Okinawa

原点 genten: origin

珈琲 koohii: coffee


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Daisekirinzan Park: 大石林山

Daisekirinzan park is at the very north of Okinawa main island, in Yanbaru. It is a pretty long drive from the southern part of the island… but worth checking out. One of the best parts is that this park is dog-friendly (even the shuttle bus and the cafe).

Right now the park is set to open up a new museum and facilities at the end of April (before Golden Week), and unfortunately increase the entrance fees to 1200yen per adult from my understanding. As it was we paid 820yen per adult, which is definitely not cheap, considering the best way to get here is also to take the expressway (toll road). Our dog was free though.

There are 4 different courses you can walk along (labeled with colors and easy to follow) during your time there. None of it is particularly difficult hiking, more of a leisurely nature walk. Overall each course is fairly short, none took us more than hour to complete (I think total may have been about 2.5 hours at most including both our rest breaks at the cafe, once for shiqwasa juice, and the second time for the pizza).

As you walk along the courses, there are several signs for what the rocks are shaped like (dragons, pigs, cats, etc). See if you can spot them all! It was a little bit of a game for us. Daisekirinzan is also a major power spot in Okinawa; it is located in Ashimui 安須杜, Okinawa’s oldest sacred place, supposedly be created by one of the gods. I can see why, the rocks are rather impressive in their way, and being so far out in the middle of nature, you cannot help but feel a little energized.

At any rate, our miniature dachshund had a blast trotting through the forested courses. Bigger dogs may find the walk a bit more boring, but our guy has short little legs, so pretty much anywhere is an adventure for him.

The main reason we went, actually, was for the Irukanda イルカンダ– some type of subtropical flower that is blooming this time of year. Usually these are only found fairly deep in the wilds of Yanbaru but at Daisekirinzan you can see them easily. Mostly they are found along the green trail labeled on the map (from the parking area to the park itself), so only take the shuttle bus up and walk back if you want to see these.


website link: https://www.sekirinzan.com/en/

address: https://goo.gl/maps/ybiRo7jqk1B2

Cafe Hopping in Okinawa: カフェ巡り

cafe meguri カフェ巡り: cafe “hopping”


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

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

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

 

 

Mokupuni Melon Pan: モクプニ

メロンパン melon pan: “melon” bread.


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

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

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


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

Cokofu: Sweets shop in Okinawa

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

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

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

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

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


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

Essence963 Hammock Cafe

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

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

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


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

Uchinaa Days: Celebrating Okinawa Culture

うちなー uchinaa: belonging to Okinawa


Okinawa has created some “special days” in the calendar to celebrate different aspects of Okinawa/Ryukyu culture and industry. Based on the sounds of the words or some other special meaning, they choose a day in the calendar to represent it. Please keep in mind these are not serious holidays, just “fun” holidays.

Here is a list of some of them (they sometimes add new ones and probably I have forgotten a few); I will slowly be adding descriptions for each day:

February 6: taanmu ターンム (田芋), English: taro

February 22: Yaeyama kamaboko 八重山かまぼこ, fishcake from the Yaeyama islands

March 4: sanshin 三線, traditional Okinawa 3-string instrument

March 5: sango サンゴ, English: coral

March 8: sanba 三板, traditional wooden Okinawa percussive instrument

March 14: sata andagi サーターアンダギー, Okinawa donut

*March 2 LUNAR CALENDAR: sannin サンニン (月桃), English: shell ginger

April 3: shisa シーサー, guardian lion-dogs

April 10: shibui シブイ, English: winter melon

April 15: mozuku もずく, a type of seaweed popular in Okinawa

Fourth Sunday in April: satoukibi さとうきび, English: sugarcane

May 4: minsa みんさー, type of Okinawa weaving pattern. A traditional minsa pattern consists of four and five small rectangles. These rectangles represent eternal love.

May 8: goya ゴーヤー, English: bitter melon

May 10: kokutou 黒糖, English: brown sugar

May 12: acerola アセロラ

May 30: Lord Gosamaru 護佐丸, a famous Ryukyu Lord of Nakagusuku

July 8: Naha 那覇, major city of Okinawa main island

July 10: Ultraman ウルトラマン, famous super-fighter character who comes from Okinawa

July 15: mango マンゴー

October 17: soba そば (suba すば)

October 25: karate 空手

November 1: awamori 泡盛, local Okinawa liquor

December 23: umibudou 海ぶどう, sea grapes


*after each word comes の日 (-no-hi), meaning “__ day.”

Example: “goya-no-hi” is “goya day”

Jimmy’s Bakery Okinawa

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

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

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

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


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

 

Three Little Pigs Cafe: 三匹の子豚

三匹の子豚 sanbiki no kobuta: 3 little pigs


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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunny Side Cakes: サニーサイドケークス

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

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

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

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


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

Tasokare Coffee: たそかれ珈琲

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_5752.JPG


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