Street food… in Okinawa?

Hmmm… street food in Okinawa? To be honest, this is not really much of a thing outside of matsuri (festivals); matsuri are the best times to find all these foods. There are no big street food markets or night markets like some other areas of Asia. But, there are still things I would consider street food, even if they are not all jammed into a large marketplace in one particular area of the island.

Probably the easiest place to check out for “street foods” is in the surrounding neighborhoods of Kokusai-dori (International Street) 国際通り. There are several snack and light meal options, Makishi market, and other small street vendors around. Again, nothing like Taipei, or other places with large street food markets, but some good foods to try while you explore Naha.

Here is a list of some “street foods” to keep an eye out for here in Okinawa:

Yakitori 焼き鳥 (grilled chicken skewers): Yakitori stalls are ALL over the island. Usually they do not open up until ~3pm or so, mostly for the evenings. You can find them alongside many backroads or next to farmers markets, smoke billowing out of their ramshackle stalls. This is not especially Okinawan, but it is a popular Japanese street food.

Pork Tamago Onigiri ポークたまごおにぎり: This is definitely island-style, and I think most Hawaii folks would appreciate this one. I wrote a post on this already, so click the link to check it out. Basically this street stand sells (a fancy version of) spam musubi!

Yatai-mura 屋台村: The literal translation of this place is “street stall village.” This place was set up to replicate Japanese yatai-style dining (again, not really very Okinawan). Anyway, I also wrote a post on this place before, so be sure to click the link to read about it.

Tenpura 天ぷら: Actually, quite a few markets have tempura stalls, where they simply sell individual piece of tempura. Often times you find fish or fishcake, but sometimes there is potato or squid, etc. You will also most likely see mozuku tempura… this is unique to Okinawa, and worth a try.

Nikuman 肉まん (Chinese bun stuffed with meat), Croquettes コロッケ, oden おでん (stewed skewers in broth): You can mostly just find these in the convenience stores. I know, not the same I guess. But, these are types of Japanese street food that you can try in Okinawa. There are occasionally some places that might carry these, but it it is not common to see these along the streets of Okinawa.

Takoyaki たこ焼き (octopus balls) and Taiyaki たい焼き (fish-shaped pastry): The most common place to find these is at Gindaco in the malls. Otherwise you may get lucky and occasionally run into a small shop that sells these Japanese goodies.

Kakigouri かき氷 (shave ice) and Okinawa zenzai ぜんざい (shave ice with red beans): This is all over Okinawa in the warmer months. You can find it on the streets, lunch shops, the mall, pretty much everywhere.

Sata-andagi サーターアンダーギー: Okinawa fried donuts. These can be found in some of the farmers markets or tourist markets.

Just an additional list of some popular Japanese “street foods”: many of these are found at matsuri or other food festival booths in Okinawa, though some may be not be so common outside of that.

Yakisoba 焼きそば: fried noodles.
Ika-yaki いか焼き: I like to call this one grilled squid-on-a-stick.
Yaki-toumorokoshi 焼きとうもろこし: grilled corn.
Okonomiyaki お好み焼き: Japanese savoury pancake.
Ringo-ameりんご飴: candy apple.
Wata-ame わたあめ: cotton candy.
Choco banana チョコバナナ: banana, dipped in chocolate.
Crepe クレープ: Japanese-style crepes.
Frankfurt フランクフルト: hot dog.
American dog アメリカンドッグ: corn dog.

Cafe Waka-Waka

クレープ kureh-pu: crepe (crêpe)

So I fully realize that crepes are, in fact, originally a French food. However, crepes are wildly popular as a street food in Japan (especially among ladies) and somehow, Japan has adopted them and given them their own style. Japanese crepes are quite different than crepes I have eaten elsewhere so they might surprise you; they use almost no butter (if any) and the fillings are not cooked (just rolled and stuffed in). When it is served, it generally looks like an ice cream cone.

The weather is starting to turn nice recently and work is still quiet since school is not back into full swing yet, so I took the opportunity to sneak out and get an afternoon snack.

I went to a little known place called Cafe Waka-waka located in a back neighborhood of Nishihara town. There are only 2-3 cramped parking spaces, but luckily I was able to park.

On the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when you enter… it is quite a cute and trendy cafe. It was quiet, with only 1 other group of girls eating there. At the counter, I ordered a crepe (it was called mango “cheese”), paid, and waited at one of the tables for a few minutes until it came out. The menu consisted of sweet crepes, savory crepes, and cafe drinks… it is even sort of a little in “English,” though some of it might not make much sense unless you can read the katakana below it, or are a really experienced Engrish-reader.

It was really good, packed full with vanilla ice cream, mango chunks and sauce, sweet cream cheese (but not like the kind you spread on bagels, instead more like rare cheesecake), and cinnamon sprinkled on top. The price was 470yen, which ordinarily is near my limit of how much I like to spend on dessert snacks, but compared to places in the mall which charge over 500yen for crepes, I thought this was a very good deal and I left satisfied. So if you are near Nishihara town and craving a Japanese-style crepe, I recommend checking out this local 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.

Street Food: 屋台

屋台 yatai are small street stalls typically only open at night. It is a small wooden structure with curtains, and inside is a counter for customers to sit around while the owner(s) cook and prepare dishes. And as with most things Japanese, alcohol is often involved.

These are not common in Okinawa, unfortunately (there is one small “yatai mura” 屋台村 where there are about a dozen clustered together on a street in Naha, here). However, in Fukuoka (the site of my most recent adventure) they line the streets around train stations and canals  in the evening.

We saw the most famous Kokin-chan 小金ちゃん, but the line was very long so we searched around and came to Yosaku 与作. It had a Japanese-only menu, and while still in the touristy area, a bit removed from the ones aimed solely at gaijin. My very tall husband and I took an awkward seat. I read the menu, and noticed this sort of savory pancake looking item on another customer’s plate. It looked oishii, so I asked “sumimasen, nandesu ka?” while pointing. She pointed at 山芋ネギ焼き on the menu, assuming I would not understand the answer. So I read it, turned to the owners and ordered (in Japanese) 1 regular ramen ラーメン, 1 yaki-ramen 焼きラーメン, 1 yama-imo negi yaki 山芋ネギ焼き and 2 bottles of beer ビール. The other Japanese folks decided to clap, I guess they were surprised. I feel like plenty of gaijin can speak Japanese, and mine is barely passable, but it is pretty much always a shock to 日本人 Japanese people. Anyway, when we got our beers, everyone kampai’d us and we spent an enjoyable time eating and drinking with the customers next to us.

If you find yourself in Fukuoka past 6pm, be sure to wander the streets near the train station and pop into one of these small stalls (avoid the canal area, it is mostly geared towards foreign tourists). Each one has different specialities, although Hakata ramen is available at pretty much all of them. Order a drink and some food, then slowly soak in the evening with the other patrons. It is a sort of quaint and unique experience that shows the real feeling of Japan.

Fukuoka also has some nice gardens where you can have tea during the day: here.