The JET Food Bucket List (Okinawa Version)
By: Wendy Ng
So… with about six months left in Okinawa, I am constantly thinking about what I should do before I leave this beautiful island that has become my second home.
Should I (unrefined and unrhymed stream of consciousness)…
Drink more umeshu since nomihodai is non-existent in Singapore.
Eat more bowls of chanpon at Shokudo Mikasa since it is the most heavenly bowl of rice ever.
Buy more useless things from Daiso since I will never live so near a 24-hour Daiso again.
Take more ferries and visit more islands since I can walk to a ferry terminal in 15 minutes.
Try to make pasta with fresh mentaiko since it is over-priced beyond Japan’s shores.
Watch more Okinawan sunrises and sunsets since they are unobstructed by skyscrapers.
Wear yukata to a summer festival since I am a woman and I am in Japan.
Walk more and explore Naha since it is Naha – my second home…
While it is definitely possible to return to Japan after leaving the JET Programme, it is impossible to live like a JET in Okinawa – to teach in the same school, interact with the same people, and just live in the moment – right here, right now.
In 1940, when John Goddard, an American anthropologist, explorer and writer and lecturer, was 15 he made a list of everything he wanted to achieve. His famous bucket list was filled with 127 goals. When he died at the age of 88, he completed most of his goals except for a few such as a trip to the moon.
It may be incredibly clichéd and self-indulgent to create a “JET Bucket List”. However, as I grow more anxious, distressed, hysterical and I run around Okinawa like Michael Keaton in Birdman, a “JET Bucket List” seems to be the perfect antidote to calm my chaotic mind and organize my remaining days before I eventually kick the proverbial JET bucket. As a true foodie/glutton, my bucket list is obviously closely related to food. There are just too many yummy dishes I want to eat in my last remaining months. Too much food! Too little time! So I thought I should just compile a “JET-Food Bucket List” to guide and nourish my heart and tummy before I leave this food paradise.
JET Food Bucket List (What to eat before leaving Okinawa)
1. Mikasa’s Chanpon (三笠’sちゃんぽん）
Misaka Shokudo (Matsuyama branch) (三笠 松山店)
Address: 1-3-17 Matsuyama, Naha
Opening hours: 24 hours (no closing days)
2. A Lunch
Some places to get authentic Okinawan A lunch sets:
Ruby Shokudo (軽食の店 ルビー)
Address: 3-4-15 Tomari, Naha
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 12 midnight
Highway Drive in (ハイウェイドライブイン)
Address: 1266-2 Misato, Okinawa city
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 1.30 a.m.
3. Ploughman’s Lunch Plate
Address: Adaniya, Kitanakagusuku, 927-2 #1735
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Breakfast: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Lunch: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) (closed on Wednesdays)
Address: Umusa 183, Nago
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
5. Ishigaki Beef
Some famous establishments that serve the legendary Ishigaki beef:
Steak House 88 (Various branches all around Okinawa)
Steak House 88 (Kokusai Dori Branch)
Address: 3-1-6 Makishi, Naha
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Ishigaki’s Kinjo Beef (焼肉金城 浜崎店／石垣島きたうち牧場)
Address: 2-3-24, Hamasaki Town, Ishigaki City
Telephone: 0980-83-7000, 050-5868-5528 (for reservations)
Opening hours: 11.30 a.m. to 22.30 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
6. Taco rice
Some places to get the quintessential Okinawan-American hybrid tacos.
Address: 1462 Tengan, Uruma
Opening hours: 11.30 a.m. to 23.30 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 4244-4 Kin, Kunigami District
Opening hours: 10.30 a.m. to 5 a.m.
7. Café Pipineo’s Cinnamon rolls
Best cinnamon rolls on earth. Oh the decadent cream…
Café Pipineo (ピピネオ)
Address: 230-1 Akano, Uruma
Opening hours: 11.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
8. Okinawa soba
Some places to enjoy the classic Okinawa soba.
Address: 2-124-1 Shuri, Sueyoshicho, Naha
Opening hours: 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or till sold out) (closed on Wednesdays)
Kishimoto Shokudo (きしもと食堂 )
Address: 5 Toguchi, Motobu, Kunigami district, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0214
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (or till sold out) (closed on Wednesdays)
Miyazato Soba (宮里そば)
Address: 1-27-2 Miyazato, Nago
Openihg hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (irregular closing days)
Yanbaru Soba (山原そば)
Address: 70-1 Izumi, Motobu, Kunigami district
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or till sold out) (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
9. Ojima tempura
Visit the small island of Ojima (奧武島) and try the best tempura in Okinawa!
Nakamoto Tempura Shop (中本てんぷら店)
Address: Ou-9 Tamagusuku, Nanjo
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (October to March), 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (April to September) (irregular closing days)
Ooshiro Tempura Shop (大城てんぷら店)
Address: Ou-193 Tamagusuku, Nanjo
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (closed on Mondays)
Life is good with iced shavings, mochi and azuki in summer!
Tsurukamedo Zenzai (鶴亀堂ぜんざい）
Address: 248-1 Zamiki, Nakagami-gun, Yomitan
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 2-7-1 Agarie, Nago
Opening hours: 11.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (closed on Mondays)
If my health and clothes can endure this food odyssey, I am determined to chomp my way through Okinawa. I hope my list will provide gastronomical- directions for hungry and lost souls who are departing Okinawa soon.
So how about you? Do you have a “JET Bucket List” too? Meanwhile, enjoy your remaining short or long JET days in Okinawa! Carpe diem!
Photography credit: Wendy Ng