Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tsuboya Pottery Street Festival 2011

Tomorrow, the 3rd November is a national holiday in Japan. Culture Day (Bunka-no-hi), it's recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture.
This weekend will held various types of festivals and parades. Also Tsuboya Pottery Festival will held at Tsuboya Yachimun Street(Nov 3-6).

Yachimun pottery is a traditional craft of Okinawa developed under the influence of porcelain techniques from mainland Japan and neighboring Asian countries. Yachimun pottery is characterized by pleasant colors. It is greatly appreciated by young people in Okinawa and by people from mainland Japan, and is widely used for housewares. Tsuboya (Naha City) and Yachimun no Sato (Yomitan Village) are two places in Okinawa known for various pottery stores and studios.

This video is really cool! Check out!

Tsuboya Pottery Street Festival
November 3- 6, 2011
Tsuboya Yachimun Street in Naha City
Tsuboya street located near the Makishi monorail station.

November calendar :)

Happy November! I think this calendar is one of my favorites :)
oh and in case you missed last month, you can find those on our flickr page!

November 2011

[photo1] Red roof, Taketomi Island

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[photo2] Sunset, Ginowan Port

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Okinawa Story on Flickr!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October calendar

The October calendar for you to download! Click and download the large size, enjoy : )
oh and in case you missed last month, you can find those on our flickr page!

October 2011

[photo1] Seasir lion dog @ Zamami Island

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[photo2] Yonahamaehama beach @ Miyako Island

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Okinawa Story on Flickr!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello September

The September calendar for you to download! Click and download the large size, enjoy : ) oh and in case you missed last month, you can find those on our flickr page!
September 2011

[photo1] Taketomi Island
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[photo2] Aka Island
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Okinawa Story on Flickr!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Segway tour in Ishigaki

Riding a Segway is an amazing experience. It gently moves you
and keeps you balanced. Just step on and ride smoothly and almost silently away with a feeling of simple mobility and freedom!

A Segway Tour is a great way for you to enjoy a fun-filled park discovery program and is one of the recommended Ishigaki activities. 

Segway Tour in Banna Park ( Ishigakijima )
Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun, Public holiday
Times: 10am, 16pm
Cost: 8,000yen
(Minimum age for children is 16)
Duration: 90 minutes (+ 30 minutes practice)
Contact: Hirata Kanko

Monday, August 1, 2011

August calendar

The August calendar for you to download! Click and download the large size, enjoy : )
oh and in case you missed last month, you can find those on our flickr page!

August 2011


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Okinawa Story on Flickr!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 30. Shinjuku (Tokyo) Eisa Festival 2011!

Now in its 10 years, the Shinjuku Eisa Festival will be taking place in Tokyo, with over 20 teams and 1,000 people Shinjuku and neighboring areas performing for the occasion. Once again the Festival will highlight spectacular dancing from drum performers clad in colorful outfits.
A great way to beat the summer heat!

Main Venue: Shinjuku-dori  Avenue 13:30-17:00
Sub Venue: 18:00-21:00
Address: Shinjuku, Tokyo

Official web broadcast on USTREAM !!
13:20-16:00, Sat. July 30th, 2011

Shinjuku Eisa Festival executive committee
Phone: 03-3209-9291

You can find information about the Eisa events schedule including a map in Okinawa Here

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 16. Ocean Expo Park Summer Festival 2011

The Largest Fireworks Show in Okinawa!!

Come feel the energy of Okinawan’s popular summer festival! There is no other fireworks show more magnificent than this one, for 10,000 fireworks will be set off from the Emerald Beach. You will be dazzled by the spectacular fireworks in the beautiful sky of Northern Okinawa.

Date: July 16, 2011/14:00- 21:00
Beach Attraction 14:00-18:00 (Beach soccer etc)
Sunset Concert 18:00- 19:55

★Fire works Show 1st stage 20:00-20:15
                                2nd stage 20:25-21:00
Fee: Free
Venue: Emerald Beach, Ocean Expo Park
Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Okinawa 905-0206
Access: From Naha Airport - Ocean Park by car (2hrs)
            From Naha bus terminal (NO.111)- Nago bus terminal - Kinenkoen-mae (NO.65,66,70)

*Free shuttle buses will run between the temporary parking site and the fireworks site (until 24:00)
*Please note that the traffic will be very crowded, and there will be traffic regulations near the area.
*The schedule could be changed in case of bad weather or another reason. Thank you for your understanding.

Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park
Phone: 0980-48-2741
Fax: 0980-48-3339

July 16-17. The 23rd Itoman Hometown Festival/The Eisa in Itoman Festival

The Itoman Hometown Festival will be held concurrently with the Eisa in Itoman Festival. During this event, Itoman’s specialty goods are sold, and visitors will be treated to the performance of traditional performing arts and concerts, as well as the introduction ceremony of Ms. Itoman. Also, to promote Itoman as an Uminchu (fishermen) town, delicious fish soup is sold.

【July 16】17:00-21:00
-Itoman Specialty Fair
-Itoman traditional stage performance
-Live Bands
-Fireworks Show

【July 17】16:30-21:00
-Eisa Show
-Itoman Specialty Fair
-Fireworks Show

July 16-17, 2011
Venue: Nishizaki Athletic Park
Address: 3-1 Nishizaki, Itoman City, Okinawa 901-0305
Access: From Naha bus terminal - Itoman bus terminal (NO.89/45min-60min/600yen)
            From Naha airport - Itoman circle by taxi (2,500yen - 3,000yen)

Itoman City Office
Address: 1-1 Shiozaki-cho, Itoman City, Okinawa 901-0392
Phone: 098-840-8135

You can find information about the Eisa Dance and events schedule including a map Here

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Orion Beer Festival 2011 in Ishigaki

For beer lovers: Enjoying live performances with a brewery- fresh draft in hand.

Every year about 15,000 citizens join the Ishigaki Orion Beer Festival at Ishigaki Shinei Park, sponsored by Okinawa's own Orion Beer. The line up of food outlets starts with the beer stand where Orion Beer, freshly delivered from the brewery, is available at a reduced price, and it is easy to always have a beer at hand while one enjoys the line-up of live entertainment provided by Okinawan performers. The party goes on until a spectacular fireworks display signals the end of this summer festival.

Don't drink and drive!

Orion Beer Festival 2011 in Ishigaki
Date: Sat. July 9, 2011/Time: 15:30-20:50
Location: Ishigaki Shinei Park
Shinei Cho, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0014
Admission: Free (not including food and drink)

Orion Beer Co., Ltd.

Friday, July 1, 2011

July calendar download!

the july calendar for you to download! Click and download the large size, enjoy : )
oh and in case you missed last month, you can find those on our flickr page!

July 2011

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Okinawa Story on Flickr!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shurijo Castle Park

By Maki Nako

When getting to know the people of Okinawa, their arts and culture, one of the places you simply cannot pass up during your time on the main island is Shurijo Castle Park.
The islands of Okinawa were once known as the independent Kingdom of Ryukyu, and Shuri was its capital. From around the 14th century, the Ryukyu Kingdom flourished through trade with neighboring Asian countries, and through these trading routes, brought back various influences in the arts, religion, politics and academics.

At Shruijo Castle Park, located in Shuri, Naha City, visitors can take a trip back in time surrounded by the impressive residence of the Ryukyu royalty. The Seiden, or the Main Hall, was destroyed by fires a number of times in the past, but each time, the people of Ryukyu restored it at the same location. The Castle was last left in ruins in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but was again restored in 1992 and is now the proud symbol of the Ryukyu heritage.

My favorite place at Shurijo Castle Park is the Shoin Sasunoma and the Garden, serving as a teahouse located along the touring route of the fare-paid zone of the Castle itself. Here, visitors are given a brief introduction on the functions of the facility by a Shurijo employee (offered in English, too!) as you enjoy the delightful Okinawan tea and confectionaries and while you take in the simple, yet serene beauty of the Ryukyuan garden accented with limestone and cycad trees. Along with other uses, this area was used by the royal princes to entertain guests and dignitaries. It’s exciting to know that you are at the exact place where the Ryukyuan royalties went about their daily business, and to wonder what thoughts went through their minds as they gazed out to the garden, centuries ago.

Shurijo Castle Park offers so much to see and learn about the history of Okinawa through their informative displays and fantastic art exhibits, not to mention the architecture within the grounds. Surrounding the main, fare-paid zone are various sites to enjoy, admission-free. You can spend a good portion of the day there, viewing the different gardens, and other historic sites and structures within the Park. If you happen to drive by or be in the area after sundown, be sure to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring Castle which is dynamically illuminated on most nights until around midnight. It is certainly a graceful, grandeur sight to see.

Shurijo Castle is one of the nine sites in Okinawa collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the title, Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu. 

Check out the Shurijo Castle Park website for details:
Learn more about the other World Heritage Sites on Okinawa:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June calendar download

June calendar download! hope everyone had a wonderful early summer.
Click and download the large size.

June 2011


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kajimaya Kokuto (brown sugar)

Posted by Maki Nako

Okinawa is also known for the production of quality brown sugar. My pick for this month is kajimaya kokuto, brown sugar wrapped in a pinwheel shaped package with a prayer for longevity.

  Why longevity? It’s because the package shape is based on a pinwheel celebration, or kajimaya in the Okinawan language. It’s a traditional event held in Okinawa for those who turn 97 years old. The colorful print is a bingata motif, a traditional resist dyed textile of Okinawa. The pinwheel package was awarded the President’s Award by the Okinawa Branch Office of the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation at the Okinawa Industrial Fair in 1998.

When I went to Shurijo Castle to take some photos for this article, I heard an interesting story from the employee in the photo below.

One time she sent this kajimaya kokuto to her grandmother-in-law living in Kumamoto Prefecture. The grandmother-in-law liked the taste very much and asked her to send more to give it to her friends. Then she told me her grandmother-in-law is in her 90s and her friends are almost 100 years old! It means this brown sugar is not only tasty but also soft enough (or melts easily in the mouth) for aged people. Furthermore, brown sugar has far more minerals than white sugar; for example it contains calcium, potassium and iron, so it can be a healthy snack.

 One package contains three different flavors: original, sesame, and shikuwasa (a kind of citrus). There are fifteen bite-sized blocks per package; five of each flavor. In addition, this exclusive Shurijo Castle edition comes with sanpin (jasmine) tea, another taste of Okinawa.

A gift box version of two kajimaya kokuto and three sanpin teabags is also available.

Available at Kyuyo Museum Shop in the Hokuden (North Hall) within the paid zone of Shuri jo Castle.
Open from 8:30. Closing time varies depending on the season.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Imo Mochi

Posted by  Tsukasa Hellinger

I’m fortunate to work at a place where my co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds. In Okinawa when there is a hoji or a Buddhist service for the dead, people go back to their hometowns to offer food and drink to their ancestors. Recently, one of my co-workers had to attend one of these services and was kind enough to bring us back some mochi or rice cakes.
 However, these weren’t ordinary mochi. They 
were green! When I asked her why they are green, she told me that sweet potatoes are mixed in to the dough of the rice cake. This explains why they are called imo mochi; imo means potato. The outer layer has a texture that is a little less sticky than regular mochi, and the center is filled with a sweet bean paste. The bottom is covered with a getto or shell ginger leaf which gives it a nice spicy herbal aroma. My co-workers and I all love it!
A good feature of this sweet potato dessert is that you can wrap it with a plastic wrap and freeze it, allowing you to store it in case you want to enjoy it later. From my experience, it tastes great even after thawing it out in the microwave!
This product is unique to Ie Island, so you won’t find it anywhere. According to my co-worker, there are only two places that sell it; a store at the harbor of Ie Island and a store at the harbor of Motobu Town. Since there’s only a limited supply, if you want to get your hands on this rare item you’ll have to go there early. Otherwise, they will sell out!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May calendar!

May calendar download! hope everyone had a wonderful early summer!
Click and download the large size. Enjoy!

May 2011


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Family Gatherings on Traditional Holidays

Posted by Mari Rita Tobaru

Families gather directly front of the tomb for their Shimi “picnic”
Shimi (pronounced locally as “she-me“) is an official family gathering that takes place every year in April. The date of the event is based on the traditional Chinese calendar that is locally known as the “kyureki (old)” calendar. Clan tombs, during this time of the year, are full with people cleaning their tombs and preparing the area for lunch. Like the Obon gatherings, it is a time when families get together to offer food to their ancestors and pray. After the official rites take place, everybody enjoys their time exchanging and updating information about themselves while lunching together. 

This gathering is like a huge family picnic so many families choose a good weekend when the weather is warm and sunny. Since the gathering is relatively huge (one family can have as many as 15 to 20 family members or even more!), each family has its own task to do. Some may offer to participate in the cleaning (usually men) and some may help prepare the “picnic” grounds. Mothers or female elders of most families are mostly in charge of preparing the traditional “picnic” food.
Tradition is gradually changing, and some families also improvise by coordinating barbecues during this event. Whichever way this event is held, it is a special time with their ancestors.

As a foreigner, this event reminds me of the Christmas dinners I had with my families. Although I’m not blood-related at all, I get invited every year to a Shimi gathering. In my calendar, this event is labeled as a must-go event. Each year, the family makes sure that I know the date of the gathering and treats me like a real family member. In my heart, they are my family away from home.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Senaga Island

Posted by Masumi Tuha
, a small island in Tomigusuku City, is one of the places I frequently visit by car, bike, or running. It is also one of the places where my husband took me to when I visited Okinawa before we got married.

So, what are the attractions of this island?
I would say the main attraction is airplanes passing overhead. The island is located just south of Naha Airport, and many people go there to enjoy watching airplanes take off and land; they pass just above you! It is so impressive, and you will never get tired of watching them. You may also be amazed at how often airplanes come and go in Okinawa. During the busy hours in the morning and evening, it is not an exaggeration to say that you can see airplanes approaching and departing every few minutes.

Other people come here to enjoy wind surfing. It was quite windy the last time I visited the island, and I could see several windsurfers.

This island is also a good place to have a barbeque party in the summer time. Children can play in the park. There are also four baseball fields on this small island (the perimeter is 1.5 km)!

This is a rock where couples who wish to have a baby come to pray to be blessed with a newborn.

The shape of the original rock was different. There were two holes near the top of the rock. It is said that if you throw a stone, and it passes through the upper hole, you will have a baby boy; if it passes through the lower hole, you will have a baby girl.

Even though it was recently recreated without holes, it still seems to have a special power.
In the evening, a beautiful sunset over the horizon on the side of the rock romanticizes people.

Senaga Island is an island of love and happiness. I strongly recommend you visit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ishigaki Beef Hamburger The “Holy Cow” Burger in Chatan

Fresh Cream Cheese Burger
Posted by Mari rita Tobaru

When you live in a country from an early 

age where there are many fast food establishments and restaurants serving many different types of hamburgers, you tend to look for good burgers everywhere you go. To me, burgers bring back good memories of family barbecues in Guam and in the United States. I still remember the culture shock I experienced when I found out that no McDonalds existed in Thailand when I moved there with my family 30 years ago. (One opened the following year.) After experiencing a country with no hamburger establishments, I was extremely happy when I came to Okinawa because there were fast-food restaurants (that I was familiar with) that served hamburgers. 
Hamburgers are now evolving in Japan. Just last year, I saw a magazine introducing all the best burgers served in Japan. I did my own research and personally found four hamburger restaurants in Okinawa. Out of the four, one restaurant named “Ishigaki-jima Kitchen Bin” serves a great large juicy burger made from Okinawa’s specialty, Ishigaki Beef! At this restaurant, burgers are made using Ishigaki Beef, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and toppings like avocado, bacon and cheese or fresh cream cheese, combined and stacked together to create a mouthwatering American-style burger. Try this special Ishigaki Beef burger when in the area! You won’t regret it!

 Ishigakijima Kitchen Bin
1-11-21 Chatan, Chatan-cho
Tel: 098-936-7587
Hours: 11:00 – 22:00
*Accept major credit cards

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japanese Pro Baseball Camp!

Posted by Tsukasa Hellinger

The most popular sport in Japan by far is baseball.  Did you know that high school baseball teams from Okinawa have won the national championship four times?!  Even with such talent, Okinawa doesn’t have a professional baseball team.  On the other hand, even during winter, Okinawa has a mild climate which attracts many of the professional baseball teams here for camp.  Who wouldn’t want to trade the harsh cold winter of mainland Japan for a tropical paradise? 

As you may already know, there are many Japanese baseball players in Major League Baseball in the US; Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui to name a few.  Many Japanese people are such die-hard fans of baseball that they fly here from the mainland to see their favorite teams and players up close and personal.  Not to mention, they get to tour Okinawa! 
In this sense, baseball fans in Okinawa are very lucky because all the action and excitement comes to them!  Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to see these talented athletes.  You can see them for free at their training facilities, but you’ll have to buy tickets for exhibition games.  Tickets are available at convenience stores. 

For information on exhibition games see the link below.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Do you love drinking? Are you looking for a tasty souvenir from Okinawa? I will introduce awamori this month.
You may recall “sake” when you are asked about Japanese alcoholic beverages, but in Okinawa, we have awamori, Japan’s oldest distilled liquor. One big difference between sake, refined Japanese rice wine, and awamori is the production process. Sake is classified as distilled liquor, while awamori as brewed beverage. Sake is made using yellow koji mold, and awamori is made using black koji mold of Okinawan origin. The black koji mold contains a large amount of citric acid with bacteria that do not spoil easily even in the hot and humid subtropical climate of Okinawa. Another difference is the rice. Awamori is made from long-grained indica rice while sake is from short-grained rice.

There are 46 awamori distillers in Okinawa and all types of awamori are made using black koji and the same ingredients and production method, but interestingly, the taste is totally different from one distillery to another! It is said the water used to produce the awamori makes the difference.

You can enjoy awamori on the rocks or with water as many Okinawans do. Another great way to savor awamori is cocktails! Awamori can be a good cocktail base just like gin, vodka, etc. Recently, various flavored awamori have also become available, such as coffee and ume plum. Awamori that has been aged for three years or more is called kusu in the Okinawan dialect. The older the awamori, the richer the taste and flavor it has.

 In addition, awamori plays an important part in cooking pork, one of the main foods for Okinawans. It gets rid of the distinctive smell of the meat and makes it tender. I bet you cannot find a family in Okinawa without a bottle of awamori at home.
Anyway, one of the good shops to find awamori of your taste is Okinawa-ya Awamorigura on Kokusai Street. They have a wide selection of awamori from almost all awamori distillers in Okinawa Prefecture including the remote islands. You can sample some of them (if you are not driving, of course). Why not try the fascinating local liquor and feel the Okinawan spirit?

Okinawa-ya Awamori-gura
2-8-5 Matsuo Naha
Hours: 9:30-22:30
Tel: 098-868-5252

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gaijin: The Okinawa Experience

   Being a gaijin, a foreigner, in Japan can be an adventure.  When I first started living in Japan, I was a bit of a hermit.  Why?  Because I was afraid to be in a situation where I didn’t understand what was being said to me or embarrassing myself because I couldn’t clearly express myself in Japanese. 
    For a typical westerner of non-Asian descent, most Japanese people will at least attempt to speak to you in a slow and easy to understand Japanese, if not English.  For me however, since I am of Japanese descent, people would assume that I was fluent in Japanese; For example, I once was talking to a worker at the airport, and she spoke to me in Japanese at a fairly fast pace.  When I asked her to slow down she gave me a look like “are you slow, or what?”  To say the least, I felt stupid.

    On another occasion, I used an elevator to go to another floor.  Along the way, the elevator would stop, so that people can get off and on.  I was standing in front of the elevator control panel, so it was my responsibility to press the buttons to keep the door open or to close it.  I was a bit nervous as the kanji, Chinese character, for open (開) and close (閉) are very similar, and I didn’t know which was which.  As the elevator stopped and the door opened to let people in, lo and behold, I pressed 閉.  The people entering probably thought I was an ***hole.  I was so embarrassed!  Luckily, the person behind me covered for me and pressed the correct button.

   In another incident, I was at my cousins house preparing to brush my teeth.  So I grab the tube of toothpaste, apply it to my toothbrush, and proceed to brush my teeth.  “Man, this stuff is gross!” I thought. Just my luck, it turns out that what I thought was toothpaste was actually facial detergent!
   I could go on and on about my gaijin experiences.  My advice to those that are planning to visit or stay in Okinawa for a while is to not let your inability to speak or read Japanese keep you from getting out, exploring, and enjoying all that Okinawa has to offer because that’s the only way you’re going to learn, improve, and adapt.  I have lived in Japan since 2003, and I’m still evolving!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Andansu Miso

Posted by Maki Nako
             We all have our comfort foods or soul foods that we enjoy throughout our lives, with their tastes and smells bringing back memories in quick flashbacks like photographs in our minds. Home-cooked spaghetti sauce that has just the right amount of spices, blueberry pancakes on Sunday mornings, steaming sukiyaki hot pot on cold winter nights, and tuna casserole topped with breadcrumbs and baked to perfection. But among the list of my all-time favorites, is an item that isn’t a meal on its own, but an addition with so much presence that it manages, on occasions, to take center stage. This is andansu.
              Andansu, (pronounced un-dun-soo) in the Okinawan language, literally means oil and miso. It is prepared with pieces of pork or skipjack tuna mixed with sweet miso paste. Like the rest of Japan, Okinawa’s staple diet is rice. And just like with bread in western cultures, rice is served with the main course or enjoyed on its own, often with sprinkle toppings, seaweed, pickled vegetables, or whatever else to add some pizazz. Although some people like to spread andansu on their toast or other bread, it’s more popular served with rice. Since moving to Okinawa, I’ve never met anyone here who disliked a hot bowl of glittering white rice topped with a generous portion of andansu.
              At the onigiri (rice-ball) section at every convenience store, you will most definitely find a row of andansu-filled onigiri among a selection from tuna-and-mayonnaise, salmon-flakes, ume plums or seaweed fillings, just to name a few. It is also sometimes found in bento boxes (boxed meals), and all supermarkets throughout Okinawa carry at least a brand or two of ready-to-serve andansu. Okinawan households have their own special “tastes” of andansu, perhaps with recipes passed down from one generation to the next. With pretty much the same ingredients needed to prepare it, you wouldn’t think that its taste would vary so much, but every type I’ve ever tasted, from those bought at farmers’ markets and grocery stores to mom ‘n pop diners and friends’ family recipes, they are all so distinctly different, and all so pleasantly delicious.
               You can find them in sealed jars at souvenir shops and at the airport to take some home with you or bring as gifts. But do keep an eye out for the andansu when in Okinawa, as its distinctive taste will certainly be a fond reminder of these unique islands.