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!