Food & Drink|
If you feel up to experimenting with new types of foods and checking out the restaurants on island, take a chance and drop by one of these kinds of establishments. You'll surely enjoy yourself and will learn a little more about the local culture in doing so.|
Shokudo - These are casual restaurants, like family restaurants in the United States, where you can get a quick, low-priced and substantial meal. The staff is mainly made up of easygoing, middle-aged women. Shokudo generally offer set menus and Okinawa Soba; the entire menu is often home cooked. Although some shokudo might appear to be old and a little run down, meals can be quite delicious at such places. They are generally not open late at night.
Izakaya - Most izakaya in Okinawa are places where people can have an enjoyable time with friends, co-workers or even family members. While they have a wide variety of food, such as snacks, original dishes and Okinawan specialties, they also have a large selection of drinks, including many kinds of soft drinks, beer and awamori, all of which are offered at reasonable prices. They also have all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink menus. We recommend an izakaya if you want to have a taste of many different kinds of foods. It is said that in Okinawa, izakaya without parking spaces are not profitable.
Restaurants - The primary purpose of these establishments is to serve meals, same as in the States. While some restaurants specialize in a particular kind of food, such as Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French or Thai, others have all types of meals. You can enjoy dining with family, friends and co-workers. Of course, you can drink alcohol with meals, but food is the main purpose for coming here.
Bars & Dining Bars - Most bars have only drinks, while some serve some small snacks. Each bar has its own style reflecting the owner's theme, so it is enjoyable to visit many bars and find your favorite style. Dining bars, like pubs in the States, are places where you can both eat and drink.
Yatai - These are stand-up-style outdoor restaurants. You can get a meal very quickly at a yatai because they offer dishes that can be served immediately after an order is placed. Their dishes are low-priced and very delicious. Due to their small size, they often have only one or two tables for customers, but they are excellent places to drop by with a few friends or co-workers. Incidentally, many companies in Okinawa sell box lunches yatai-style from small trucks in business districts around schools.
Cafˇs - The cafˇ business in Japan has become a cafˇ boom, and that boom has also hit Okinawa. Cafˇs generally offer a luncheon menu at lunchtime. Between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm you can enjoy tea or coffee with sweets. After 6:00 pm they feature a dinner menu. Incidentally, there are many game cafˇs and manga cafˇs in Okinawa that are popular with men and women of all ages. At game cafˇs, you can have a meal while playing games such as hanafuda, a Japanese card game.
Eating in Okinawa: Things to Remember
When it comes to any special rules or manners while eating at an Okinawan restaurant, the main thing to remember, as is the case in any country, is to use common sense. In other words, don't be rude, say please and thank you, and compliment the chef for cooking a fantastic meal.
At the beginning of a meal at any Japanese restaurant, patrons are always handed a moistened cloth called an oshibori, which is warm in the winter and cold in the summer. Oshibori are used to cleanse the hands before starting the meal, and you will often see a patron wiping his or her face with the cloth as well.
When sitting on tatami, a Japanese-style matted floor, women are usually expected to sit with their legs under the body with heels resting under the buttocks. This position might prove impossible for those unaccustomed to it, but fortunately Okinawans are sympathetic to Westerners' long legs and are forgiving if a woman decides to stretch out her legs; she should not, however, sit cross-legged like a man. Of course, before stepping on to the tatami, it is mandatory to remove your shoes. It is also important to take note of the condition of your socks before taking off for a Japanese restaurant.
Since Okinawan food is so delicious, it is often tempting to pass morsels on to a friend sitting at the same table, which is socially acceptable as long as you don't pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks. This is reminiscent of a Japanese funeral rite in which family members pass pieces of bone from the deceased's cremated body around the table with long chopsticks. Instead, if you offer a piece of food, place it on a platter in front of the other person. Also, never stick a pair of chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice; this too is a taboo rooted in funeral customs.
Finally, when you have finished the meal and wish to impress the restaurant staff, especially the chef, simply announce, "Gochisousama deshita!" This translates as, "It was a feast," and the staff will definitely appreciate your gesture.
The most important thing to remember when dining out in Okinawa is to have fun and try new things. Who knows, you too just might discover the secret of longevity through the island's cuisine.