Oh My Gawd ~The Food
Okinawa Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
If there is one thing that is completely irreplaceable about okinawa, it is the food. Everyone talks about food in Europe or Mexico, but I am telling you, they have nothing on this tiny island.
First of all let us discuss the duality of this island's culture. On the one hand, Okinawa has a proud history with deeply ingrained traditions and lore. The people are unique in that they are aware of their past but they embrace their present. You can still hear Okinawan Hogan being spoken by the elderly if you know where to look, and you can still find traditionl Okinawan cuisine served up right along side the cosmopolitan fare that the island offers.
The other side of this coin is the phenomenal blending of wold cultures to be found in this place.
Some things to devour while in Okinawa include but are not limited to the following:
Purple sweet potatoes in every form, from hot of the singing Yaki Imo truck, to creamy smooth purple sweet potato ice cream at Blue Seal.
Okinawa Soba, and if you are bold Sooki Soba, a favorite of very traditional Okinawans.
Terriyaki squid on a stick, found at any carnival or raodside stand. For the less ambitious, Yaki Torii is excellent as well (literally "fried bird", actually chicken on a stick).
An adventurous treat is barbecue grasshopper legs, or dried mini octopus, but they actually aren't personal favorites of mine. I do highly recommend a trip to a candystore, as anything you sample will be unique.
Speaking of candies! It is imperative that while visiting Neo Park, one stops in the gift shop, bypasses the Habu Saki (Rice wine with a large snake curled up in the bottom) and purchases the relatively expensive box of "flavored chocolates". They are chocolate cubes, much more similar to white chocolate, and they are flavored with a variety of tropical fruits, pineapple, mango, guava, papaya, etc. they are light and creamy and smooth and they are delicious.
Ramen Houses are a must visit. The ramen bowls are cheap, enormous, and to die for. Shoyu Ramen is an old standard, as is miso ramen. To eat it correctly, be sure to ask for some vinegar to sprinkle on your soup. This is a decision you will not regret. Also, be sure to order gyoza. Put vinegar in the sauce provided with them as well.
There are many individual restaraunts worht attendig, however for the sake of brvity i will just name my personal favorites, in no particular order: Any of the Sam's, Capriciosa, Obbligatto, That garlic restaraunt i cant remember the name of, but you will know it when you see it, the rosegarden, Shirin, Dragon's Inn, Shakey's Pizza, Tonakatsu....the list goes on. possibly forever.
If you go, take enough money to eat every meal out. Also, just for fun, hit up one of the millions of McDonalds, just to see how adoreable the buildings/workers/food is. A&W's are all ver the place too, there is some fast food that is a classic american favorite with an okinawan twist. Avoid Mos Burger. it is gross.
I was a very blonde child. And I had excessively wide eyes. Essentially, I looked like a real life Anime character. This was not exactly to my benefit in Japan. My sisters and I completed most of our education off base. We went to private schools that taught in English. They were populated mostly by Okinawan children or half Okinawan children with a few Phillipinos, Chinese, Thai, and whatever else thrown in. There was only one other white girl in my first grade class, and she was Australian. The situation didn't bother me per se, however I didn't discover until i was much older that i was only invited to all the birthday parties because the parents wanted me to teach their kids more english. Like they could catch it like chicken pox.
That didn't really work. Since I was heavily outnumbered every single time, I really just ended up understanding Japanese. Not a bad thing, especially when i think how ironic it is.
I did make plenty of friends though. And most of them had improved on their English by befriending me.
In middleschool and highschool it got to a point where my Japanese teachers were disgusted by our constant use of "Janglish", which for every person sounds different, but is universally understood by all Janglish speakers. For me, Janglish is japanese nouns and verbs treated like english words in conjugation and sentence placement, with english particles thrown in to make it all flow. For many of my natvie Japanese speaking friends, it was more a combination of english words conjugated like japanese and strung togeter in japanese format.
It is a fun language for anyone that learns it, as there is a lot of free form dialogue that ends up being hilarious.
My favorite part about growing up a gaijin (foreigner) was not overcoming the language barrier, however. It was enjoying the freedom as a child to run around the neighborhood without adult supervision, to explore and have adventures without a care in the world. In Japan, the village really does raise the child. My parents would call us home for dinner about the time the 6:00 pm chimes rang at the community center behind our house. The weather was always gorgeous and it was not an uncommon sight to see a heard of children running and playing and going wherever they pleased without a single adult in sight.
Safety. Uncompromised safety and freedom. We could roam as far from home as our bikes would carry us, as long as we were home by dinner. As we got a little bit older and had more money, we could take the public bus system or taxis if we could afford it. When i was 12 it was a fun adventure to take the bus to Naha and shop the busy dense city with my friends. With no grown-ups. The equvialent of a child strolling through L.A.'s shopping district unattended.
We did have cell phones; i got my first one at 13. And before that, every good parent made sure their child had a phone card that they coulod slide into any of the millions of green public payphones if they really wanted to get a hold of mom or dad.
The freedom we enjoyed was amazing, and when I moved to virginia one of the biggest elements of culture shock was that i couldn't just walk four blocks from my house to the 7-11. Apparently, 5'7", skinny brunette girls shouldn't run around on their own here. Even in the suburbs. I was 17! What an outrage.
I am grateful for these elements of Okinawa instilling themselves in me. I Know that i wouldnt' be the person i am today without them.
I was barely six, but i remember as if it were yesterday. I had moved many times already, but this was a big one. "Across the Ocean" I told my best friend. He cried, but I didn't. I kissed his cheek on the bus home from kindergarten, and he wiped it off with angry disdain. Oh well.
My mom sold our house, moved everything to storage, and packed each of my sisters and my self a single suitcase apiece. She put a few boxes in the mail for us to have when we arrived at our destination. Then, she drove three kids aged 6, 4, and 2, two large border collies and a siamese cat from Aurora CO to Bakersfield CA. After a few weeks visiting the family out here we drove to LA for a 20 hour flight. My sisters and I slept most of the way, and i vaguely remember the stop over in Tokyo. The short flight from Narita Airport to Naha is also a blur.
When we arrived at the airport and colleceted our luggage and pets from quarantine, I ran up to my daddy who had been in okinawa for the past 2 or so years. I had missed him, and he had missed the birth of my youngest sister. He hugged us and told my mom about the house he had rented for us. "It is kinda small" he said, "but you have no idea how hard it is to find a three bedroom two bathroom house in Japan".
I was VERY excited to see how everything looked compared to recent memories of California and Colorado. We walked to the exit with all of our luggage and pets and carseat with baby and as soon as we stepped out the very cool and dry airport, it was like walking into a wall of smothering humidity. At midnight. It literally knocked me back a few steps and I exclaimed "MOM! Japan air is too thick!" she didn't disagree but said, "Come on Becca, get in the cab"
I climbed into the Pink and Green taxi, and to my surprise the very Okinawan driver turned around and spoke in heavily accented english. "Ah! You have gord hair! Berry Rucky!!!!" And then after nodding to my father, he reaced in back and gently patted me on the head. I was terrified and frozen solid with a forced smile on my face. I was very concerned about having gourd hair and slightly insulted that he called it "rucky". I figured the pat on the head was out of sympathy, although i had never had a sympathy pat before. Well, my poppa did tell me that the people were very nice, but they had ver different customs and superstitions.
When we arrived at the new house my sisters and i were very tired. My pop explained that the driver of the cab didn't charge us full fare because of my lucky blonde hair. I could get used to that!