Okinawa: Castles, Cafes & Sunsets

I had two weeks, a backpack, my lappy (laptop) and a tummy that is quick to empty. I wouldn’t want me to get hangry. While exploring Okinawa and it’s scenic island charm, I can’t help but to indulge my taste buds in local cafes, enchanting bakeries, restaurants and feast my imaginations with castle ruins. Here are some of the eateries I love and the 2 castles I visited:

Cafe By The Sea (Hamabe No Chaya)

True to its name, it literally is a cafe by the sea. I recall the drive to finding this cafe was a very long one and it’s only because it is located in the northern region of the island, and that it was an hour away from where I stayed (central region). Before reaching to this cafe, you would have to drive through some serious narrow roads and as you arrive deeper, you will pass by small towns, which eventually will lead to a mix of winding uphill roads. The road will then take you into an area to which seemed like an electrical appliance waste dump which may seem to deceive. But just slightly a few meters away, you will find the cafe entrance hidden by overgrown plants on the left side of the road. On the opposite side is the parking area.

The entrance of Cafe By The Sea

As you walk down the steps, the cafe sits under the trees on strong stacks of rustic stones and further down, are paved stone steps which were engraved on dried coral reef leading down to the beach. Guests usually hang around and take pictures there while waiting for their seats. Reservations are not available here, so my friend and I had to write our names on a board hanging by the entrance door of the cafe and wait for our turn to be seated.

Waiting to be seated
Sipping Coffee like a baws!
This lovely view from where we sat.

On the drinks menu,  you are spoiled for choice of hand dripped coffee, Okinawa herbal tea, pineapple juice, passion fruit juice and much more. The cafe serves brunch sets too, like a grilled sandwich, scone set, buttered toasts. They even have vegetarian pizza. If you fancy some sweets, they serve tofu gelato, handmade scones, chocolate cake, baked cheesecake and lot’s more. Prices range from 300 yen to 1,000 yen.

Saai Roang, Yomitan – Son

Ok! so the picture above shows that the restaurant is closed (it was 3 pm. Their closing hour.) I realized I did not take a picture of the entrance when it was open because I was quick to feed myself and was super hungry. What got me to Saai Roang was pure hunger. It’s located in Yomitan-Son, not far from where I stayed. I could walk to this place in just 5 minutes.

Saai Roang serves Thai-Vietnamese style cooking. They serve several tom yum flavoured dishes, noodles and rice set that comes together with a drink. It wasn’t too bad. I ordered rice and chicken with tom yum gravy and a hot coffee. They open from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm every day except for Sundays.

Prawn Tom Yum Soup, garlic bread with chilli sauce
My Coffee

Mintama

Mintama is an Italian restaurant, welcoming customers in a traditional styled Japanese building on a side street alley, which in my opinion looks like a cozy home. As you walk to the entrance, a “target” sign hung on a tree invites you through wooden sliding glass doors and inside is a wooden panel ceiling and wooden tables and chairs. Great for dinner with the family, girlfriends night out or even date nights. This is another restaurant in Yomitan-Son, and was only within a walking distance from where I stayed.

Straight out of the menu, I ordered Balsamic Glazed Mahi. I loved that they made sure the fish was cooked to perfection. It was easy in the mouth, soft and large tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glazed was placed on top of the fish. Mintama served pastas, salads and other traditional Okinawan dish too.

Fried Japanese Sweet Potato

Suien Bakery

Suien Bakery is one of those enchanting local eateries I recommend anyone to go. If you are looking to just hang out and have a bread or two with tea or coffee, Suien Bakery might be the place for you. Even better for vegetarians, as all their bread are vegetarian base. Read more about this bakery in a post I wrote –  Finding Muse at Suien Bakery. 

The Shack

The Shack serves mouth watering freak shakes. Nothing to be guilty about here folks. When you need to cool down and beat the heat, make your way to The Shack and order yourselves a freak shake already! Perhaps an OREO PARTY might get you going. The shack is located in Chatan, Nakagami District of Okinawa. It opens from 3:00 pm to 12:00 am every day and opens from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Sundays.

Zakimi Castle Ruin

Zakimi is one of the many castle ruins in Okinawa. Along with its historical value for being dubbed as the UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of the best spots to view an awesome sunset. The walls that make up as fortresses for Zakimi are featured with unique Ryukyu masonry keystones.

The castle was once used by the Japanese as gun emplacements before and during World War II and after the war, it was used as a radar station by the US forces. It’s fairly easy to visit this castle ruin. There is no entrance fee and is located in Yomitan, Nakagami District and there are clear sign boards to help you make your way there.

First Court of the castle

Shurijo Castle

Shurijo Castle is rich with the Ryukyu Kingdom’s history, with its sharp red exterior, its great dragons on limestone pillars, its golden dragon statues sitting tall on wooden engravings, and roof tiles boasting the sophisticated techniques of the artisans, and the Hokuden, where the king holds all his political affairs. It is where history buff meets architecture enthusiasts.

Shurijo Castle has an entrance fee of 820 yen and you will be able to tour around and inside the castle with guided directions.

Kankaimon Gate
One of the dragons on top of the Tsuma wall.
Ufugui, an area which is used daily by the queen and high-ranking female attendants.

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