The Okinawan Dishes by Grandma

My mom is an amazing cook.
I think she gets it from her mother because my grandma is also an amazing cook. She spoils us with our favorite Okinawan dishes every time we come…and so I thought I’d share some with you.
Fresh Aosa Soup (above) is delicious. We had this in the mornings instead of miso soup. Aosa is a type of seaweed and fresh Aosa can be found in Okinawa, although you can find dried Aosa even on the mainland. But it’s really good. And it’s also good for your body as well because it includes lots of fiber and vitamin C!
My absolute favorite dish is made from a type of potato called Tahnm (ターンム/田芋). I think the closest type of potato may be Sato-imo (里芋), which is called Taro in English. It’s only produced in a couple of places even within Okinawa, so you can only find them in stores around certain holidays, like New Years or other Buddhist holidays. What I think is interesting is that the Tahnm are sold in stores already steamed (below). So cooking it is really simple.
Tahnm can be used in a variety of ways. The two popular ways to cook it in our family is Dingaku (ディンガク), which is a sweet paste-like dish, and my absolute favorite, Kara-age (above). It’s basically deep fried Tahnm but you pour sweet soy sauce over it to add flavor!
This time we actually found Tahnm being sold in supermarkets so I bought a whole bunch, froze them in my grandma’s fridge, and actually brought them back to Tokyo with me. My grandma also taught me how to make the two dishes so I’m really happy I get to eat them in Tokyo, too 😀

Nanto-mochi (ナントウ餅) is a type of mochi (above) made from kokuto (dark sugar), miso, and peanuts. It’s not too sweet as it has a little kick of long pepper (called pipa-tsu (ピパーツ) in Okinawa) and ginger, too. It used to be a special dish for New Years but it’s become popular enough that you can find it all year long in Okinawa now.
And last but not least, is possibly the most famous Okinawan snack, Sah-tah-andagee (サーターアンダギー)! (below)
In Okinawan (they used to be the Kingdom of Ryukyu so they had/have their own language), Sah-tah means sugar, anda means oil, and agee means fried. So it’s pretty much a doughnut! My grandma always makes the Beni-Imo (紅芋/purple yam) flavor. I love how purple the doughnut gets on the inside. Isn’t it pretty?

Well, we ate much much more but that was all that I was able to take pictures of.
The others? We scarfed it all down before I could even reach for my camera. haha. Okinawan food is so simple yet so delicious. And even more so when you’re in the company of family you love!
So now you know what to look for when you go to Okinawa! Happy eating! 😀

The Morning Rush Hour

I often hear how awful the morning commute on the train is in Tokyo.
And it’s probably true. We have a whole bunch of trains and subways and most of them are super packed during rush hour in the morning. I’ve experienced it first hand. (Although I tend to kind of enjoy the excitement of squeeeeeeezing onto a train and not being able to breathe, while having 10+ people practically piled on top of you as the train moves at an unbelievably slow pace…!)
But we have a saying in Japan that goes “Ue-ni-wa Ue-ga Aru (上には上がある).” Not sure how to translate that in English…but it’s something along the lines of “there’s always a bigger fish” kind of meaning. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)
And I found it in Mexico.
Spanish photographer Héctor Mediavilla took these amazing photos of the morning rush hour in the subways in Mexico. Look at that crowd! I especially like the photo below of the people trying to get off the train and the people trying to stay inside. 
Makes me glad I can walk to work 😀

The Family Dinner

Family dinners always consist of a lot of talking and even more laughing.
This time around we got to meet our new cousins, M and R! My uncle and aunt, who live in Okinawa, are foster parents and they’ve had M and R with them for about a year now but this was the first time my family got to meet them. I’m so glad we got time to get to know each other.

At our family dinners, we are pretty old school. The women gather in the kitchen to prepare dinner together, all the while chatting away. The men sit in the living room and talk about business…or whatever men talk about.
And when there are children around, someone is elected to play with (i.e. watch over) them. Usually the children have the power to choose who they want as a playmate.
This time around, the six year old R chose me!!! 😀
We played things like run-around-the-neighborhood-randomly or paper-rock-scissors-with-loose-rules (as in R always wins). It was a lot of fun, actually. We did this silly dance every time a game was over, regardless of who one!
R also took an interest to my camera, so I let her play with it. My aunt was worried but she was really careful with it. R took both of the pictures above. Isn’t she talented? I think she’s better than I am! When she becomes a professional photographer, I can say I let her use her first real camera! 😀

We had temaki-zushi for dinner…simple and delicious!

We include an Okinawa favorite Umi-budo (海ぶどう) in our temaki-zushi!

My grandma, aunt M, and my mom in the kitchen.

We spent the day sharing stories and catching up with each other…and still there wasn’t enough time. My uncle and aunt had a tough time dragging the girls away and we were pretty reluctant to let them all go, too. We really had a grand ole time together and I am already looking forward to our next family dinner together!

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
– Richard Bach

The Ginowan Seaside Park

People always assume that everyone goes to Okinawa for their beaches.
Truthfully, I have never stepped foot into the water during my trips to Okinawa. It may have something to do with the number of family and relatives we want to see while we’re here. Or because we’re there for certain occasions such as weddings or funerals. Or possibly due to the season we’re here.
But that doesn’t stop us from taking an afternoon walk by the beach!
This is part of the Ginowan Seaside Park (宜野湾海浜公園) and is a great place to walk around. There are also many benches and lawns so you can take a break or just sit to enjoy the view.
Despite the wind, there were actually quite a few people swimming in the water. There were also families who were doing BBQs. And of course, there were people like us who were just enjoying the weather (a bit cloudy, perfect for a walk outside!).
We’re definitely coming back here in the summer one of these days!

The All American Food

For those of you who do not live in Japan, you probably don’t understand why every one heads to A&W when in Okinawa. That is because we don’t have A&W stores outside of Okinawa, which has a total of 26 stores throughout the island. This island has a lot of influence from all the U.S. bases located here.
Root beer is actually not the most popular drink in Japan. I think half of the people think “Hey this isn’t beer!” and the other half are like “Yuck, this tastes like medicine!” Well, it kind of does taste like medicine. But I love root beer floats. They make the world a better place. As do those curly fries…yum!!!
So this is my sister, our high school friend, and I hanging out at the A&W they have at Naha Airport. It’s funny because we all live in the greater Tokyo area but we ended up catching up in Okinawa 😀
A&W Naha Airport
Naha Airport Bldg 3rd floor
150 Kagamizu
Naha-shi, Okinawa
Hours: 6:30am-8:00pm

Later we went downtown to Kokusai-dori, which is a major tourist spot in Naha City. I’d actually never been there before because every time we’re in Okinawa, we go straight to my grandma’s place and with so many relatives to see and say hi to, we ended up spending most out time with family and end up missing all the touristy places. Which is totally fine, since that’s what we come here for.
But I have to say, I was curious what Kokusai-dori was all about.
It ended up being just a whole bunch of souvenir shops and restaurants. But it was fun to see everything. Also, they had the scary looking Shiisa statues at the entrance. They are like the koma-inu that guard temples and shrines. Pretty much every house in my grandma’s neighborhood had these shiisa statues. They are usually places at the entrance of the property wall or the driveway to ward off evil.
Don’t you love how fierce they look?

The Yard Full of Flowers

The morning after I got to my grandma’s house, I ventured outside to check out the yard. Because when you’re a single girl living in the city, a yard is a luxury.
My grandpa passed away a year and a half ago but he loved orchids. And he loved growing them in the yard. I don’t know much about orchids but I’ve heard that some orchids are very difficult to grow. You could say he had a green thumb for orchids. And now my grandma is taking care of them. With the way the pretty orchids are starting to bloom, I think my grandma has a green thumb, too!
These were some of my favorite plants I found around the yard.

My favorite orchid in the whole yard…love the yellow and fuchsia pink!

Another pink purple-ish orchid…doesn’t it look kind of like a face?

Nago-ran (名護蘭), another favorite, is a tiny orchid named after Nago City in Okinawa.

Sennenboku (千年木) has the prettiest leaves. Gorgeous fuchsia, don’t you think?
I forgot what this was called but I liked how delicate the flowers were.
Love how beautiful this hibiscus is. Hibiscus tea, not so much…but I love the flower!

The Cellphone Pictures of Okinawa

I know. I am really awesome at being lazy. Some may even say I excel at it.
Actually in my defense, I have been kind of busy lately. But I wanted to get these pictures up here all of a sudden when I went to get some of them developed during my lunch break today. My grandma has been looking forward to the pictures and since she doesn’t have a computer, I developed them at Bic Camera (Did you know it’s not “Big” Camera but “Bic” Camera? What does that even mean?). I also got a really cute photo album to put the pictures in.
How often do we do that lately? I know I don’t as often as I used to.
Anyways, I still haven’t gone through my pictures from my camera but I’m putting some up from my cellphone. Makes me want to head back down there. It was a really great trip!
Look forward to more Okinawa spam coming up later this week! 😀
Bus rides in Okinawa are super expensive!
The only place in Japan where you can get root beer…yum!

We met up with our high school friend for lunch!
Sheesa at the entrance of the main street where all the tourists are, Kokusai-dori.

Love snack pineapples and Okinawan glass is so pretty!
We stumbled upon this shop where my friend sells his Nenrin brand interior goods!
Ginowan Seaside Park is a great place to relax and make flower bracelets!
We took a walk around the park before dinner on a warm and windy day.

My grandma’s yard had so many tropical flowers…and I took a picture of most of them.
My grandpa used to always get us sweets at Jimmy’s…this time we got a german cake!

We stopped by Shuri Castle before seeing my sister off at the aiport!
The restored Shuri Castle was gorgeous.
Grandma and I in the yard…isn’t she lovely?
Even bus stops have the traditional Okinawan tiles.
My parents both came to see me off 😀

Forever an ANA girl…whoop whoop!
Morning flight out of Okinawa…so sad to go.

And headed straight to work with a pineapple sticking out of my bag. haha.

The Post Golden Week

Hi there!
Did I mention I went on a family vacation? I think I may have been a little bit too hasty to get out of Tokyo to remember to post about it.
Can you even believe how quickly April was over? I remember at the start of April my every other thought was “I can’t WAIT for Golden Week!” and then work just swept away my sense of time and before I knew it, May was right there before my eyes. Amazing how time keeps on playing tricks on me like that.
So yes, I am back from my family vacation. And I feel great.
My baby sister is still in boarding school so she couldn’t come with us this time but the rest of us all met up in Okinawa, which is where I am originally from.
Well, kind of. My mother’s side of the family is Okinawan, my parents met and got married there, and both my sister and I were born there. And while we did move away when I was four years old, I still consider myself “from” Okinawa, as that is where my roots lie. So going back to Okinawa is always a treat because a part of me feels like I’m going home but another part of me feels like an explorer! (And we all love being an explorer, am I right?)
I haven’t exactly had the post vacation blues but I’ve been having the post vacation laziness. But I’m going through my pictures so hope to have them up soon!
Wishing you all a happy weekend! x

The Apple Wine from Yamamoto

Have you ever tried apple wine?
I don’t know much about wine. I know if it’s red or white and I know if I like it or not. But that’s about it. So I can’t tell you much about how this apple wine tastes, except that I really liked it and it was gone before we knew it.
This wine uses Kogyoku apples produced in Yamamoto. They first started selling this wine in 2010 in order to promote the delicious Yamamoto apples. They made the wine at Kikyo Chobei (桔梗長兵衛店), which became a winery in 1910 and was the only winery in Miyagi Prefecture. But in 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami came, the winery was damaged and all the machinery were swept away. Even more devastating was that they also lost the owner and his wife in the tsunami.
It was impossible to produce the apple wine in 2011, but through much thought and cooperation with various people after the tsunami, the apple wine was once again produced in 2012, this time to support the efforts of apple farmers trying to get back on their feet. In order to keep things close to home, they found a winery in the neighboring prefecture of Yamagata to produce the wine. And this year, once again, they produced a total of 1,500 bottles this year to be sold in Miyagi.
We were there a couple of days after the apple wine hit the shelves and they were already all sold out. It seems there are many fans of this apple wine. Luckily, our friend had a bottle and were all had a chance to taste it. So fruity and delicious.
I’m going to have to keep my eyes out for this apple wine next year!

The Bread with the Awful Name

Spotted Dick…that’s right, this lovely bread is called Spotted Dick in Ireland.
According to the recipe I used, it seems that sometimes it is also called Spotted Dog. But it’s really hard to get over the original name. I just couldn’t get my mind around it but according to Wikipedia it seems that “spotted refers to the dried fruit (which resemble spots) and dick may be a contraction or corruption of the word pudding (from the last syllable).” 

What do you think? I can under stand how spotted refers to the raisins but the word pudding? That story sounds kind of spotty to me.
But enough about the awful name. The bread was delicious. And quite simple, too. You can probably tell from the pictures that I added a just a liiiiiiiiittle more raisins than the recipe called for. But I love raisins and I couldn’t help myself. And it turned out just how I like it, crispy on the outside and munchy on the inside. Yay!