Saturday, August 30, 2014

ChuraGwa Shokudo in Naha

Going to be near Shuri castle and need to find a place to eat that’s not just clean and convenient but has a wide selection on the menu to choose from. But not only that, maybe you’re also looking for a place that serves up really-really delicious local delicacies that are down right decadent in portion and deliriously cheap to boot!  Boy do I have a place for you!

The Churagwa shokudo near the Okinawa Expressway Exit One is the place you need to try. Open daily from 11 am till 10 pm, last order at 9:30, they have a very wide variety of Okinawan food to serve you. You wanna try some delicious Tonkatsu or Sakana fry, they got it. Got a hankering for some mouth-watering melt-in-your-mouth San-mai-niku or Soki soba, look no further. Not only is there’s arguably the best in town, it’s quite likely the lowest price and arguably the largest portions for the price to be found around town.

From full size dinner plates to fast-food choke-and-puke filler-up and run style getter and go lunch runs, it’s all good and everything is under 1000 Yen in price and the portion sizes are, well let me just say, come hungry cause it’s so good you’re not going to want to leave a single crumb or grain of rice on your plate on your plate when your finished, it’s just THAT GOOD!

Even though they have plenty of seating available, it’s a busy-busy place during the lunch rush and to make sure no one goes away hungry or mad, they even have tempura, sataandagi and other packaged goodies at the door for those of you that are in a hurry and for whatever reason, just can’t wait.

The staff is always friendly and for a Japanese Shokudo restaurant, the service is really fast. This is a testament to the efficiency of the layout and management. Speaking of management, they must be pretty good because unlike most other places you go to where the faces of the folks who serve you changes almost daily, the gals working the front lines at this place are the same ones who worked for the place when they were still at the old location.

This place used to be located a few blocks to the east of its present location but when the prefecture decided to widen a road a year or so ago, the restaurant just had to move. But not wanting to lose a long established and loyal customer base, they found a suitable location not far from the old location.

To find it, from exit one of the Okinawa Expressway, turn left and at the next traffic light, turn left again and the parking area will be the first on you guessed it, the left. There’s plenty of parking too but, if its at all possible, get there early or do what you can to avoid the peak lunch hours.

BTW, "Chura-gwa" means beautiful person but it certainly doesn't hurt when a beautiful person can cook food so delicious that it's fit for a king. More-over, they say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, maybe that's why I can'tt lose any weight and he guy in the statue is groveling behind her in the image above. Word to the wise is, who needs feminism if you can cook...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Disappearing Ghost Hotel of Ogimi

Those of you who drive up the West Coast of Okinawa to visit the beach resort at Okuma, spend some time at Hiji Falls, drink in the visual majesty of Cape Hedo or just take a country drive through the wilds of northern Okinawa may have noticed high on the hills above Ogimi village a large monolithic structure of a large building. For years this building remained a mystery. Many folks have tried to find it over the years only to get frustrated and lost in the winding mountain roads above Shioya bay.

Over the years, a sort of legend developed about the place. Some said it was Haunted Hotel. Rumors abounded about a rich hotelier who gambled all of his fortune on the venture only to go broke. Some said he simply closed the doors and locked everyone out to include the staff. Some wilder stories had it that he had committed suicide as a result of his folly.

Some rumors had it that the facility had been chained off and all of the furnishings left in tact. Some say that, for whatever reason, it had been posted as off limits to "SOFA" (U.S. military personnel). Even so, some brave souls claim to have ignored the warnings and heard the strange sounds of things that go bump in the night. Whatever, the truth is the same today as it is with most rumors of recent and distant past such as President Obama's Kenyan birth, secret Nazi submarine bases in antarctica, anthropogenic global warming and whatever bullshit the brain dead make a buck at all costs media moguls think up next to distract the useless eaters among us, maybe it's true or it maybe it's not, given the scant information that we have, we just don't know and when you get right down to it, the relatively small number of sane people among us just don't care.

All of that being said, sometimes it's just cool to find new places you've never been before and see what all the fuss was about. In the pictures above, you can see what's left of the so called "Ghost Hotel. Someone is finally starting to tear it down. How much of it is still standing at the time of this posting is likewise a mystery. What will be going up in it's place? Who knows! What we do know is that the site offers up one of the best views of Shioya bay, Kouri Jima and the Motobu peninsula as you can see in the second photo here.

The moral of the story is, sometimes it pays off to take the road less followed and get off the beaten path.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Beaches Bars Boats and Ballads

Beaches, Bars, Boats and Ballads was an anthology album put out by Jimmy Buffett a gazillion or so years ago. I used to listen to his music a lot before I reached middle age and discovered sobriety. I also felt that living on Okinawa was like living in a Jimmy Buffett song too. Again that was before sataandaagi and oolong tea supplanted Orion Beer and Awamori Sake or as old Hank would put it, "cornbread and iced tea took the place of pills and 90 proof!"

Still, I've always had a love for the sea and boats and when the weather turns to $#!+ here and it's your one day to get out and about, you just have to make the most of it! That's what world renowned wildlife photographer (at least in his own mind) Ryukyu Mike of Ryukyu Life and I did this last week. Like the rebels without a clue that we are, we headed out from his headquarters in downtown Kin-Cho for points south this last week. Our first stop for the day was a secluded spot in Yomitan village where, in times past we've been lucky enough to shoot some of the local wildlife in action.

I'm talking about real wildlife here not that other kind. For that other kind of wild life some of you may be looking for, you'll have to go elsewhere. Please note that except for the occasional cuss word or two whenever my turrets syndrome flairs up, this is a family oriented blog. Anyway, once we got set up and started shooting, the skies stayed blue for about half a gigabyte (that's about two or three frames with Mike's Pentax K3) before the skies opened up and it started pissing on us.

Mike was in need of some coffee and smokes anyway so we loaded our gear back into the mini-SUV I was driving and headed a little farther out toward the ocean where we could still see a patch of blue sky above. That took us to a little tourist trap just south of the Alivila hotel. It's part of the Nikko hotel group on the East China Sea side of the island. The place is called Gala where they make sea salt, pottery and glass trinkets for all the terrorists tourists. That's where we were able to snap these photos before looking for some new adventures. If you're ever interested, it's a cool little place that gets some great sunsets over the East China Sea and there's also an all you can eat pizza place there too.

Mike hopes to talk some gals into dressing up and dancing on the stone whatchamacallit that they built out in the water some years ago. It was part of the set for a old NHK TV show called Ryukyu no Kaze which translates into "Wind of the Ryukyus." He had seen some pretty little shimagwa's dancing out there in one of the many Karaoke videos he's sung mineo tunes to. I don't think he really gives a crap about the scene, he just wants to see the pretty girls dancing for him and his camera...

The other place down below (second photo) belongs to a NPO that works on restoring the coral reefs around Okinawa.  They do tours of the facility for a modest fee. Don't ask me what it is cause I'm too much of a cheap bastard to pay for it and Mike wasn't hung over enough to wanna trek down the side of the cliff to go see it. What's interesting about this place is that the guy started it all on his own without any assistance from the government or corporate sponsors. He almost went broke in the process but by sticking to his guns and no doubt having a very understanding wife probably helped, he was able to build all this. Now they raise the coral in the tanks and when it matures enough, they go out on diving expeditions to transplant it out on the reefs.

What does all this have to do with the title of the post. Other than the beach and boat, not a damn thing really. I suppose you could stretch that a bit by noting that Mr. Buffett's troupe that he recorded with and took on tour for many years was called the Coral Reefer band. As for the bar, Mike used to own one and as for the ballads, he's still a karaoke singing fool. I suppose if push comes to shove, we could just substitute the word "babes" for either one. There's a few of them to oggle over in the video below. These days, that's about as close to that other kind of wild life I get...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

50's Cafe a Burger Heaven

The '50's Cafe' located near Camp Courtney in Uruma City boasts one of the better "off-Base" burgers on island!

Located just a kilometer or two south of the base along Highway 224, near where it intersects highway 10, the place is small and clean and perhaps best of all, it's a real American style burger. No funky sauces or native ingredients to fool you, this place serves up the real deal.

To get there, from Camp Courtney's main gate, turn left onto highway 75 and at the next traffic light make another left onto highway 224. Stay on this road all the way till you see the place pictured above on your left. You'll see a Lawson's sort of caddywampus cross the street from the place on the right hand side of the road at the light.

Parking is limited but it's well worth a trip and for all you gaijin's out there afraid to try the local cuisine and the can't figure out the exchange rate with the local currency, this place won't put your panties in a wad because they serve American food and till it becomes more worthless than it already is, they still take American money for it too....

Monday, August 4, 2014

Matsuri Time in Okinawa

August in Okinawa means, in addition to being the hottest month in the whole damn year, it's also Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) time on "The Rock." This week we're all busy getting ready for the annual OBon celebrations. That means house cleaning, Ohaka cleaning, visting relatives and the exchanging of gifts. In fact, I got so busy that I forgot to post something on the blog yesterday like I try to do each weekend. So here's a couple of old photos I took of festivals long ago that now hang in a local gallery.

The first one I took as part of the annual 10,000 Eisa dancers in Naha. Since they did that big event again just yesterday and I missed it, you'll have to bear with this photo I captured a few years back.

The second one I took at one of the many Matsuri's held in Kin Town (central Okinawa) I think this one was taken at the Nuch-gu-sui (medicine for the soul) Matsuri. That's usually a winter time event but the vivid colors along with the pose the kid in this photo is doing is so cute I couldn't pass up the chance to capture the moment.

Just in case you're new to the blog and don't know what Eisa dancing is, here's a video from the 10,000 Eisa dancers event from a few years back...