'Being a part of nature' Okinawa cafe's goal
I know we can all get stressed out every day. Swamped with emails, dealing with phone calls, juggling smart phones, tablets and facing endless responsibilities both at work and home can do that to a person.
Everybody needs some space to refresh your mind from time to time.
People have their own ways of dealing with stress. Eating a lot of sushi over a glass of beer in American Village might take care of it for some. Or, if physical activity is your thing, running with earbuds on may help you clear your mind.
But if you are looking for something different or willing to steer away from your ordinary route to explore Okinawa, a less than one-hour drive from Camp Foster to the southern part of the island will reward you with a gorgeous ocean view and take your mind away from the ordinary.
Being located on a quiet beach in Nanjo city, Hamabe no Chaya café has come a long way since it started 21 years ago, becoming one of the must-see locations for many tourists in Okinawa.
“Being a part of nature is the concept of this café,” said Kouji Inafuku, manager of the ocean-front establishment, who sat with me for an interview.
“It is my father Nobuyoshi, who started this place,” Inafuku explained. “He used to work for the construction industry in Okinawa when he was young. But the idea of destructing nature to construct new buildings didn’t sound right to him. So he decided to leave the industry.”
After leaving his job, Inafuku’s father traveled overseas, not knowing what to do with his life. But a café he came upon in Guam set a direction for his life.
“It was a small café in a rural area in Guam that grabbed his heart. My father soon became a regular customer of this place, spending a lot of time there,” Inafuku said. “Unlike a fancy café, this one was housed in a large shipping container. But the café looked very appealing in a quaint way to my father.”
The café in Guam inspired his father to open his own café in his hometown. But he had it in his mind that he would not house the restaurant in an old shipping container.
Inafuku proudly explained that his father handmade everything, from the wooden house, tables and chairs, to make it a place that fits to his concept of being part the nature. Every time I come to this place, I sense a warm feeling. What the son said explained where this warmness comes from. His father’s concept resides in every single detail of the café.
Having a handmade ocean-front café is very romantic. But it takes a lot to keep the dream going.
“Being surrounded by the nature benefits us a lot,” Inafuku sid. “But at the same time, we face damages when the nature gets wild.”
In fact, if you take a look at their facebook page, you can see photos of when the café suffered damage due to a typhoon. But even with the cost and labor that come with maintaining this cafe, the nature offers something you cannot buy with money. To me, enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the ebb and flow of the tide at this place is one of the most gorgeous ways of spending your Sunday afternoon in Okinawa.
It was about 15 years ago that I became a regular customer. Most of the time, I come to this place to enjoy the ocean view. But it didn’t take me long to note that the coffee they serve tasted real good. When I asked him about the coffee served at this café, Inafuku smiled and shared some secrets.
“From the beginning, my parents knew that they needed to be very specific about coffee,” he said. “So my mother went to Tokyo and spent a year there learning how to properly brew coffee, especially the skill of hand dripping.
“At our café, we use more beans than most normally do,” he continued. “And our beans are deep roasted. Some customers may find it a bit too bitter, but I got to say that’s our taste.”
You can enjoy four kinds coffee at Hamabe no Chaya: Kilimanjaro, Mocha, Mandelin, and Guatemara. All the coffees and foods are served on Yachimunyaki pottery featuring a sunflower pattern. According to Inafuku, the sunflower design is dedicated to the sunflowers his parents planted around the café when it opened.
“Before our café opened, this was a kind of place where you would see trash scattered,” he said. “Some neighbors were even saying that Majimun (demons) would hang around the area since it was so lonely around here.”
So the idea was to lighten up the lonely mood and attract people. Because a lot of people frequent the café, you may think sunflowers are no longer needed. However, the sunflower drawn on each cup makes me happy because it’s the café’s way of saying this place welcomes you just like it did with real sunflowers 21 years ago.
After talking with Inafuku, I headed down to the beach. Some tourists trudged through the green tideland now exposed to the sunlight, heading toward the retreating water’s edge, screaming with joy.
On the shore, a group of local teenagers were gathering. I could hear one of the kids say out loud “I love you!” like one goofy but funny scene from a teen TV drama in Japan.
On this beach, anybody can forget about the ordinary and have fun like a kid.
Hamabe no Chaya (Teahouse on Beachshore)
Open: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. (2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday. Last order for food at 7 p.m., drink at 7:30 p.m.)
Location: 2-1 Tamagusuku, Tamagusuku, Najo, Okinawa, Japan 901-0695
Website: www. hamabenochaya.com (Japanese)
For more information: call 098-948-2073 (Japanese)