Okinawan café serves nature's bliss among bananas
Sometimes you just have to get away from it all and get back to nature. Café Koharuya understand this, and has carved out a little piece of paradise on northern Okinawa where fresh juice, savory noodles and tasty desserts await.
About an hour and a half drive from Kadena Air Base, Café Koharuya is in Kijoka, a village famed for its traditional fabric made from “basho” (banana) plants. The fabric is used on the island for summer clothing as well as mosquito netting and flooring.
Appropriately situated in the center of a banana grove, this café is as much an escape as it is an eatery, drawing repeat customers to enjoy its bucolic surroundings of uncultivated mountains, falls and rivers. One popular attraction, Kijoka Nanadaru (seven falls), is only two-minute walk from the café.
“I believe that this café’s beautiful natural surroundings are like a soothing tonic for customers,” says owner, Toyoko Ichida. “It’s not just the pleasant view of bright green banana leaves, but the sounds of chirping birds and singing cicadas right outside the window can be enjoyed over a cup of coffee here.”
According to Ichida, different type of cicadas keep singing one after another from spring to late autumn around the café. And if you are lucky, you can find a “noguchi-gera,” a rare woodpecker native only to this region, hard at work on a nearby tree.
“So, birdwatchers often visit here to see the birds,” she said.
Koharuya serves fresh juices made from local “shekwasha” tangerines as well as “goya,” or bitter melon, for 420 yen ($4.20). It also offers Koharu Ice Cream based on “amagashi,” a traditional Okinawan sweet made of sweet beans, agar cubes, flour and brown sugar.
“Usually, Okinawans use lumps of ice to cool this traditional sweet,” Ichida says, “But, we use ice cream, so that it tastes richer and smoother with somewhat of a Western flavor.”
When it comes to its noodles, Café Koharuya takes an even bolder step away from tradition. Instead of the customary Okinawan soba, the café has been serving up udon, a wide Japanese white noodle made from wheat flour, since it first opened 19 years ago.
“I came from mainland of Japan, so I am more familiar with udon than Okinawan soba,” Ichida says. “So, I decided to serve udon in the hopes that it might attract visitors who were perhaps too used to the taste of Okinawan soba.”
Café Koharuya’s Koharu Udon noodles are made soft yet chewy to perfection and served in a soy sauce-based broth with “yomogi” (mugwort) tempura, a common topping for Okinawan noodles, according to Ichida. Both Koharu Udon and Curry Udon sell for 735 yen and can be enjoyed with either hot or cold broth.
The next time you find yourself up north, or simply feel the urge to hit the road and get away from it all, head for the banana fields of Kijoka Village where you can enjoy a cool drink, tasty meal and a delicious dessert in the heart of nature.
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday 11 a.m. - dusk (close Mondays and Thursdays)
Address: 2234 Aza Kijoka, Ogimison, Kunigami-gun
URL (in Japanese): http://tabelog.com/okinawa/A4702/A470203/47001467/
For more information, call: 0980-44-3363 (Japanese).