Soba and a side of Mother Nature

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

In Okinawa, soba restaurants inside traditional homes and buildings are common. The nostalgic mood of these buildings is closely associated with the signature dish of the island.

Ufuya, a soba joint in Nago City, is one of those places that has been on my radar for a while. Every time I’d drive up Route 84, I’d pass the restaurant sign with kanji reading “大家”, literally meaning “a big house,” but I’d never make the stop.

I finally had the opportunity to visit when, after a brisk hike up Mt. Katsuu, I was struggling to find a good place for a late lunch. The “big house” came to mind.

From Mt. Katsuu, I drove 20 minutes down a narrow street off Rt. 84 and found Ufuya in a valley surrounded by a deep forest.

I parked my car and entered the restaurant’s entrance gate. From this point, I could see a cluster of traditional Okinawan houses with red-tiled roofs at the bottom of the green valley. I wasn’t looking for another adventure, but Ufuya delivered it in the form of an unmanned golf cart which transfers customers down the slope to the restaurant and surrounding buildings.

The cart went slowly and was big enough for four people. As I descended with my parents aboard the cart, I felt at ease and enjoyed the idyllic view. The closer I got to the buildings, the more details I could see on the architecture and tile roofs.

Once our ride reached the bottom, we headed to the main house, which looked more like a movie set than a restaurant. Outside, the garden was pristine and there was a small water channel with a few carp swimming in it.

Asatoya, the restaurant’s main house, is over 100 years old, according to the website. Despite its age (and a restoration in 2001), the inside bears a relaxed but chic mood where diners have their choice of tables on a wooden floor or tatami.

We were seated on the covered porch giving us a tableside view to the area’s lush plants, flowers and a serene waterfall, adding to the movie scene vibe.

Soon my soki soba (890 yen or about $8) topped with pork ribs arrived. The bowl of noodles was presented simply, but the taste and amount hit the spot. The noodles lacked the chew I expected but the mild tasting broth complimented the noodles very well.

Ufuya also offers a variety of non-soba dishes on their menu including pork cutlet and shabu-shabu with Aguu, an indigenous breed of pig, a rice bowl dish with ginger pork, and more.

I enjoyed my post-hike meal surrounded by the serenity of the valley’s greenery and nestled in by the warmth of my noodles and broth. Now I only had one more adventure – the ride back up the valley – to look forward to before ending a day of exercise, refreshing vistas and exploring new places.
 

Ufuya 
GPS Coordinates: N 26.621035, E 127.963742
Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Lunch, last call at 4:30 p.m.), 6 – 10 p.m. (Dinner, last call at 9 p.m.)
Website: http://ufuya.com/en/

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