Okinawa is one of the best destinations in Japan for pristine beaches and mild climate. Tourists are also attracted to its vibrant food scene that reflects the region’s unique culture and ingredients. Here are some of the popular places to eat in Okinawa to get a taste of the islands’ food culture.
Shuri Soba 首里そば
Image: mariokinawamemo on Instagram.
An Okinawa soba place that is famous for their firm and chewy handmade noodles which go perfectly with their signature clear broth. The soba is topped with slow-cooked pork, fish cake, scallions, and ginger. You can also add a little koregusu sauce, a condiment made by infusing chilli peppers in awamori spirit, for an extra kick. Be sure to try their jushi rice too, it is a standard side dish for Okinawa soba. The shop is very popular due to their tasty, reasonably priced food and they close as soon as their supply for the day sold out, so it is better to get here early, expect to wait in line too!
Hours: 11:30 am to 2 pm (closed Sundays)
Address: 1-7 Shuriakata-cho, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 5 minute walk from Shuri Castle or Shuri Station.
Image: johnnmatt on Instagram.
Yunanji is well-loved by locals and tourists alike for its unpretentious home-style cooking, just like how Okinawan mothers make it. Just a stone’s throw away from Kokusai-dori, the restaurant’s menu consists of staples such as tebichi (pig’s trotters), champuru stir fry, gurukun fish, as well as side dishes like seaweed, tofu, and soup. Its rafute (braised pork belly) is named one of the best in Okinawa, made with original house miso and simmered for 5 to 6 hours until it is tender enough to cut with chopsticks. Rich and delectable, it is a must-try.
Hours: 12 pm to 3 pm (lunch); 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm (closed Sundays)
Address: 3-3-3 Kumoji, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 5 minute walk from Prefectural Office Station.
Image: marumikannnn on Instagram.
Set in a traditional Okinawan folk house, this reservations-only restaurant is one of the few places that offer “kyutei ryouri” or palace cuisine which has roots to the Ryukyu Kingdom era. The menu is simple, where you just have to choose between 7-dish, 10-dish, and 12-dish meal courses. Combining Japanese and Chinese culinary techniques as well as local ingredients, Ryukyuan cuisine is delicate and believed to be one of the longevity secrets of Okinawans. If you feel like exploring Okinawan cuisine a little deeper, why not give this place a go?
Hours: 6 pm to 11 pm (closed Sundays)
Address: 1-37 Shuriakata-cho, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 6 minute walk from Shuri Station.
Shokusai Shubo Matsumoto 食彩酒房まつもと
Image: hhide75 on Instagram.
Matsumoto is a famous restaurant specializing in shabu shabu (a type of hotpot dish) using Okinawa’s very own agu pork. Agu pork is one of the best and most expensive pork in Japan, priced for its marbling and sweet, umami flavour. At 5,000 yen per person, the shabu shabu set comes with the pork, vegetables, mozuku seaweed, sea grapes, and zosui to finish. If you are not sure how to enjoy the dish, fret not because the staff is there to guide you. The restaurant is always packed, so reservations are highly recommended.
Hours: 5 pm to 11 pm
Address: 1-8-5 Matsuyama, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 5 minute walk from Prefectural Office Station
Yakiniku Hana やきにく 華
Image: tony.cheng721 on Instagram.
If you feel like a splurge on your trip, a yakiniku dinner featuring Okinawa’s top quality Ishigaki beef is one of the experiences you can’t miss. Often called the star of wagyu, the beef comes from the Japanese black hair cattle (kuroge wagyu) that are born and raised around Yaeyama Islands. It is known for its amazing flavour and tenderness. Hana is a yakiniku restaurant specializing in Ishigaki beef and other select wagyu beef. Its menu consists of course meals, a la carte items, and a good selection of wines. Apart from various prime cuts, the restaurant also serves agu pork. A must-try for anyone looking for an ultimate yakiniku experience!
Hours: 5:30 pm to 12 am (Sundays until 11 pm)
Address: 1F, Pastel Yaesu, 1-12-5, Matsuyama, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 5 minute walk from Prefectural Office Station.
Image: sapphire_ccy on Instagram.
Also known as Pizza in the Sky, the pizza cafe only serves two kinds of pizza, but it is a huge favourite among locals and visitors thanks to its good food and beautiful location. Situated on top of a hill in a traditional folk house, customers can take in breathtaking views of the ocean while enjoying handmade pizza with plenty of cheese. Also, Kajinho’s fruit juices which are made with locally grown acerola, guava and mango are not to be missed. A short drive away from Churaumi Aquarium and Sesoko Island, this cafe is a must-try if you are in Motobu town, but expect a long wait, especially on weekends.
Hours: 11:30 AM – 7:00 PM (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
Address: 1153-2 Yamazato, Motobu, Kunigami, Okinawa
Image: ru.deco on Instagram.
Located at Onna no Eki, a roadside rest area about a 60-minute drive from Naha Airport, the signature of this popular dessert parlour is no other than mountains of shaved ice with lavish fruit toppings and ice cream! While the ice treats might look pricy for costing about 1,000 yen each, they are very large and meant to be shared. Besides, Ryupin uses only local seasonal fruits like mango, passion fruit, and pineapple, so it’s the taste of Okinawan sunshine in every mouthful! The shop also sells zenzai (shaved ice with brown sugar syrup and red beans), fruit juices and smoothies, all of which are popular too!
Hours: 10 am to 7 pm
Address: 1656 Nakadomari, Onna, Kunigami, Okinawa.
Makishi Public Market 牧志公設市場
Image: ograki on Instagram.
Just a 2-minute walk from Naha’s bustling Kokusai-dori, Makishi Public Market is a place where you can get a glimpse of daily life in Okinawa. There are more than 100 shops at this 2-story market: the first floor sells all the ingredients needed in an Okinawan kitchen, from fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables to pantry essentials such as katsuobushi and dried seafood, while the second floor is where a food court serving local fare is to be found. What’s more, the eateries can cook up a meal for you with the ingredients you bought on the first floor for a small fee – that’s a true local food experience, don’t you think?
Hours: 8 am to 9 pm (vary by store)
Address: 2-10-1 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa.
Access: 10 minute walk from Makishi Station.