Sorry for the delay in posting, but thinking about Oki makes me somewhat depressed in coooooold Gunsan. Ahhh…Okinawa. So the following day I woke up feeling better than expected. It has been a while since I found myself drinking and gorging on food at 400am. Luckily, It was New Year’s Eve and I had nothing better to do than take a leisurely tour of Tater’s neighborhood. We left around lunchtime because Tater and his wife had several restaurants that they wanted me to try. We strolled around the seawall north of Mihama American Village and there were so many little hotels and condos and fun places that it made me a little sad that I didn’t know about this area my first time on-island. It was a bit windy so there weren’t many people out. It was beautiful down by the seawall.
The water close to shore was clear like glass and then transformed to sky blue and then to a wonderful azure color. Tater told me that there were usually surfers out along the point, but not this time. I guess everyone was with their family celebrating the new year holiday. We soon found out that this holiday causes mass closure of tons of locally-operated establishments. First up was Transit Cafe….with a note on the door stating they would not be open until 3-Jan. Next was another local cafe/bar with the same type of note. We stopped at a good taco place next and were met with the same result. Finally, we staggered by Gordies Hamburgers AND IT WAS THE SAME NOTE!!!!! Tater and his wife kept joking about how I came back to Oki for all of the food and all of the restaurants that I wanted to visit were going to be shut down during my visit. This was not a laughing matter! A Korean BBQ joint was suggested and I agreed to take on grill master duties for lunch. The restaurant was tantalizingly close to MOS Burger and it was all I could do to stop myself from running back to my number two love. We dined. It was good. Here I am conducting my orchestra of BBQ. In honor of my subs I ordered up some soju. It was enjoyed only by me :) After lunch it was time to retire to the condo to watch TV, check up on emails, and rest for my triumphant return to Gate 2 Street.
So let us fast forward to the nighttime. It is 900pm. We are getting fashioned up for a night out in Oki. This means changing from thongs to normal shoes. I also put on a button-down shirt since it is my special night. Tater comes running in as I’m in mid iron and says “I have a taxi downstairs and the meter is on.” This throws us all into overdrive and we zip out the door. We arrive at Gate 2 Street 20 minutes later and the Air Force personnel are already making their presence felt. We see a boyfriend/girlfriend arguing in the middle of the street. Three airmen,in their finest striped shirts, are dancing around a homeless man who is playing the guitar. “Gentlemen” are walking up and down the street with their “buy-me drinkie” for the night. For those not in the know, Gate 2 Street has a seedy reputation to is. But for Tater and me, it holds some special memories. We made some good friends at one western/cowboy bar that has no name. It became our nightly watering hole as we tried to escape certain people on-base. We ate delicious yakitori and yakisoba at a small little restaurant (if you want to call it that) called Lucky. One of our new bartender friends told us about Lucky and we’re glad they did.
I’m going to fast-forward over the details of NYE. Let me just tell you that it was a lot of fun. I’m glad to have spent it in such a special place. WE tried a new bar out that only had locals in it. The beer was cold and the proprietors nice. They chased out any people they didn’t like. Funny enough, a lot of military folk were trying to use the bar as a bathroom pit stop. One bar tender was like a junkyard dog…harassing these fools into buying drinks or food so that they could use the facilities. It was great. Some of them she actually chased out. After the new bar we went to ‘Ol Reliable and I was happy to see one of our former bartenders slinging drinks. Highlights of the night were ringing in the New Year (obviously), calling Ms. Karena when it was my birthday, and setting the bar on fire! Yes. We ordered flaming shots and I got to light them up. Except the bartender spilled some 151 on the bar and I lit it on fire. Whoops!! Luckily the owner was there with a wet rag. Calling Karena was hilarious because all I talked about was yakitori and how I wanted to eat all the delicious parts of the chicken that you can’t eat back in the states. It also took Tater and me about 15 minutes to figure out how to call using the calling card. OH, and did I also mention that it was a normal workday for Beana? Hahaha. Happy New Year’s and Happy Birthday to me and my brother from another mother who happens to share the same B-Day. Details are fuzzy on how we got home. I know we stopped at the USO and were turned down for a cab. We also stopped at the Shogun and no cabs wanted us there. Finally Tater flagged one down in the street (he has really gotten the hang of hailing a taxi) and we made it back to home, sweet, Hamagawa.
The next day started off with a fine visit to MOS Burger. Tater’s wife had been reading about New Years celebrations in Okinawa so we decided to head off to Naritasan Temple to participate in the first shrine visit of the year (also known as Hatsumode). Getting to the temple was a trip. We had to sit in a line of traffic for about 45 minutes.
But because it is Oki, everyone was very pleasant about it. Imagine sitting for 45 minutes to get into Pentagon City Mall back home. PANDEMONIUM. We got to the temple and bought our fortunes. Tater and his wife opened theirs and I opened mine. My fortune said a lot of funny things, but it also said that this year was going to be “good.” Tater and Mrs. Tater’s fortunes said “exceptional” and “very good” which left me a little displeased with mine. Luckily, you can tie your fortune onto something one the temple grounds with the hope that things do not come true. You know the awesome thing about participating in this tradition?…Carnival style food. You know I had to buy some takoyaki. I make Karena cook a traditional Danish dish (go figure) called aebleskiver that is similar, but sweet instead of savory. They had some other delicious looking dishes (like a half-rack of deep fried pork ribs). After that we decided to hit up Nakagusuku Castle ruins and roam around for a bit. Let me tell you, whoever decided to build that castle picked an excellent location. Fabulous views of Okinawa and the ocean. I actually liked it better than Shuri castle because I could imagine what it must of looked like. That and it was cheaper to get and and a ton less tourists. Don’t get me wrong though…Shuri is very impressive and beautiful but I liked to walk around without the hordes of people pushing their way through the grounds.
Dinner was at Ono Kau Kau, a Hawaiian joint popular with military folk on island. Before I even arrived Tater had been talking about the garlic chicken. So for a rather modest price, I decided to go with a pork cutlet, garlic chicken, and braised pork belly. I do love my pork. The dish came with a large serving of rice and a modest bit of macaroni salad. It is similar to the picture below, but this was not my meal
I found this picture on the internets. Pork Cutlet is top, garlic chicken is middle, and I’m not sure what is on the bottom. Everything was delicious and very filling. I only wish this place was open at 200am because it would be perfect after a night New Year’s celebrating. It was a good end to a nice day enjoying the “island life” on Okinawa.
Next up will be crepes, glass making, attempts at shabu-shabu, and notes about driving in Okinawa. Enjoy!