Whenever I visit Japan, I make it a point to visit as many different coffee shops as possible. The Japanese take their coffee seriously, and like most other things in Japanese culture, coffee brewing has become a meticulously studied form of art. So every morning that I spend at a different coffee shop is a different experience for me. I learn a little about the coffee that is served, but I also take some time to chat with the coffee artisan behind the counter to find out why they chose to devote their lives to coffee. The conversations in my broken Japanese is always memorable. Like with my other Five To Try posts: this is by no means a Top 5 list of any kind, just a selection of five interesting spots that I think are worth checking out.
Those in Okinawa looking for an “authentic” American experience will often head to American Village, in Chatan, central Okinawa. As an American, it was interesting to see how Americana has manifested in Okinawa. Of course, the themed shopping district caters heavily to the US military personnel that occupy a large portion of the island.
I few years ago I visited New York City’s Dominique Ansel Bakery at the height of the Cronut’s popularity. People were standing in line during the wee hours of the morning, before sunrise, so that they could then resell the coveted Cronut for $50+ on Craigslist. Yeah, we weren’t down for that. Instead, we opted for a late afternoon visit with no Cronut’s in sight. Luckily, Ansel opened a shop in the very trendy Omotesando area of Shibuya in Tokyo in 2015 which made it a lot easier for me to taste a DAB Cronut. Let’s check out Dominique Ansel in Omotesando, Tokyo!
If you plan to enjoy breakfast at Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe in Manoa on a sleepy Saturday morning, then be sure to get there early. Even then, lines begin to form shortly after their first drop of coffee is served. It’s a popular spot amongst locals and Japanese tourists. Thing is, the Japanese no longer have to fly very far to get their Morning Glass Coffee fix since there is now a location in Osaka. Of course, I had to fly from Hawaii to check it out.
One dollar doesn’t get you very far in the United States, In Japan, well, that’s a different story. There’s of course the popular dollar stores, but we recommend heading down to Tsukiji Market to look for a tiny tamagoyaki stand named Marutake Tamagoyaki. They’ve been making one dish, tamagoyaki, for over 80 years. It’s the perfect light breakfast or snack. And the best part, it’s just 100 yen, equivalent to roughly one US dollar.
Most people know Okinawa as being a part of Japan. However, it wasn’t until 1879 that Okinawa became Japan’s southernmost prefecture. Prior to that, Okinawa was known as the Ryukyu Islands and was ruled by the Ryukyu Kingdom, which consisted of three individual principalities: Hokuzan, Chuzan, and Nanzan. Nakijin Castle, built in the early 14th century and home to the Hokuzan Kingdom, is now one of five castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom that are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Tucked away in one of Beppu’s many tiny streets is a small camp-themed restaurant that serves comfort camping food. Chef and owner, Showta Hirose, came up with the concept for the restaurant because of his passion for the outdoors.
There seems to be a castle wherever you go in Japan, but Osaka Castle should be on your short list of must visit Japanese castles. Originally built in 1583, Osaka Castle is the main symbol of Osaka. If you happen to visit between late March and Early April, then you’ll be lucky to see the castle surrounded by cherry blossom trees. Now THAT would be pretty (and cost you a pretty penny).
As you travel through Japan, you will undoubtedly notice the many torii, or religious shrines. However, there is no torii more dramatic than Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. At low tide, visitors can walk up to the torii. At high tide, visitors enjoy the torii from a distance. When we visited, it was raining heavily. It was dark, gray, gloomy, and seemingly magical. Another UNESCO World Heritage site checked off of my list.