Have Champuru in a Folksy Tavern! The Little Okinawa in Osaka that is Packed with Authentic Dishes
With an array of local dishes, folksongs and “kachashi” (folk dance), it really feels like you’re in Okinawa. The Taisho district in Osaka, where it is said that a quarter of the population hails from Okinawa, there are so many spots that are virtually from Okinawa with their dishes, ingredients. and culture! The appeal of Taisho is its being home to many folksy taverns that offer authentic live music performances together with Okinawan food. Here are some of the famous shops that best represent this Little Okinawa with a full-fledged Okinawan vibe. (The information and prices in this article come from the June 28th, 2013 edition of Taisho Walker.)
Live performances by talented musicians are very popular!
Usupare Honen takes pride in its dishes that are made by hand by its owner who came from Ishigaki Island and the live performances of “shimauta” (traditional Okinawan folk music) that will let guests to enjoy a full Okinawan experience. Here, there is a stage set for the alternate daily live shows of Hideyuki Kinjo, who holds entertaining performances, and Kazuki Odomari, who is a known singer of Yaeyama folksongs. Every show ends with all guests dancing the kachashi!
This is Hideyuki Kinjo performing as “Yuntaku Kinchan” with unique dancing and storytelling.
These are the “Hechima to Shimadofu wo Awaseta Nabera Champuru” (stir-fried gourd and Okinawa-style tofu) (front, 700 JPY) and the “Kakiagefu ni Shiageta Mozuku no Tempura” (kakiage-style mozuku seaweed tempura) (back right, 600 JPY).
Experience the real thing on a huge stage!
Uruma Goten is a shop that boasts of having an enormous stage and serving homemade dishes that are made with locally produced ingredients. Once the live show starts, everybody gets up and fills the stage. The owner of this establishment also holds “sanshin” (traditional three-stringed instrument in Okinawa) classes every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.
This is the big stage that is found at the back of the tatami (straw mat flooring) room. When the crowd gets worked up, even the customers who are sitting will stand up and dance one by one.
The dish on the photo is the “Buta no Kakuni” (stewed cubed pork) (800 JPY). It has a full-bodied and robust flavor, but that is balanced by the refreshing aftertaste. This dish is characterized by the jiggling meat that looks like it will collapse when you lift it up.
Enjoy the live performance of the famous owner and the dishes!
Kariyushi is a shop that is operated by its owner, who is a master of Noborikawa-style of Okinawan folk music, and his wife, who is an instructor of “ryukyu buyo” (traditional dance of Okinawa). It is usually a shop serving Okinawan food, but every Saturday, it turns into a place where you can enjoy “sanshin” music and “shimauta” performances. Even the dishes made by its owner, who is in charge of cooking, will inevitably have a hint of “awamori” (a type of Okinawan liquor).
This is Mr. Miyazato, who was a student of the late Seijin Noborikawa, a master of “sanshin” that was called “Okinawa’s Jimi Hendrix.” After getting wind of such a rumor, people who love Okinawa have been flocking to this shop from all over Japan.
The “Fu Champuru” (stir-fried vegetables and seitan) (front, 650 JPY) that is arranged in the style of “buchimgae” (Korean-style pancake) is an exquisite dish concocted by the owner of this shop based on the classic Okinawan dish. The dish on the left at the back is the “Goya Champuru” (a stir fry of bitter melon, tofu, eggs and pork) (780 JPY) that is easy to eat as it does not taste bitter.
Innovative dishes created by a former Western cuisine chef
The owner of Shoya who came from Miyakojima island creates many dishes that use ingredients from Okinawa and are arranged in the Western style. The dishes in the menu change depending on the delivery of ingredients, so you will look forward to what creative dishes he has cooked every day. It probably need not be said that this restaurant also has a rich lineup of classic dishes.
Inside the shop, you will see such stuff as a nostalgic gaming console Famicom (Family Computer), creating a very relaxing atmosphere.
This is the “Fu Champuru” (600 JPY). It is made by stir-frying Okinawan “kuruma-bu” (wheel-shaped seitan) with eggs, taking them out of the pan once and then sauteing them again with vegetables. You will be addicted to the “tonkotsu” (pork bone) soup stock and the texture of the fluffy gluten.
Okinawan dishes made with homegrown vegetables
Okinawa Shuka Yunta serves dishes that are cooked with ingredients sourced from Okinawa and homegrown vegetables that are pesticide-free. Its “Rafu Kimchi Champuru” is one of its most popular dishes, created by its staff about 10 years ago.
If you wish for course dishes, tell the shop your budget and ask if it's possible.
This is the “Rafu Kimchi Champuru” (800 JPY), a dish made by stir-frying a mix of kimchi, Okinawa-style tofu and homemade “rafute” (Okinawan-style stewed pork cubes). It has a moderate amount of spiciness that will keep you reaching for awamori.
Okinawa Shuka Yunta
Competing with carefully selected Okinawan dishes!
At Okinawa Ryori Yamaneko, the owner of the shop who was born in Iriomotejima island creates about 15 classic Okinawan dishes that have gone through a rigorous selection process. Even though it offers simple dishes that everybody is familiar with, it is still witnessing an endless queue of regular customers who are drawn to its flavors. Enjoy the dishes that the chefs spared no time on just to create!
Okinawa Ryori Yamaneko also has tatami seats.
This is the “Somen Champuru” (stir-fried fine white noodles and vegetables) (650 JPY). The elasticity of the “somen” (fine white noodles) and the crunchy texture of the bean sprouts are brought together by the superb salt seasoning.
Okinawa Ryori Yamaneko
The pioneer of Okinawan dishes in Osaka
Omoro Taisho Honten was opened about 30 years ago. It also has branches in Umeda and Namba. This main shop in Taisho features tables and counters on the first floor and tatami seats on the second floor, and it can accommodate events as big as parties with large numbers of guests. You will also get to taste rare ingredients such as “aobudai” (knobsnout parrotfish) here!
The shop offers a large selection of dishes, from traditional up to creative dishes.
This is the “Soki Soba” (noodles with stewed pork ribs) (630 JPY). The “soki” has a light seasoning, retaining the natural taste of the meat. The noodles are flat noodles delivered from Okinawa.
Omoro Taisho Honten
Drink, eat and have a blast Okinawa-style!
Okinawa Sakaba Kijimuna no Mori is a shop that offers a rich lineup of creative Okinawan dishes, on top of the classic items. This place is packed with music-loving staff and customers, so it is alive until late at night. There is even a DJ booth inside the restaurant. You’d want to let loose and enjoy the way you want to here.
There is also a large aquarium inside this shop.
This is the “Soki Soba” (680 JPY). The “soki” is slowly cooked for 48 hours. You can change it to “rafute” if you want.
Okinawa Sakaba Kijimuna no Mori
An Okinawa izakaya where locals gather
Izakaya Masakiya is a cozy “izakaya” (tavern) that is run by the family of the owner of the shop who happens to be the older brother of the chairman of ABC Boxing Gym. This bar is centered on tavern dishes such as fish in season, but it also offers plenty of Okinawan dishes for the sake of the locals. The bottle art of the owner’s daughter is also a must-see!
The shop is located in the back alley with a lingering downtown vibe. It is frequented by boxers, sumo wrestlers and many other famous customers.
This is the “Chiraga” (back, 500 JPY), which is made by putting a simple seasoning of salt and pepper on the facial skin of a pig. You will definitely get hooked on its crunchy texture. The dish on the left side is the “Sumijiru” (500 JPY) which is made by adding squid ink in the soup stock made with pork bones, bonito and other ingredients. “Nakamijiru” (clear soup of pork stomach and offal) and “Sokijiru” (spare rib soup) also appear on the menu daily, with a different soup served every day. Meanwhile, the dish in front is the “Yagi Sashi” (goat sashimi) (1,260 JPY) that is served in any kind of celebration. It is easy to eat because it has no foul odor. Try it with the sauce of vinegar and soy sauce that uses Okinawa-produced vinegar.
The shop that made Okinawan food available in Osaka first
Marushin Shokudo looks like any usual cafeteria if you just look at its menu that features such dishes as udon (wheat noodles), but in reality, it is a well-established shop that is said to have been the first to offer Okinawan food in the Hirao area. Its owner, who is trained in Chinese cuisine, serves many dishes that are from Okinawa, such as the “Goya Champuru” wherein the ingredients are stir-fried using a wok.
The shop creates an ambience that will make guests feel its 58-year history since it was opened.
This is the “Okinawa Soba no Yakisoba” (fried Okinawan noodles with vegetables and meat) (570 JPY), a popular dish on the secret menu. It is a dish that evokes a sense of nostalgia among islanders that currently live in Hirao because this was their usual snack when they were young.
The filling set meals are extremely popular
Okinawa Soba Ippin Ryori Piko, true to its name, takes pride in its Okinawan soba that comes with a broth that is carefully made with pork bones and bonito. And if you add 100 JPY, you can turn your noodles into a filling set meal with “kobachi” (small bowl of dish) that changes every day and other dishes. Because of that, it is crowded with a lot of local customers during lunch.
The inside of the shop has a retro vibe. Here, the menu is filled with various types of Okinawan soba such as the “Yasai Soba” (vegetable noodles) (700 PY).
This is the “Soki Soba Teishoku” (800 JPY), a set meal that features noodles with soki that is filled with thick-cut pork ribs. It comes with rice, the daily main dish, and two “kobachi” (the small bowl on the photo contains “goya champuru”) such as “Abura Miso” (seasoned miso).
Okinawa Soba Ippin Ryori Piko
Filled with Okinawan ingredients and folk crafts
Ichariba is a shop selling Okinawan products that is annexed to a restaurant that serves Okinawan food. As it goes with their saying that “We might have stopped carrying cosmetics, but we have everything else, as much as possible,” this shop offers a wide range of stuff outside of ingredients, including Ryukyu glass items and traditional “bingata” (dyed cloth)!
Its red roof tiles mark this store. Next to it is the Okinawan cuisine restaurant.
This is the “Mixed Chinsuko” (traditional sweet in Okinawa) (380 JPY) that comes in a set of five flavors that are chosen from six flavors, including pineapple, purple yam and coconut. Get a 30-piece set for an extremely cheap price!
An ingredients store patronized by the locals
Sawashi Shoten is a shop that has been supported by the Okinawans living in Taisho as it has been selling various Okinawan ingredients since it was established about 50 years ago. Apart from “sata andagi” (deep-fried sweet dough), teas and delicacies, this shop is also famous for lining up seasonal vegetables directly shipped from Okinawa on Fridays.
Sawashi Shoten, which has been loved by its customers for half a century in Hirao, also delivers locally.
The “Sata Andagi (L)”, its most famous offering, is priced at 50 JPY apiece. It is an exquisite delicacy whose taste has not changed from the previous generation.
A famous shop that is also used for Okinawan dishes
Nakasonegen Seinikuten is a meat shop that is pillared on pork, an ingredient that is essential in Okinawan cuisine. It sells a lot of animal parts that are rarely seen in ordinary butcher’s shops such as pork meat with skin on, skin of a pig’s face, and offal. This shop is also famous for the “Hormone Yaki” (grilled offal) (500 JPY) that is grilled at the storefront.
At Nakasonegen Seinikuten, all pork meats come from locally bred pigs.
This is the raw “Tonsoku” (pig’s feet) (210 JPY). Aside from this dish, it also serves pig’s feet that are boiled in soy sauce (315 JPY) and salt (210 JPY).
[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 04.24.2017]
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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