Hanakinah in Ginowan offers excellent views and a uniquely Okinawan soba experience
Noodles are undoubtedly one of Japan’s national treasures — but in Okinawa, soba noodles hold a particularly special place in the hearts (and stomachs) of the island’s residents. The dish is so popular that every Oct. 17, the island celebrates “Okinawa Soba Day.”
Unlike the soba noodles found in mainland Japan, which are made from buckwheat flour, Okinawa soba is made from wheat and can vary drastically by geographical location. Soba lovers in Okinawa all claim to know the best place to grab a bowl on the island — and traveling up and down the island, from the coast to the inland areas, will offer diners a chance to taste different varieties of this beloved dish. Closer to the coast, you’re sure to have a fish-based broth. Stay central, and you’ll likely encounter a pork broth base.
Before arriving in Okinawa myself, I knew my first off-base dining experience had to offer a taste of Okinawa’s culinary heritage — but I was also so drawn to images of the island’s stunning ocean views that I decided that any restaurant I visited had to deliver in the scenery department as well.
Luckily, Hanakinah Okinawa Soba satisfied both of my requirements for the perfect introduction to the island.
Hanakinah offers diners the best of both worlds when it comes to Okinawa soba, as their broth base combines both fish and pork, making for an unexpected sensory and flavor overload.
Located just a short, five-minute drive from Camp Foster, the restaurant boasts fantastic ocean views and offers a variety of seating arrangements — including a traditional Japanese tatami room area.
The picture-filled menu — which is available in both Japanese and English — features dishes containing everything from pork to seaweed, along with a selection of Okinawa soba. Diners can opt to order dishes individually, or choose from one of the many set meals for a good deal.
I ordered the fried chicken with sweet soy sauce and upgraded my meal to include Okinawan-style mixed rice, a mini soba, salad and tofu (950 yen, or about $8.40). I was most looking forward to sampling the soba, and the fried chicken and rice paired well with it. In addition to dipping the fried chicken in the soba broth and sweet soy sauce, I also tried pairing my chicken with the restaurant’s spicy koregusu sauce. Youngsters and drivers beware: this sauce is spiked with awamori, a rice liquor special to Okinawa that is brewed using a different method than the more-common shochu.
My friend ordered the grilled pork, one of the restaurant’s recommended menu items, and happily shared a bite with me. The thinly sliced pork was bursting with flavor and melted in my mouth.
Make sure to save some room for dessert, as Hanakinah’s vanilla ice cream topped with Okinawa salt cookies and sugar cane syrup will definitely give you something to write home about.
By the end of my meal at Hanakinah, I was full and ready to put my chopsticks down — but not before being ribbed by my friend for sticking my chopsticks upright into my bowl of leftover rice, which is seen as a faux pas in Japan. My visit also allowed me to learn another tidbit about the etiquette of eating in Japan: Slurping your noodles is acceptable, and even encouraged.
Hanakinah Okinawa Soba provides the perfect atmosphere for a solo lunch or dinner to sample one of the island’s most famous dishes. It was a great choice for my first Japanese dining experience, and the perfect way to get acquainted with my new home.
HanakinahLocation: 1039 Kiyuna, Futenma Deigo Dori, Ginowan-Shi, Okinawa, 901-2222
Directions: From the Camp Foster Kitamae Commissary Gate, turn left onto Highway 58. Make a left at the third light onto Route 81. Hanakinah Okinawa Soba is located on the left side of the road across the street from Shalimar House of 66 Cents. Free parking is available in the lot immediately adjacent to the restaurant.
Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on Wednesdays where they close at 3 p.m.
Prices: Entrees start at 580 yen (about $5.20) for regular Okinawa soba), to 950 yen for larger set meals.
Dress: Casual attire.