Sunday, August 19, 2012

sata-an-dagi and other delights

Thursday morning we gorged on the free breakfast and then picked up the rental car, a boxy little "eco" car (I think it was a Daihatsu Tanto) that had a feature called eco-drive that would cut the engine off and turn it back over seemingly at random. Northward! Onna-son (恩納村 - the "mura" character is pronounced "son" in Okinawa) looks far away on the map but in reality is only a few dozen kilometers and an hour's drive up the coast. There, we went to a "secret" beach recommended to us by a friend who grew up on Oki - beautiful, clean, and deserted.
Who's that asshole on the phone?
On the way back it was still early, so we stopped at Ryukyu Mura, a recreation of a traditional village. The ratty shisa dolls were cool and the pottery factory was rather interesting, but the best part was the live music offered, both in the main atrium adjacent to the food court, and by a guy casually plucking a san-shin and lounging in the doorway to one of the huts. He later came onstage and did a wonderful set, including an Okinawan language version of 上を向いて歩こう, aka The Sukiyaki Song.

He has a youtube channel!
Just north of Naha we stopped in Chatan, at the "American Village", which has a lot of restaurants. We poked our head into a Thai place and I was pleased to find a big fat vegetarian advertisement on the front window. Jai Thai's menu has two pages catering to vegetarians, and they can also make vegan dishes.
Returning to Naha, we hit up Makishi Market, the warren of shops and alleys in central city, starting just off Kokusai-dori. There are stray cats there, as everywhere else on the island. In addition to the trinkets and vegetable sellers and butchers, there are a few vendors hawking freshly-made sata-an-dangi, the local doughnut-style fried goodness in an array of native flavors. My Oki-raised friend has requested the purple-hued beni-imo (taro) ones, and we tried those out - yum. My favorite was the coconut, but the brown sugar, mango, and sesame ones were delicious too. Sata-an-dangi is Okinawan language, but the word sata means sugar, or sato in Japanese. Even though I couldn't understand the native language, I did notice that some words are similar like this.
In Makishi market
Back to the strays for a minute. There are SO MANY STRAYS all over Okinawa. They are a much more common here than on the mainland. Breeding seems to go almost unchecked. There are a lot more stray dogs, too, though they aren't around quite as much as the cats. There is a great organization called Doggies Inc. that works there trying to alleviate animal suffering. Mainly, they pull animals out of Ozato animal control, which is a high-kill shelter where many many strays end up. They then vet and re-home the animals. They do mostly deal with dogs, but they help cats too.  They are a registered non-profit in the US, and they do really good work. I will be transporting a dog to a new forever home in the States for them next month. Check them out!

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