Life in Okinawa

A scouse bird blogs about her life in Okinawa.


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American bases, British tea shops and pinapple parks

We had planned to visit an emu farm this Sunday with Yoshi’s colleagues, but as they couldn’t make it Yoshi and I decided to travel up North instead (the emu farm will have to wait until next weekend). We’d heard about a place called the British wine and tea shop online, which is located not far from Nago. The reviews were positive and the pictures looked beautiful so we were intrigued. Also, I was looking forward to a proper cup of English breakfast tea! For some reason the Japanese insist on drowning brown tea in milk and sugar and I just can’t take to it.

We left at around midday and the sun was beaming. It was 26 degrees and I’d smothered myself in factor 50..I’ve already burnt my shoulders, chest and back since moving here! I think I’ll have to invest in a parasol. The sun creams here, I’m sorry to say, are absolute crap. They’re watery, small and super expensive. A small bottle (27ml) can cost almost 1000 yen and it doesn’t last more than a week. I’m about as white as you can get without being an albino, so not good 😦
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The drive was about 2 hours long and the route we took was very scenic.

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We also passed by a couple of American Army bases. The Americans have army bases up and down Okinawa (20% of the island overall) since they occupied this island after WWII. The largest bases are located down South. Next to where Yoshi and I live in the city of Uruma is Camp Courtney. Their presence here is somewhat controversial as they sometimes disturb the locals when testing weapons etc, and a minority of the personnel have committed serious crimes in the past, including the abduction and rape of a Japanese school girl. I’ve witnessed fighter planes coming and going near Uken beach and occasionally see American personnel and their families out and about shopping or visiting restaurants. Some places here accept dollar bills and have English speaking servers. Occasionally I get mistaken for an American although I’ve also been asked several time if I’m Russian. (^_^’)

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As we approached The British Wine and Tea Shop, we came across a pineapple park.

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I’ll be honest, I was bit perplexed at the idea of a theme park/attraction dedicated to pineapples. My partner, who is basically a big kid, wanted to go. It was 600 yen to enter. So of course, we did.

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I’m actually glad we went to be honest. It was a mini adventure. As you approach the entrance to the park you can hear the pineapple theme tune which will haunt me for the rest of my days. Listen at your own peril. (Click on the pineapple)

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Once you get inside you are asked to put your camera away as you climb into a pineapple shaped car. This car then moves through a pineapple greenhouse in which you can see some really beautiful flowers and also the different stages of pineapple growth (you’re allowed to take pictures once the car starts moving). when you get out of the car you are then asked to sample pineapple flavoured wine, juice, cake and sweets. The pineapple wine was pretty good, I think I’m actually tempted to buy some next week 🙂

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These delightful little monsters are called Shisa. They’re everywhere in Okinawa. You’ll often find them outside people’s homes sitting on top of gates or perched on the end of benches. They resemble a cross between a lion and a dog and are supposed to protect from evil spirits. When found in pairs, one normally has an open mouth and a tongue sticking out to ward off bad spirits, whilst the other one with the closed mouth keeps good spirits in. Traditionally, the male is the one with the open mouth and the female keeps her mouth shut. Until she gets home and puts that pillock in his place ():)

Yoshi and I bought these in the souvenir shop because we thought they were cute and you can’t live in Okinawa without a pair of Shisa! It’s Typhoon season in a couple of months, so we need all the good luck we can get.

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Eventually we arrived at the British Wine and Tea Shop and we were not disappointed. It was in a stunningly beautiful location and they served English tea, scones, cake and wine. We had missed lunch but Yoshi helped himself to a scone, clotted cream and jam and was very impressed. The owners, John and Maki were lovely and very hospitable. John kept us company whilst we were there and we talked about the weather and England and his dogs Ollie and Cromwell 🙂 They also have a very pretty three year old daughter, Lydia. We definitely plan to go back!

On the way home, we helped ourselves to a bento from a Combini and just about managed to keep our eyes open as it had been a long day. Unfortunately Yoshi has to go back to work this week and I have studying to do. But there’s always the emu farm to look forward to!

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Thank god it’s the weekend!

I had an amazing day yesterday. Drank a bit too much Friday night unfortunately so felt a bit nauseous when I woke up but it’s was 24 degrees, the sun was blazing and Yoshi wasn’t working so we decided to visit Uken beach. But first! Pizza ❤
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Pizza in Japan is ridiculously expensive. I’ve heard that a Dominos over here can easily cost up to 4000 yen (about £35!). They don’t really deliver to many areas and have the most bizarre pizza topping choices. Fast food hasn’t really taken off in Japan yet, which probably explains their incredibly low obesity rate. Having said that, there’s a place in Okinawa called Pizza paruko which makes delicious pizza, like the pepperoni above. Fortunately for me, they’re not made with egg either (I have a severe egg allergy, which isn’t easy to deal with in Japan. I’ve already experienced an anaphylactic shock and a trip to the hospital because they’re not as stringent when it comes to listing allergens in their ingredients.)

The beach was wonderful as usual. We saw hermit crabs and and all kinds of interesting sea creatures I’ve never seen before. I didn’t have the brains to take many pictures but I will do next time. Some of the crabs were bright, almost neon coloured green and orange (I’ve mentally nicknamed them rave crabs until I find out which species they are).

We also stopped at a conbini (convenience shop) to buy crisps and sweets and things. I’m going to do a lot of jogging next week -_-‘.

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Pictured above are onigiri (rice balls) and bento boxes (ready made lunch). Bento boxes normally consist of either noodles or rice, with some veg and either fish, pork or beef. You can eat them cold or ask the sale’s assistant to warm them up for you.

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Family mart is a popular branch of convenience shop in Japan. Lawson, coco and 711 are their competitors. There are conbinis everywhere in Japan and they’re normally open 24 hours. They sell everything from food, books, magazines, toiletries, household products, makeup, alcohol and also have a public toilet. Very convenient indeed!

Next time I think I’ll do a post about the army bases here in Okinawa. Jaa mata ne!


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Shirataki noodles

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I recently made a facebook status about these popular Japanese noodles and it attracted a lot of attention. Why? Well, see that 400g bag above (which only cost me about 98 yen)? There are 20 calories in that bag.

20. Calories. In the whole thing.

Too good to be true? Well, sort of.

Shirataki noodles, or yam noodles as they’re called in English, are made from the Konjac plant. They are mostly fibre and water, so they pretty much pass right through you. The catch? Well, the first issue would be the smell. When you buy a bag of Shirataki noodles they are maintained in a bag full of fishy smelling water. It’s not a pleasant or indeed appetising smell. The second issue a lot of people have with these noodles is the texture. They’re very chewy, almost rubbery. Basically, if you don’t know how to cook these noodles, they won’t appeal to you at all.
I’m no expert but I was determined to make these noodles work for me. Since moving here to Okinawa I have found it far too easy to put weight on. The food here is delicious and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to daifuku (a type of Japanese sweet made from cream and mochi). I experimented with these noodles and I have come to the following conclusions (with help from the internet).

1. Wash your noodles. Pour them into a sieve and wash them for a good five minutes using cold tap water. This will help get rid of the smell.

2. Chop them up with scissors. They’re very long and tough to chew. This process just makes eating the noodles easier. People have chocked on these noodles before, lets not take any chances.

3. Cook them for at least 30-40 minutes in soups or sauces that have strong flavours. Shirataki noodles don’t have any taste of their own, but they absorb water and sauces easily and take on the flavour of said soup/sauces. I have sucessfully eaten them in Miso soup, nabe, spaghetti, lea and perrins Worcester sauce, kimchi etc.

4. Don’t expect them to taste like pasta. At the end of the day, they only have 20 calories in them. Don’t expect miracles.

5. Be prepared to make frequent trips to the toilet when you start eating these things. They’re pure fibre. Imagine eating a bowl of plums for dinner. What do you think would happen?

I love them. I don’t feel bloated after dinner and they help me maintain my weight, if not help me lose weight. If you’re in Japan I highly recommend trying them. They’re normally refrigerated and cost next to nothing. Happy eating!


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Introduction and first impressions

Hi! Welcome to my blog!

I go by the username Scouserjin (scouser is slang for a person born in Liverpool) but my first name is Stacey. I’m originally from Liverpool in the UK and I moved to Okinawa in March 2014 to be with my Japanese partner, Yoshi. Although my partner is originally from the Japanese mainland (Kamakura, not far from Tokyo), he works on the Southern island of Japan, Okinawa. Hence, this is where we have started our new life together.

It’s an amazing place to live and absolutely alien to what I’m typically used to. Although I’m a proud scouser and love Liverpool (it will always be my home) I’ve really enjoyed the short period of time I’ve spent here so far, especially now that I’m with my fiance after being apart from him for almost 6 months! Everything from the weather, the food, the culture, the language and the people absolutely fascinates me so I thought I would record and share my experiences using an online blog.


A quick overview of Okinawa

If you can’t be bothered to google it, here’s a short summary :P.  Okinawa is one of the largest, southern most islands of Japan. The capital is Naha and it’s famous world wide for being home to some of the oldest living people in the world. It is also where Karate was developed! Okinawa is a popular tourist destination for mainland Japanese people and foreigners alike as the climate is consistently warm and sunny nearly all year round and has some of the most beautiful, turquoise beaches in the world. The culture here is so unique that sometimes it’s considered to be a country almost of its own. My partner said he felt like he was abroad the first time he came to Okinawa despite it being a part of Japan!

Okinawa, in particular the city of Uruma, is also famous for bull fighting.

Just walking my bull, as you do.

Just walking my bull, as you do.

Yup. That is what it looks like. When my partner and I went for a stroll, we came across a man (and his son?) walking a bull through town on a lead. Just your average, typical day in Okinawa.

Haibisukasu, pretty!

Haibisukasu, pretty!

The fauna and flora as you would expect in a generally hot climate are plentiful and beautiful. There are flowers everywhere, lining the roads and dotted around people’s front doors. This is the haibisukasu (hibiscis) flower, which really caught my eye. They’re everywhere and really pretty.

Perfect place for a crazy cat lady (like moi)

Perfect place for a crazy cat lady (like moi)

Okinawa 012There are stray cats EVERYWHERE and I’m not 100% sure why. Its a bit upsetting really, I love cats and some of them are clearly very unwell because they don’t have a home. My partner and I have taken to feeding the strays that live near our flat dried fish that you can buy here in crisp packet sized bags for 200 yen. They seem to really like it. 🙂

Okinawa 013 Okinawa 017 Okinawa 018 Okinawa 019 Okinawa 020 Okinawa 021 Okinawa 022And of course, Okinawa’s famous beaches are absolutely stunning. Everyday I wake up and feel like I’m on holiday. On average it’s about 23 degrees Celsius during spring. That’s pretty much summer in the UK. (Can’t say I’m looking forward to summer, it’s going to take a lot of getting used to!) You’re never more than 30 minutes away from a beach here and the water is clean and clear.

I’m really looking forward to my future here. I’m sure at times I will get very homesick and no where in the world is perfect but that’s life. I’ll try to update regularly and I hope you find this blog interesting if not useful.