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No Starbucks or McDonald’s. “Tabigafuu,” a Café Look-alike Restaurant where the Islanders Gather on Yonaguni Island
post : 2017.09.26 18:00
Yonaguni Island is the westernmost island of Japan. Not too many travelers visit this quiet island every day. Some people come here to see the latest sunset in Japan, some of them are here to meet a critically-endangered Yonaguni horse, and the rest of them come to this island to go under the deep blue sea of Yonaguni Island.
One day, I heard about a famous restaurant on such island, so I decided to go to this place. The restaurant is called “Tabigafuu,” and it is famous for 3 sisters.
Not only travelers who wait for their departures, but also many local people come to this westernmost restaurant in the airport. Actually more local people come here more than the number of travelers, so this is restaurant is better to be called as the restaurant to meet local people. Adults who work on this island come here to eat on weekdays, and families with children come on weekends.
“That’s why I can work very hard.”
Tamae Yonehama, the eldest of 3 sisters and the owner of the restaurant, told me while she was looking at a propeller plane. She is a genuine islander who was born and raise on Yonaguni Island.
Many of her classmates and relatives left for Okinawa Main Island or Mainland Japan. It must be sad for her, but she is able to see familiar people such as childhood friends, seniors, juniors, and teachers while she is working on this place. She appreciates with such moment because she has spent most of the time on this island.
This restaurant is a gathering place and exchange information for islanders. Neither Starbucks nor cafes are located on this island, so islanders stop by at this restaurant just like most people go to cafes. They mostly talk about the damage from typhoons, their jobs, and new residents from outside the island. For some islanders, this is the place to find out the latest information on the island.
The name of restaurant was named after “Tabigafuu Bushi,” a traditional dance which represents Yonaguni Island. People used to commute to this island by ships long time ago, and people expressed the way they pray for the safe journey into this dance. Time passed by, and now most people come and go to this island by taking airplanes. Also, children leave this island after graduating junior high school every spring. Not only their families but also this restaurant wishes for the children’s safe journey and health at the airport.
After children leave the island, they graduate from high school, and then go to colleges or get the jobs outside the island. They come back to the island only on Obon, New Year’s Day, ceremonial occasions, or traditional events. Probably most of them see the old familiar faces at this restaurant.
By the way, the # 1 popular dish at this restaurant is Katsudon (1,000 yen). It is not the authentic Yonaguni Island’s dish, but it has been popular among islanders since its opening. It is very filling and has rich taste.
“Peucedanum Japonicum Zaru Soba (700 yen)” is a popular dish among tourists. Peucedanum japonicum is an herb which represents Yonaguni Island, and its colorful green stimulates people’s appetite. Since one major cosmetic company commercialized it as a healthy diet, it has been very famous in Japan.
Tuna Bowl (1,000 yen) is very popular for male customers, and Yonaguni’s famous swordfish are on top of rice. Perilla, leek, shredded omelet, and grated daikon with soy sauce make the taste of tuna bowl better.
How about “Peucedanum Japonicum Roll Cake (600 yen with a drink)” for your dessert? Or you can finish your dish with semi-bitter flavor “Goya Juice (500 yen). By the time you finish the juice, your stomach will be filled with Yonaguni Island.
“Tabigafuu” has been in business for non-stop since its opening at Yonaguni Airport, the gateway of Yonaguni Island. Tamae’s mother turns 97 this year, and Tamae thought about living with family again while her mother’s health is still good. She brought her younger sisters back from Tokyo and Nagoya, and they opened a restaurant about 12 years ago. Since then, they keep having a family quarrel and serving their mother’s homemade dishes with fresh ingredients.
Address: 4350 Yonaguni, Yonaguni Town
Business Hours: 8:30-18:00 (break between arriving and departing time)
Closed: open throughout the year
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda