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A Day Trip on a Sunny Day! Stop By for Charming Pastries Offered at Oyatsuya Pouta (Ogimi Village)
post : 2018.10.27 18:00
At the front of a traditional Okinawan home are pastries lined up neatly in small rows. Their names, like “Weekend” for little lemon cakes (￥200) only available during a period when domestic lemons are available, are enough to make the onlooker feel a little excited. The pastry has a sweet and gentle tartness, mixed with lemon juice and peel, and topped with wonderful lemon icing.
Their Vanilla Pound Cake (\140) is a familiar and popular choice, made with flour, butter, sugarcane sugar, cream, almond powder, eggs, and vanilla beans. Next to these are Classic Chocolat, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Crumble Cake, and others. During the Halloween season, they offer Pumpkin & Chocolate Muffins, a favorite with the kids, and for the big kids, are Pumpkin and Rum Raisin Muffin. Christmas also brings very Christmas-y goodies, too.
Upon a closer look, there’s a sign that says “Today’s Desserts”. I asked about it and apparently, they’re unbaked sweets. Today, they were offering Milk Pudding & Coffee Jelly, and Chocolat Cheese Mousse, and everyone’s favorite, Cream Puffs. These sound great, too!
The young owner and patissier is Ms. Wako Gaja, who, at the tender age of 22 opened her shop in the small neighborhood of Miyagi in the northern village of Ogimi in the autumn of 2016. I couldn’t quite figure out if she was simply cool, or maybe shy, but her somewhat aloof smile was charming as she explained, “My favorite thing to eat is, no question, pastries. I like them simple…not so much of cream and richness, it just gets a little too heavy, I think.”
She said her first experience in making treats was when she was in the second grade. “It was a simple thing, just melted chocolate and reshaped in a mold,” she reminisces. “But my friends were really happy, saying how good it was. That made me feel really happy.”
She graduated high school in her hometown of Ogimi Village, which is located in northern Okinawa Island, and then went on to a technical school in Naha. She says she stayed in the city and made “city-style” pastries for a while but says, “It seemed so hard to own my own shop. But I wanted to make confectioneries that I wanted to eat myself, and I wanted to makes them properly and carefully.” The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to challenge herself, and one day, she decided to open her own shop.
My wish was to open a shop in my hometown if possible, to be where I was born and where I grew up. That’s when her grandmother, who had always been good to her, offered her the house she lived in. Wako immediately got to work, and spent every day testing out goodies to add to her menu.
The hardest items, she says, were the now very popular muffins and pound cakes. She says she spent about half a year adjusting her recipes, changing up the steps and processes, and after many trials and errors, she came up with items that she can proudly say, “This is my own proud, original taste!” With the support of her mother, her old schoolmates and friends, she reached her tastes and passed the health inspections, and finally opened her shop on October 5, 2016.
Once her shop opened, she had many familiar faces visiting her, starting with her friends and relatives of course, and all the teachers from preschool all the way through to high school, as well as the town office workers. They all came for her pastries and to wish her the best of luck. Wako wanted to set her prices so that anybody in the small neighborhood can come and buy her goods. Even with the friendly prices, she wanted to maintain the quality of her ingredients, and keep them simple, delicious, and prepared with TLC. With her style of staying true to her beliefs, word got around and more and more customers from outside the neighborhood stop by to pick up her pastries.
When I asked her what her future dreams were, she said, “I hope to keep going for a long time.” Her down-to-earth response was so natural, and so what I expected in Yanbaru, a quiet and comfortable area rich with nature and beauty. She continued, “I don’t want my pastries to sell like crazy…I just want to live humbly and ordinarily.” It seemed her intentions weren’t necessarily leaning towards contribution to her area or to bring in more tourists or anything like that, but it seemed she had a strong passion about the people of the neighborhood. She creates her goods for the community to enjoy. “I think that many of the older generations have never eaten pastries like these. It just makes me happy when these grandmothers and grandfathers of the community eat my sweets, and they say it’s delicious.” Her passion was clear in these words she spoke toward the end of our interview.
The shop’s name, “Pouta”, is Finnish for “a sunny day”. Wako always liked Finnish because the sounds were kawaii, so she was looking for a name of her shop in Finnish when she came across this perfect word. I recommend you to stop by Pouta and pick up some pastries on a sunny day to take with you to the green hills or the blue seas. The richness of nature and the gentle kindness of the people in the Yanbaru area will surely be enhanced with her wonderful treats.
Address: 24 Miyagi, Ogimi Village, Okinawa
Business Hours: From 11:00~ (Closed when sold out)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda