- Café NY in Yomitan Village Serves Up Delicious Bahn Mi (Vietnamese Sandwiches) Seasoned with Kindness and the Laid Back Feeling of Okinawa
- The Petite Sizes are Just Right♪ Nanan_Pipeline (Ginowan) Offers Pastries Loved by Parisians
Shokusai Kamata (Miyako Island), the Southernmost Japanese Soba Restaurant Serves Natural Goodness Direct from the “Farm to Table”
post : 2018.11.24 06:00
Miyakojima, or Miyako Island, is known for its spectacular blue seas, referred to as Miyako Blue. The island is rich with nature as is the traditional culture, and the Okinawan mentality of ‘Ichariba chode’ (meaning ‘once we meet, we are brothers’ in the language of Okinawa) is very deep-rooted. Located on this island is Japan’s southernmost buckwheat field. I heard about a Japanese soba restaurant on the island that serves handmade buckwheat soba noodles made with buckwheat nurtured under the tropical sun and by the mineral-rich ocean breeze, so I decided to pay a visit.
A little while after ordering, I was served a basket with a little mountain of buckwheat noodles that had a touch of green in color and a tantalizing shine. Immediately, without adding green onions or wasabi to the mentsuyu, or the sauce just yet, I slurped a mouthful of noodles. The rich aroma unique to buckwheat spread in my mouth, and there was a delicate sweetness that disappeared as quickly as it came, like passing rain of autumn. The noodles were cooked just right, al dente, and when bitten, there was no stickiness to it, unlike other noodles.
The soba noodles were followed by a dish of assorted tempura. There were two prawns as wells as fresh seasonal vegetables harvested in Miyakojima. The assortment varies by season, and on the day I visited, they served five types: goya bitter melon, winged beans, mugwort, okura, and pumkin, all dressed in a crispy and crunchy batter.
The best thing about a soba shop is enjoying sips of cold sake and reading a good book, or flipping through the pages of various memories stocked away in your mind. I can’t get enough of those quiet moments as I nibble on a dashimaki omlette or itawasa, a dish of sliced kamaboko with grated horseradish, both of which are commonly enjoyed dishes at soba shops across the country.
When we hear ‘soba’ in Okinawa, we naturally think of ‘Okinawa soba’, which is very different from soba of mainland Japan. Shokusai Kamata opened in the year 2010, bringing the Japanese soba to Miyako, a food culture that didn’t exist here. It was originally started by Hiroko Kamada, who was born and raised on Miyako Island. Her son, Ken Kamada restarted the shop his mother had established and turned it into a handmade Japanese soba shop five years ago.
Mr. Kamada’s dedication and sincere approach in making delicious handmade soba spread by word of mouth, and now he has many local fans across the island. With one bite, I could taste the difference in how serious he is about “making soba more delicious than ever”. Every morning, he starts kneading the buckwheat to make his batch of soba.
Ken had never worked in the food business until he moved to Miyako Island. Since he was a child, he visited Miyako during the summer breaks from school, as his mother was born and raised on the island. He was working as a typical businessman in 2008 when he visited a buckwheat farm on Miyako Island. This was his turning point. That buckwheat field was maintained by his cousin, a local high school teacher, who was experimentally growing buckwheat with the objective of improving the soil and the water quality.
As he helped on the farm and the harvests, he began to truly enjoy the work and he began to want to be a buckwheat farmer on Miyako. He thought, it would be difficult to make a living simply by growing and shipping his harvests of buckwheat grains. If he were to do this, he decided, he would grow the buckwheat, grind it to powder, and make his own buckwheat noodles to serve directly to his customers. With his mind made up, he traveled from Kansai to Kanto, visiting every popular soba restaurant and began learning independently about making Japanese soba.
“The soba served at Kamata continues to evolve. When they had just opened, the soba was good, you could tell that they put a lot of work into it. But now, you can taste the difference in that the work they put in over the years have taken a solid form. I enjoy their soba every time I go,” says a regular customer who goes there for soba every week, and who recommended the shop to me.
In the early morning, in between his tasks in making the soba, Ken nonchalantly says, “Growing the buckwheat and making the soba consists of a lot of hard work every day, and honestly, my body is worn out. But despite that, I can say for sure that this is more enjoyable than the days I worked a regular 9 to 5 job. I’ve changed jobs a few times up to now, but I feel that I’ve finally found something that I want to continue for the rest of my life.” His words were just as fresh and bright as the morning light that shone through into his shop.
Address: 737-11 Shimozato, Hirara, Miyakojima City, Okinawa
Hours: 11:30-14:30 (Last Order) & 17:30-20:00 (Last Order)
Closed: Tuesdays (All Day) & Mondays for Dinner
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda