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On a Small Island in Okinawa is Kominka Café CALiN (Yagaji Island) Housed in a Traditional Okinawan Home
post : 2019.04.05 06:00
There’s a small island in the northern region of Okinawa Nago City called Yagaji Island, with a population of about 1,500 residents. In its surrounding are Nakijin Village, which overlooks the Haneji Inlet, and the popular sightseeing spot, Kouri Island where you can reach across the Kouri Ohashi Bridge that extends from Yagaji Island. The fantastic beauty of the seas seen from Warumi Ohashi Bridge that connects Yagaji Island and Nakjin Village is well-known. The best spot to enjoy the view is from the Michi-no Eki, or roadside station located at the foot of the bridge where you can park your car and really take in the spectacular view.
On the small, quiet, and nature-rich island of Yagaji Island is a unique building that combines a concrete structure and traditional Okinawan dwelling. This renovated building is a Kominka (traditional Japanese/Okinawan house) Café CALiN. The name CALiN is taken from the French word for “cuddle”, and just as in its name, the café is overflowing with a warm atmosphere where people can connect with each other.
The carefully tended garden and charming succulent plants create a lively setting to welcome the visitors. Along the calming color of peacock blue of the outer walls is a dark brown entrance. What could be waiting on the other side? Let’s step in and find out.
Commonly found in buildings in Okinawa are extensions or added rooms. We can find unique properties throughout Okinawa where additions are made here and there to the homes to accommodate changing lifestyles. This café was another one of those buildings, but with a unique twist. It was a traditional Okinawan home with roof tiles, and a simple space added to it which was made of concrete. To your left from the entrance is the kitchen and counter seats, and there is also an area that sold miscellaneous goods that were selected by the owner.
The items include Okinawan Yachimun pottery that the owner visited and selected from various pottery studios within Okinawa, all created by Okinawan pottery artists, as well as various Ryukyu Glass items. The selection of miscellaneous goods were charming and sure to enrich your everyday life.
At the counter by the cash register are a whole lineup of donuts. Wouldn’t you know it! This café is a sister shop to the very popular Shima Donuts located in Nago. Shima Donuts in Nago is exclusively for takeout, and is always busy. Their eat-in area is very limited and the shop is always bustling, which isn’t a bad thing, but also something that the owner wanted to do something about. The owner of Shima Donuts, Yamamoto-san, wanted to open a café where people can relax and enjoy themselves. When he was looking for a good location, he came across this very unique structure.
Yamamoto-san consulted with the carpenter that worked on the interior of Shima Donuts about this potential location, and upon seeing the building, the carpenter was very inspired to work on it. With that, Yamamoto-san decided on the location. The built-in counter and the chairs were created by a craftsman from the adjacent Nakijin Village. The calm, deep blue-green walls and the antique-like furniture leave a strong impression.
The café area is in the renovated portion of the traditional home, and has a warm, comfortable feel. The sofa is so comfortable to sit on that you’ll easily forget the passing of time.
At CALiN, they occasionally hold workshops together cohosted with the flower shop in the neighborhood, and people can learn to make wreaths and floral decorations. For the moms in the neighborhood, it really is a happy place to be able to enjoy chitchatting and making wreaths and other pretty things in the charming café.
The café offers popular selections like sandwiches, taco rice and others, and also limited selections like the curry and hamburg dishes that are prepared using seasonal ingredients. At CALiN, they try to use as much local ingredients as possible in their menu, like vegetables, meat, eggs and others from Yanbaru. Shown above is the popular campagne bread sandwich with chicken ham made in-house. The campagne or French sourdough is from the Pan de Kaito, a bakery in Nago. The sandwich has fresh, crispy vegetables, and moist and tender handmade chicken ham, and is perfect if you’re feeling a little hungry.
For an additional 100 yen, you can add the day’s soup with your sandwich. On the day I went, they were serving potage soup with a well-rounded gentleness, made with Okinawa’s Beni Imo, or purple potatoes. With generous amounts of Beni Imo in the ingredients, the soup was delightful and really brought out the wonderful flavor of the bright potato.
For dessert, enjoy their Donut Parfait, a delightful creation of homemade ice cream with donut biscuit. The round, thinly toasted donut and the homemade vanilla ice cream is definitely tempting. The crispy texture of the biscuit and the gentle sweetness of the ice cream dance on your joyful palate. Dig deeper in the cream and you’ll find coffee jelly that add a little bit of welcoming bitterness, and diced donut pieces made with Okinawan tofu. The donut pieces are nicely soaked in the cream and the harmony of tastes with the gently bitter coffee jelly is a great change in flavors.
On every island within the Okinawan islands, there seems to be a unique flow of time. At this particular café on Yagaji Island, every part of the establishment seemed to have a very unique feel. An area of the café seemed to be straight out of a café in Europe, or even South America, and another had the warmth and comfort from childhood memories, and distinctive of Japanese style homes. The café is a great place to visit on your own during your trip to Okinawa, perhaps with a book in hand and immersing yourself to the relaxing flow of time, or with friends or lovers that you want to spend some quality time with, and sometimes can’t because of your busy life. Either way, this unique place is a great spot to spend time however you want with whomever you want, like a short refreshing trip away from your everyday life.
Address: 522 Untenbaru, Nago City, Okinawa
Hours: 11:00 to 17:00 (Last Order @ 16:30), and to 16:30 on Saturdays (Last Order @ 16:00)
Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)