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Nmaganu-Ya, a Café on Miyako Island Run by High School Students with the Warm Support of the Local Islanders
post : 2019.10.18 08:00
Have you experienced stopping by a place that you hadn’t really planned to, and ordered a local dish without too much thought, and what you got was something so great, much more than you had ever imagined? That’s the kind of place Nmaganu-Ya is, located on the beautiful island of Miyako where they’re known for their top-class beaches that always rank in on big-time travel sites as some of the best beached in the country.
The popular item on their menu is Nmaganu-Ya Soba, their original version of the Miyako Soba, which you can enjoy in a hot soup, or as a cold noodle dish. Their hot noodles are a hybrid of Okinawa Soba and Ramen, taking all the great things of both. The noodles are freshly made, something that’s commonly found on Miyakojima, and the combination of the noodles in their special soup that’s carefully prepared from pork bone broth is excellent! The roasted pork or Chasiu is not made with loin, but pork belly seasoned and made with extra care. The Nmaganu-Ya Soba has this delicious roasted Chasiu pork as well as Menma, or seasoned bamboo shoots, as toppings.
The cold version is a combination of fresh, chewy noodles and sesame seed sauce. It’s topped with Enoki and Nametake mushrooms, okra, and pickled plum. The deeply flavorful sesame seed sauce and the refreshingly sour plum is a perfect match.
Both their hot and cold noodles are excellent, and you’ll certainly want to eat them again.
The name of the shop, Nmaganu-Ya means “grandkids’ house” in the local Miyako Island language. This café opened in 2013, and is run by high school students, something that’s not so common in Japan. The local high school kids play the central role in running the café, like deciding on the menu and creating recipes. During the week, the adults run the café, and on the weekends, it’s the high school kids who run the show.
What inspired them to start Nmaganu-Ya was a lecture they attended, given by Masayuki Kishikawa (from Taki Town Office in Mie Prefecture), who influenced the opening of Mago-no Mise (meaning ‘grandkids’ shop’) in that area. This shop was the model of a Japanese TV drama called Kokosei Restaurant (high school students’ restaurant). Kishikawa-san spoke about how the local high school students in Taki Town wanted to do something to revitalize their town. This inspired the kids on Miyako Island and they voiced their enthusiasm to do something for their own home island, too.
Soon after, Miyako Island’s high school students in a group called the Kokosei Shigoto Club (high school kids’ work club) got together and formed a system where they developed, manufactured, and sold products, and also kept accounts.
The students choose local ingredients as much as possible to serve at their cafe, like fruits, vegetables, and livestock from the island. Customers can enjoy Jushee (Okinawan seasoned rice) made with fresh Mozuku seaweed, desserts with juicy mangoes, brown sugar from Tarama Island, Beni-Imo purple potatoes from Miyako Island, rusks and bean snacks made with Miyako Miso, and other sweets.
Nmaganu-Ya offers students the experience that they would not normally have as they learn and live their lives into adulthood. Their future dreams may all be different, some aspiring to be doctors, others as pastry chefs, nurses and various other professions, but these kids are learning so much through this little shop, supported by the many locals and adults around them. For example, they won the first prize in the first national high school competition of Mago-no Mise held in Mie Prefecture, and also the fantastic learning experience when they went on a study tour to an industrial festival in Okayama Prefecture. Nmaganu-Ya offers a charm that you won’t find in other shops, and this is what makes this place so special and popular. If you’re on Miyako Island, please stop by.
Address: Farmer’s Market Atarasu Ichiba, 1440-1 Hirara Nishizato, Miyakojima City, Okinawa
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda