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Ufuya blends Meiji era with pork and soba

Date Posted: 2011-03-13

Nestled at the base of a hillside near Nago City adjacent to a pineapple field is Ufuya, a historic set of three Meiji era buildings restored and serving as a soba and Okinawan foods restaurant.

Ufuya, which means ‘big house’ in the Okinawan Hogan dialect, originally was a property of the House of Asato, a home built in Nago City in the late Meiji era. To create the unique restaurant, the owners—who also own the Nago Pineapple Park—chose to combine a refurbished Asato residence with two other buildings originally constructed in the early 1900’s.

Together, the three wood-building complex with its historic atmosphere is now a very popular restaurant serving Okinawa soba and Ryukyu dishes, including aguu pork. Ufuya also means ‘head of the house’ which led to the reference at a time when Okinawans used to call each other by their last names instead of first names because there were so many families with the same name. Shino, who was the seventh of the Asato family, built the home then located in the center of Ufuya district in Nago City in 1901. The century-old home was restored nearly 11 years ago, its large supporting beam an impressive focal point for visitors.

To that, the Takushi house built in the latter part of the Meiji era was transported from a private home site in Wakugawa, Nakijin Village, to Nago City. It’s called ka-raya, meaning the house with built with a red tile roof, constructed of the kusamaki tree and built without using nails. As the house was built with tile at a time most homes were erected with thatched straw roofs, it symbolized the Takushi family as wealthy. The third Ufuya building was originally the Aragusuku house built in 1933, and moved from a site in Jashiiki, Kunigami Village, to Nago City. Constructed of oak that grew on Jaskiki Mountain, in front of a river, it’s nickname was ka-nume.

Today, Ufuya is a much sought after Okinawa soba restaurant. Perhaps slightly difficult to initially get to, but worth the drive. It’s also worth the waiting time for a table. The aguu pig is a mainstay of Ufuya’s pork, with the unique black pigs originally coming from China. Following World War II, the time and effort raising the aguu pigs led to a shortage that bordered on extinction. Okinawans not wanting that to happen launched a major effort to breed a good strain of pig that would endure. The effort led to a hybrid Ryukyu aguu pig with the Yorkshire and Land breed from Europe, leading to a delicious pork product used in Ufuya’s cooking.

Ufuya’s open 11 a.m. ~ 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. ~ 10 p.m. daily. There’s plenty of free parking, but expect to battle the numerous visiting tour buses on the weekends. A trip to Ufuya starts with a drive up the Okinawa Expressway to Kyodo Interchange, then taking Highway 58 through Nago. Turn left on Route 84, counting four traffic lights with Okinawa Fruits Land on the right. A bit further’s a sign in kanji on the left. Take the sharp left turn here, traveling the narrow road and following the signs to the restaurant.

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