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Karate Bar Dojo delights karate enthusiasts

Date Posted: 2011-10-21

At Karate Bar Dojo, it’s hard to really shed the fight or perform mindset and settle down for some quiet socializing.

James Pankiewicz, who says “it just seemed obvious that Okinawa, the home of karate, needed a karate theme bar where karate enthusiasts could enjoy a fun and interesting experience built on good food, original drinks and a good dose of local history and culture,” knows how to attract a crowd. He’s been around the proverbial bar-restaurant block, having spent years in the trade in Europe and the United Kingdom before moving first to Japan, and then to Okinawa.

Karate Bar Dojo is on the corner of Routes 29 and 251 in Naha City’s Asato district, not too hard to find with its distinctive blue neon DOJO sign. He’s open every day but Tuesday, open 7 p.m. ~ 1 a.m. weeknights and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. It’s only a five-minute walk from Kokusai Street, and near virtually all major karate stores and dojos in Naha. “I had a vision of creating a place where Okinawans and foreigners could meet and relax, exchange experiences and make new friends,” says Pankiewicz. “I’m English, and that’s rare here,” he points out, but since moving here two years ago he realized “if you’re into karate the Karate Bar Dojo offers a unique atmosphere and access to local karate knowledge through teachers and dojos.”

Pankiewicz says he’s been “studying karate, jujitsu and other martial arts for 19 years and hold two black belts, but only wear one at a time.” He loves “to cook, and am constantly experimenting with new dishes, and new combinations of western and Okinawan recipes.” Many are surprised at his Japanese, which he says “is reasonably good so most daily things are not a problem. I need to learn Hogan though, so I can understand my karate sensei and older Okinawan customers better. That’s my next challenge.”

Bass Pale Ale, “a very tasty English ale, and our Habushu cocktail, the ‘Ichigeki’, are our big sellers, with Habushu being the snake-venom infused sake famous from Okinawa. On the food side, our tougan winter melon, spring rolls and our spinach-bacon-egg pizza have been very popular.”

Both yen and dollars are accepted at Karate Bar Dojo, along with major credit cards. There’s no free parking available at the bar, but there is coin parking nearby. Pankiewicz says he’s hoping to open for lunch and in afternoons in late October, and invites people to stop by in the evening and meet some of the foreigners who’ve more-or-less made the place an adopted home.

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