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Where is the Place in Okinawa Where Coffee is Coffee?

By: Mike Liem

Date Posted: 2000-03-17

My first taste of the Japanese coffee experience was at Narita International Airport about eight years ago while waiting to board a connecting flight to Okinawa. It had been more than four hours since my last cup of java on the plane, so out of sheer depravity, I ordered coffee from the snack bar. I took one sip, and the stuff was so bad I instinctively dumped the entire cup over the perfectly good soil of a nearby potted plant (my apologies to the plant!), the 400 yen I’d just spent for the damn thing not withstanding. If first impression were everything, I would’ve ended my Japanese coffee adventure right then and there. Fortunately, I’ve since had cup after cup of excellent coffee at various Japanese coffee shops and restaurants.

Despite the continuing Americanization of Japan, where you can now get a McDonald’s hamburger for less than 100 yen and a bucket of KFC chicken for around 1300 yen, coffee as an American concept has yet to catch on here. You want your coffee in “bottomless pot” fashion like you used to enjoy at Denny’s or your favorite greasy spoon back in the States. But even if the waitress speaks impeccable English, she won’t understand you when you ask for “free-refill.” And, at any rate, you’d first have to decide whether or not a cup of coffee is worth parting with the 300-400 yen that’s not exactly burning a hole in your pocket.

If you love coffee and find it difficult to indulge in your favorite pastime once you venture outside the confines of the base gates, despair no more, because I’ve found a few places where you can enjoy coffee the way it’s meant to be: either cheap or with free refills.

The first place is the Rose Garden Italian restaurant on Route near Camp Foster. An American proprietor runs this restaurant (and some of the waitresses are American), so it should come as no surprise that. Whether you order the coffee separately or specify the same with your entrée, the refills are free and, to my knowledge, unlimited. I’ve gone to the Rose Garden just for coffee, although most of the time I ordered dessert as well. I love the coffee. It’s always fresh, aromatic, and best of all, comes with refills.

The food court at the Hypermart mall in Awase doesn’t have the ambiance or atmosphere of a classy Italian restaurant, but the coffee is decent. It’s brewed to order by a machine and you get a choice of coffees, including cappuccino. At 200 yen it’s not terribly expensive and on top of that you get one free refill. The Hypermart food court is also a great place to relax and people-watch while you enjoy your coffee.

I guess you could say I saved the best for last, but while the beach shop near the Ginowan City Convention Center is probably the last place you’d expect to get a good cup of coffee, the coffee there is so good I still can’t believe it. There’s no free refill here, but for a mere 100 yen, the counter lady will brew, by hand, one of the freshest cups of coffee you’ve ever had. The first time I went there and ordered coffee, a Japanese couple behind me was so impressed by the spectacle that they immediately put back the canned ocha (Japanese tea) they were going to buy and ordered coffee. I’m sure they weren’t sorry.

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