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Gourmet Coffee Shop in Ginowan City

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-07-01

One of the pleasures of walking by the sea is the wonderful, salty odor wafting off the waves. Taking a stroll in Ginowan City the other day, I found the smell of brine was suddenly overwhelmed by the delicious smell of roasting coffee.

A coffee grinder looking as if it was purloined from the land of the giants stands in the window of a 1950s type façade. Going inside I found wooden tubs full of coffee beans and freshly ground coffee being dispensed into packets. The company is called Mitsumoto or MMC and it sells coffee in any weight. It is either made up into packages or put into containers brought by customers.

The coffee is shipped here from Yokohama but the various blends originate in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Indonesia. The coffee drinking culture in Okinawa, like so many aspects of island life, is different to that of the mainland and there is a paradox here.

Okinawans drink a lot of coffee, on average five or six cups a day. Yet there are not many coffee shops on the island. This is because the islanders mostly drink it at home. On the mainland, which has had much less exposure to American habits, coffee is often thought of exotic, luxurious, a gourmet item. Mainland Japanese go out much more to sample interesting brews in coffee shops than do Okinawans.

When MMC Coffee started 20 years ago there were more foreigners living in the locality and many of them sampled its wares. In the intervening period, bulk prices of coffee shipped directly from north America have come down. Most of this is common-or-garden stuff, not the high quality blends sold by this company.

Its prices are slightly higher than supermarket ones but the product is much fresher and it tastes a lot better. The cheapest blend costs ¥1,600 a kilo and the most expensive, Blue Mountain mixture from Colombia, ¥9,500.

MMC’s most popular line is Special Blend, a mixture of coffees from various countries, costing ¥2,500 a kilo. Manager Minoru Kabashigawa explains that this was supposed to be a special promotional price and that after the offer expired, the price was supposed to go back to its normal ¥3000. But many Okinawan customers complained about “the price rise” he says with a smile, so the special offer became the regular price. There is something charmingly Pacific island-like about this anecdote.

The company mostly sells its coffee in bulk to offices, though they also deliver to houses in amounts of at least one kilo. You can order (Japanese speakers only) by telephoning (098) 897-5178. It is open every day from 9am to 6 pm. Some Saturdays Kabashigawa also opens his shop “if the feeling is right”.

Directions: From Kadena along Hwy 58 and take a right at …….Go along the ocean front for …..miles until you come to the bridge over the river with the art deco glass shelters. Go over the bridge and continue along the ocean front for 100 yards until you reach a small park on your right. The coffee shop is opposite the park. A sign on the outside of the building reads MMC.

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