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A mixture of herbs and tole painting at "Le Couple"

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-04-02

"Le Couple" is a small coffee and tea shop located in Urasoe. Although the menu is simple, it is the amount of ardor put into it by owners Reiko and Seigou Okuyama that makes this place so special. The husband and wife team thought it would be nice to combine their hobbies together on a single project and came up with the idea of opening up a small coffee shop about a year ago. Reiko had been using her own home-grown herbs in various recipes, and making her own herb teas. She is also a member of a local "Herb Club," where members get together once a month at the community center and share their knowledge about different herbs and their uses. She thought it would be nice to create a place where more people could sample her teas and cooking. She also had the notion to display her husband's tole paintings as the main part of the interior design. Seigou explained that because it was a joint effort, they came up with the name "Le Couple." The very quaint shop features mainly breads, mini pizzas, desserts, and drinks. Everything is home made. The mini pizzas, which costs ・150, come in two varieties: mushroom and corn. The crust is made from scratch and it is a delicious little snack. The bread, which is also baked by Reiko herself, is soft and filled with tasty combinations of cheeses, vegetables, sauces, and herbs. The one I sampled was a savory combination of broccoli, cheese, and crab. The pizza set, which comes with pizza, bread, salad; and coffee, tea, or soup, is ・450. Each day "Le Couple" features a different daily lunch for ・600; pasta, curry, fried rice, and soba are some of the lunch dishes you may find. Coffee, mint tea, and lemon grass tea are priced at ・300 each. The herbs used in the tea provide a very pleasing aroma and add a nice flavor. You can also order soup and home made desserts.

The inside of "Le Couple" is filled with different tole paintings, which vary from landscapes to characters from well known children's stories. Seigou utilizes many different shapes and sizes of wood for his tole paintings, paying strong attention to detail and color. Each tole painting is completely different from the next, but they all provide a very enchanting feeling to "Le Couple." Seigou, who is a professor at the University of Okinawa, began tole painting seven years ago while in Hiroshima. He first became interested while attending a tole painting exhibition, after which he quickly signed up for instructional classes. The hobby grew from just taking part in a once a week course to the point where he now spends two or three hours tole painting everyday. "This is something that is totally relaxing for me. If I have a bad day at work, it helps me to forget about what happened," explained Seigou. Seigou has learned to master the techniques of tole painting over the years and he now teaches a tole painting class once a week at "Le Couple," His work has also been on display at a few local exhibitions. In 1997 his tole paintings were featured in the Bank of the Ryukyu's Art Gallery, and later in the same year he held another smaller exhibition.

If you are interested in tole painting, or if you are looking for a place off of the beaten track, try paying a visit to "Le Couple." There are no English menus, but if you can say bread, soup and pizza, you should be fine! "Le Couple" is located in Urasoe. If you are heading south from Kadena on Highway 58, head towards Camp Kinser. You will eventually come to "Pizza House" (old U.S. Consulate) on your right, which is located just after "Makeman." Turn left at the signal in front of "Pizza House" and continue going straight. There will be a Macdonalds on your left, just before the bridge that goes over Highway 330. When you see the Macdonalds, look for a small side street on your right with a drugstore on the corner. Turn right on to the small street, and "Le Couple" is located about 20 yards down the road on your right. It's very small, so be sure you do not pass it.

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