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La Noche Latin music bar

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-01-17

Thereís a hot, new Latin music bar located just off Route 330 near Camp Foster that is preparing to take the Latin music scene by storm. Recently opened on Oct. 20, La Noche has a great setting, affordable drinks and relaxing music to soothe you after a long day working the nine-to-five. If youíre looking for a drink, the bar has 47 mixed drinks and six beers to choose from. The mixed drinks all cost •500, and beer runs between •400 for Orion draft to •700 for bottled Corona. Soft drinks are •500. The venue also has one of the best Latin DJs playing all the greatest old-style Latin music.

Owner Mitchell Matayoshi, 23, was born in Peru and has lived on Okinawa for the past seven years. His multi-ethnic heritage can be traced back to his Okinawan grandfather and Peruvian grandmother. He came to Okinawa because his mother moved here 12 years ago, and she wanted him on the island as well. He had a difficult time learning the language when he first arrived but has since picked up a great deal. His girlfriend, Nozomi Shingo, has helped him with finding housing and living in Japan. The dream of opening his own Latin music bar led him to found a crew called El Fieston, and he started throwing Latin parties two years ago at Human Stage, 3F, Southern Cross and other places. He still didnít have a steady gig when he finally got his own place, called 8 Beat, two years ago. One year later the venue closed, and the crew started to break apart as a result of people going home and moving on with their lives. However, Matayoshi still wanted to open a place, and he finally got his big break with La Noche.

Since its opening almost three months ago, La Noche has become a classy music bar for drinking and dancing to the soothing rhythms and percussion of Latin music. The establishment is clean and relaxing and has a great appearance and casual setting. Originally, Matayoshi wanted to establish a scene of Peru-style bars and clubs by opening a place similar to Pena, another well-known Peruvian bar. At Pena, people would drink and talk and forget the troubles of life, and when the music started, everyone would get up and dance. Nowadays, the Peruvian scene has evolved in different directions, and the club setting has become more popular than smaller music bars; however, Matayoshi wants to keep to the old ways. He plays older music, but if someone requests salsa, heíll gladly put it on. La Noche is going to stick mainly to Pena style, though. The main difference between Pena and others is that Pena looked like an old, rundown place, although the mood was right. Wanting to hold onto that style, Matayoshi has taken its appearance as inspiration for his own club. La Noche definitely does not look run down in the least, despite the fact that the furniture and lights are simple and the mood is mellow.

Franz, La Nocheís house DJ and a member of El Fieston, says that Latin music is not only cha-cha and mambo, and so he plays all genres including Latin hip-hop, rock, reggae and more. The music played is upbeat and exciting, but it has more of an old-style feel and sound.

La Noche is currently only three months old, and Matayoshi says that most of his customers come from the Japanese community. But it wonít be long before the rest of the island and the Latin Connection begin to take notice of this small, humble music bar. For those of you who are looking for a new date spot, La Noche is the perfect place to take your girl or guy. Have a few drinks while talking over the strains of some gentle Latin music. This will be one of the premiere Latin spots on island if they continue to push forward.

Juan Montoya, a Marine stationed at Camp Schwab, has visited La Noche four times and feels it is a good place to be. ďI think itís a pretty nice place. Itís pretty big, they play nice music and the drink selection is good,Ē says Montoya. ďMitchell and I have been good friends since I came to Okinawa two years ago. I used to go to his old place, and I always tried to stay in touch. The music is good, and itís close to Foster, so itís very easy for me to get there.Ē

La Noche is open Thursday through Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to late. On Thursdays thereís no cover charge; on Fridays the admission is •1,000 with one drink; and on Saturdays the cover is •1,500 for men and •1,000 for ladies with one drink. Every Thursday, La Noche hosts free dance lessons from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and though the lessons are held in Japanese and Spanish, itís not impossible for speakers of other languages to learn.

Driving to La Noche is easy. Heading south on Route 330, turn left when 330 splits to the left. Turn right at the first stoplight, and you will soon see La Noche on your right. Although the bar doesnít have itís own parking area, thereís a cheap parking lot across the street. For only •200, you can park until 2:00 a.m. On a side note, La Noche is available for rent if you are considering throwing your own party. For more information, call them at 098-893-5559.

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