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Okinawan tradition, dance and foods combine for great experience

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-09-03

A family night out? Sounds great!

A chance to experience Okinawan culture close up? And authentic Okinawan foods, too?

And at a reasonable price? Really?!?

Absolutely true. A great restaurant offering delicious dinner sets, plus entertainment, at a price that won’t break your bank.

Yotsudake is an Okinawa restaurant now in its 29th year of offering dining and cultural experiences for tourists and Okinawans alike. Located on Kokusai Street in downtown Naha, Yotsudake promises customers a wonderful evening not easily forgotten.

It’s dinner theater, with the musicians and dancers practically sitting in your lap. So close, in fact, you may be tempted to share your dinner.

The restaurant features two 40-minute traditional Okinawa shows each evening, at 6:30 and 8:30pm. On stage, dancers take you through some of Okinawa’s most cherished musical numbers, while musicians off to the side skillfully entertain with the taiko drums. Among the musical instruments played by the dancers is the restaurant’s namesake, the yotsudake, made from bamboo.

Dinner selections are easy, as Yotsudake offers four sets, at four prices. A simple light course features 12 items at ¥3,675. A second, at ¥4,200, has 14 foods, while the ¥5,250 offering consists of 17 different items. A lobster-driven top set with 18 varied foods runs ¥8,400.

For our evening, we chose one ¥3,675 and one ¥5,250 set, then shared, maneuvering chopsticks back and forth. It was as much an experience for my dining companion as it may be for you. A visitor to Okinawa from Hokkaido, many of the foods were a “first time” adventure for her. Okinawa cuisine is, simply, Okinawan.

Fish, pork and tofu are the predominant foods in Okinawa cooking, and at Yotsudake, you get a chance to taste a lot of different foods. Rice, various forms of pork, dried and fried fish, sweet potato and tofu are featured in all sets. The starter salad with the slightly crunchy texture is mimi-ga, made with pig’s ear. The other unusual (for foreigners, anyway) item is the nakami no sui mono, a soup with pork intestines. Both are delicious, and worth the time to taste.

My favorite is lafutei, a wonderfully tasty slab of baked pork, which Yotsudake does very well. Pineapple is served for dessert.

All meals are served with hot and cold tea. Alcoholic beverages, including awamori and beer, are readily available.

For the kids, there are several sets ranging from ¥2,000~4,000. One set, headlined by hamburger, is geared to the western kids’ tastebuds.

Reservations are recommended. Call Tony at 933-1152 and book your evening. We recommend arriving about thirty minutes before the show to get a good seat closest to the stage.

Getting to Yotsudake is easy. Take Highway 58 south from the bases to Naha, turning left at Kumoji intersection, where the signs tell you to go to Kokusai. At Ryubo Department Store, turn left onto Kokusai. Parking is always an issue, so begin looking for a blue P sign as you head north on Kokusai. Yotsudake is just past the second traffic light, on second floor. Look for Kokusai Plaza Hotel on the right at traffic light. The restaurant is across the intersection, marked with a big red sign.

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