Gotta Get – Okinawa Ryukyu Glass

IMG_3892

Okinawa Ryukyu Glass

Selecting tableware is a very important part of the Japanese dining experience. Glassware is also an integral part of regional expressions in Japan. I am a big fan of the Ryukyu glass from Okinawa. Okinawa is a tropical paradise in Japan. Ryukyu is the name of the former independent kingdom, which is now Okinawa. Ryukyu glass is colorful and on the table it is light and refreshing, like being on the islands.

These glasses are perfect for the local drink, awamori, served on the rocks. But I also use it for milk, juice, and iced coffee. The cups are sturdy and easy to wash.

The Okinawa antenna shop, Washita Shop, in Ginza, has a nice selection of Ryukyu glass on the basement level and one of the staff members is a Ryukyu glass specialist. The selection is constantly changing, so if you live in Tokyo, it is easy to stop by every now and then to see what is in stock.

The first floor of the shop is for food and has Tokyo’s largest selection of awamori. The basement floor has tableware, clothes, and music. The local music is melodic and can be high-spirited, but some of it melancholy.

Better yet, take a trip to Okinawa and start your collection there.

Okinawa Washita Shop

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9

http://www.washita.co.jp/info/shop/ginza/

awamori  泡盛

Ryukyu glass 琉球ガラス

Okinawa 沖縄

 

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Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖

Kokuto

Kokuto

Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Antenna Shops in Ginza

updated 25 September 2017

If you are looking for jizake or shochu from a small producer or an artisanal miso the first place to check out are the antenna shops. Markets that specialize in regional products, usually from a specific prefecture. The Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza has a huge selection of awamori and the Miyazaki antenna shop in Shinjuku brings in a limited amount of premium shochu on the first of each month. Seafood, meat, and fresh produce as well are often sold. Some of the shops will have a restaurant or an eat-in corner. The Yamagata antenna shop has a branch of it’s famous Italian restaurant using Yamagata products.

Here is a list of antenna shops in Ginza, the area with the most number of shops. Here is a list of antenna shops in Nihonbashi.

Osaka Hyakkaten

Over 600 items and an eat-in corner with takoyaki and butaman.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F

03-5220-1333

10:00 – 22:00

Tokushima and Kagawa Tomoni Ichiba

Sanuki udon, somen, Tokushima ramen, sudachi, jizake, and more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F

03-6269-9688

10:30 – 19:30

Hyogo Waku Waku Kan

Tako no kamaage, oden packs, Higashimaru udon, vegetables, and more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-6273-4133

10:00 – 19:00

Iki Iki Toyama Kan

Over 800 items including masu sushi.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-3231-5032

10:00 – 19:00

Wakayama Kishukan

Over 50 types of umeboshi, jizake, and fruit.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1

03-3216-1615

10:00 – 19:00

Iwate Ginka Plaza

Over 1,500 items, including a Koiwa soft cream corner.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-15-1, Nankai Tokyo Bldg. 1F

03-3254-8282

10:30 – 19:00

Gunma-chan Chi

Produce, sweets, and jizake with an event space on the 2nd floor.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-13-19, Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13

03-3546-8511

10:00 – 19:00

Oishii Yamagata Plaza

Jizake, fruits, vegetables, and an Italian restaurant incorporating Yamagata’s produce by star chef Masayuki Okuda at San Dan Delo.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-5-10, Ginza First Five Bldg.

03-5250-1752

10:00 – 20:00

Hiroshima Setouchi Tau

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki sauce, popular momiji maple leaf sweet buns, oysters (frozen or in oil), Yukari red shiso furikake and two eat-in restaurants. 2nd floor for Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and 1st floor for shiru-nashi ramen, a style popular in Hiroshima and harder to find in Tokyo.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-6-10

03-5579-9952

Kagoshima Yurakukan

A large selection of shochu, restaurant, and much more.

Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 1-6-4, Chiyoda Bldg. 1-3F

03-3580-8821

hours vary

Tottori Plaza

Rakkyo, nagaimo, seafood, Italian restaurant featuring Tottori products, and more than 1,500 items.

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 2-19-4 SNT Bldg.

03-5537-0575

10:00 – 21:00

Ginza Kumamoto Kan

Fruits and vegetable, seafood products, and more than 1,000 items. ASOBI Bar on the 2nd floor featuring Kumamoto shochu, basashi (horsemeat sashimi), and karashi renkon.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-3-16

03-3572-1261

11:00 – 20:00

ASOBI Bar 17:00 – 20:00

Marugoto Kochi

Sweets, jizake, and a restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-13, Ri-burekkusu Tower

03-3538-4351

hours vary

Okinawa Ginza Washita Shop

An impressive selection of awamori in the basement and fresh produce such as go-ya.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9, Maruito Ginza Bldg.

03-3535-6991

10:30 – 20:00