A Taste of Okinawa in Tokyo

Tokyo isn’t that close to Okinawa (90-minute plane ride to Naha), but it’s a helluva lot more accessible than New York. A few years back JapanCulture•NYC found a chain of Okinawan restaurants called Yanbaru in Tokyo. I love the name Yanbaru because my mother is from that region in northern Okinawa. But I digress . . .

We frequent the two Yanbaru restaurants in Shinjuku each time we visit Tokyo, but we were pleasantly surprised to find one in Shibuya last week.

Yanbaru, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Okinawan cuisine, soba

Yanbaru in Shibuya, Tokyo

The menu is posted outside the door of the restaurant. Yanbaru serves several types of Okinawa-style soba, goya champuru, and even taco rice, a mash-up of taco meat with rice and spices originally meant to appeal to American soldiers stationed in Okinawa back in the 1960s.

Yanbaru, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Okinawan cuisine, soba

Yanbaru's menu

Yanbaru, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Okinawan cuisine, soba

Yanbaru's vending machine

You place your order by using the adjacent vending machine, which spits out a ticket that you hand to the waiter as you enter. This particular place in Shibuya has counter seating, and Okinawan tunes provide the soundtrack to your meal.

Yanbaru, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Okinawan cuisine, soba

Counter seating at Yanbaru, Shibuya

Yanbaru, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Okinawa, Okinawan cuisine, soba

Side order of "soki," stewed pork spare ribs

The food takes me back to Okinawa. While I enjoy every morsel, eating at Yanbaru in Tokyo makes me lament that there isn’t a proper Okinawan restaurant in New York. JapanCulture•NYC issues a challenge to NYC restaurateurs to open a restaurant dedicated to serving authentic Okinawan cuisine. [I’m talking to you, Todo-san! :)]