We've still got a few months before total t-shirt weather hits Tokyo. With light sweaters on and the warmth of the sun just starting to peak its way out of the frigid cold, we can't help but fantasize about hotter climes. So, while Tokyo slowly recoveres from the cold, let's take a fantasy trip to the southernmost island of Japan, Okinawa.
via Troy Williams
Touted as the country's very own Hawaiian paradise, Okinawa offers everything one would expect of a tropical playground: sun, sea, sand and, of course, good food! Approximately two hours away from Tokyo by plane, the culture and lifestyle differ vastly in comparison to the rest of Japan.
But alas, we don't have time to make our way down south to the islands to try out the local specialties, so instead we'll take a trip Washita, a specialty Okinawan shop located conveniently in Ginza. At Washita, Okinawa's famous exports – sugar cane, purple sweet potato, and sea salt – are in abundant supply.
Making a quick visit to the store, we pick up Bijin Choco and Kokuto Pretzels.
Bijin Choco: Original Cocoa, Ginger and Sea Salt
The brightly colored wrapper with a sketch of a kimono-clad girl is an immediate attention grabber. Differing from other snacks, which mostly tout the Okinawan beaches as a selling point, the Bijin Choco has a modest yet unique appeal – almost like a delicate snack from Kyoto. The chocolates come in three flavors; cocoa, ginger and sea salt. I was expecting balls of chocolate, or something similar to M&Ms, but what comes tumbling out from the resealable bag is irregularly shaped brownie bits coated with a light dusting of cocoa powder, perhaps best described as a "chocolate crumble." The texture is fantastic, like picking off the crumble from an apple pie with your fingers, only better because it's chocolate-flavored. And the chocolate bits melt on your tongue exactly the way an apple crumble would – slowly and sinfully.
The original cocoa flavor is fairly standard, though the rich taste of kokuto sets this treat apart from other chocolate snacks.
The spicy tang of ginger is moderated by the sweetness of chocolate and the subtle addition of kokuto. It's delicious without being overpowering. Apparently, this one is particularly popular with the ladies.
My favorite! The mixture of chocolate, kokuto and sea salt gives this flavor a taste similar to caramel. Within a moment I've finished the whole pack!
Original, Purple Sweet Potato and Sea Salt
The Japanese Pocky craze means that pretzel sticks are available in every flavor imaginable. So it's no surprise to find special limited-edition flavors made especially for Okinawa lovers. These pretzel sticks are all kokuto-flavored, coated with additional Okinawa ingredients.
Pretzel sticks are the perfect snack with beer, and these sea salt-flavored pretzel sticks are add a delightful mixture of salty and sweet, due to the combination of salt and kokuto.
But if you are looking for something that has a stronger kokuto taste, the original flavor won't let you down. The strong aroma of the pretzel sticks gets your senses tingling before you even pop them in your mouth. Nibbling through the pack stick by stick, I think that these would go best with coffee for a pleasant afternoon snack.
And finally, for all those who can't get enough of sweet potatoes, this one is for you. Personally, I am not a huge fan of the sweet potato – purple or orange – but this one caught me off guard. The strong flavor of sweet potato is delicately balanced with kokuto, and the result is surprisingly delightful. Perhaps due to the stronger flavor of the Okinawa purple sweet potato, the pretzel sticks are really satisfying. By the third stick, my whole mouth is filled with the taste and aroma of sweet potatoes. Definitely recommended if you have a thing for sweet potatoes.
Stomach filled, taste buds satisfied, we return to the the day-to-day drear of Tokyo office life. While we won't be back in Okinawa any time soon, we are lucky to have the Washita store just a few minutes away to satisfy our nostalgic cravings of this tropical paradise.
Washita is located in Ginza, Tokyo, a four minute walk from JR Yurakucho station (take the Kyobashi exit).
〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza, 1 Chome−39, １F