THE PLANT LIST X Vegan Guide to Okinawa
Ahhh, Okinawa. A beautiful sleepy (but surprisingly large!) island with a surprisingly good selection of vegan accommodating spots. Okinawa is a great place to take a break from the hustle & bustle of the mainland, offering up an Americanised spin on Japan (because of the huge number of US military bases), beautiful beaches, and a relaxed island vibe where you can’t help but feel like time’s slowed right down. We stayed in Chatan (American Village) and Naha (capital city offering the most to do) for a week, enjoying sampling all the local Okinawan cuisine, seaside, and culture (the Okinawa Prefectural Art Museum building is a must-see)! BTW, if you’re as much of a seaweed lover as us, Okinawa is the jam. Read on for some of the best vegan food in Okinawa we found… We promise you won’t starve!
#1 • 楽ロビ KITCHEN / RAKU ROBI KITCHEN
Japan, 〒 902-0068 Okinawa, Naha, Makabi, 29-Chome 2F Makahi 1-Chome 29-16 Blanchur
The. Best. Meal. In. Japan. OH. My. God. We’d been planning to stop at this cute macrobiotic restaurant when we arrived in Naha, starving and decrepit after a big stressful ordeal of my pal losing his wallet on the bus; somehow getting it personally delivered back to him within an hour (god bless Japan) and a domino effect of other situations… We were starving and exhausted, so this was planned to be our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow/storm. Of course, when we arrived we realised we were outside their hours!! Shattered. But I insisted we go upstairs and peek inside just in case… There were no customers inside and they were enjoying a deserved break but still welcomed us in a very friendly manner and when we confirmed they were closed, they said wait, they would seat us! We were over the moon and already loved this place based on that alone. But then the food came, and I swear we could have cried with how yummy it was. Every bite of everything on that curry plate was a taste of heaven. The katsu cutlets were so delicious that we asked for another round of just that (even though it wasn’t on the menu), with some of their homemade vegan cheese to dip in, and they obliged! Dreaming of this meal forever. Dessert was also beautifully presented and tasty. A must visit in Naha.
Tried: Japanese katsu curry with homemade cheese and extra fried ‘chicken’. Taco rice bowl. Extra katsu cutlets. Chocolate cake and sundae.
Closed on Thursdays.
#2 • TAMI'S
Japan, 〒904-0115 Okinawa, Nakagami District, Chatan, Mihama, 15-69 カーニバルパーク・ミハマ ２F
What a gem! Honestly the best burger we tried in Japan, and maybe one of the best all-time... So good I had to go back twice, getting my omni pal to sample the same goodness on the second run, who was just as over the moon as I was. I have a thing about never ever getting the same thing when I go to a restaurant, in endeavours to try the whole menu...but this made a huge exception to the rule, I couldn’t not get this burger again. The miso cutlet was the one to try - sooo perfectly crisp, crunchy, moist in all the right spots. The chips were also perfect, and the soft serve which made a perfect punctuation to a perfect dining experience. Just the right balance of sweetness; sweetened using the real deal local Okinawan sugar, which has a pretty unusual flavour on first lick, that you just might grow to love by the second. Run by a macrobiotic chef, they also serve up plenty of raw vegan desserts and everything from western style burgers, curry and vegan sushi.
Tried: Miso cutlet burger with fries and soft serve.
Closed on Tuesdays.
#3 • AIEN COFFEE & HOSTEL
〒904-0114 6-9 Minato, Chatan Town Okinawa
This one might be a bit of an exception as they don’t actually have any published fully vegan options, but are totally open to veganising things and fully understand the concept. Not to mention, they serve amazing coffee and definitely takes the cake as the coolest hang out spot on the island - run by some super cool, chill peeps, with polished concrete and timber interiors. Never too busy - just an awesome relaxed spot to chill day or night. Their veganised avocado toast was so f&^%king good I lost track of how many times I came here to eat the same thing (another exception to the only-try-once-rule!).
Tried: Vegan version of their avocado toast (removed the egg + replaced with quinoa in salad) - look at that beautiful plate!
Closed on Wednesdays.
#4 • UKISHIMA GARDEN
2 Chome-12-3 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa 900-0014, Japan
This place is a real treat; a good opportunity to sample local delicacies with a menu offering an array of high-quality gourmet contemporary Japanese fusion cuisine, and really nice staff. Definitely more of a high end place to go as a special occasion, there’s a beautiful energy in this place - we recommend sitting upstairs, tatami style (on mats), or there’s also a cute and relaxing back garden area. We had the honour of trying a taste selection of locally grown organic dishes, savoured every bite.
Tried: Tasting platter.
#5 • OKA - DON BURI NANTOYA AIRPORT
4th floor of Naha Airport, Okinawa
Airports are not usually somewhere you want to bet on arriving starving if you’re vegan, because more often than not it ends in strife and a sad momentary lapse in leaving the ‘bubble’ and being reminded of the majority of the world’s eating habits. I definitely wasn’t about to bet on finding food in Okinawa airport, let alone something as decent as this. Several vegan options at amazing value - simple but perfectly delicious authentic Japanese cuisine. There is a curry rice, mapo tofu, and a mixed vegetable tempura. Sampled the curry rice which was tasty enough I would have gone back twice if I could, came with a broth soup and pickles.
Tried: Curry rice set meal.