With the turn of a corner we have left the traffic of the big Naha street behind and find ourselves in a maze of little streets that couldn’t fit a car even if you tried. The four of us have to walk in a line to squeeze past the groups of people who are eating and drinking at one of the many food stalls in Sakaemachi Ichiba. The low ceilings of the arcade style market streets combined with the crowds and the many open kitchens make the Okinawan night feel even warmer.
As we make our way through the market our curiosity is sparked by the sight of people eating, laughing and drinking. Constant chattering, in a for us foreign language, makes it easy to dream away to times long gone. Especially so as all the decoration, the layout and most of the stores have remained practically untouched since Sakaemachi Ichiba was built in 1949, right in the middle of the Showa period.
Having too many options to choose from is something that has proven difficult for the two of us, especially when it comes to food that all looks exotic and delicious. Luckily this evening we did not have time to be paralysed by the choices as our friends Reo and Yusuke were taking us to meet Kentaro.
Ken, a Naha native, who seems to have eaten at each place worth visiting on Okinawa was excited to show us some of his favourites. The first stop of tonight was the same place where Ivar was introduced to Ken during his solo trip to Okinawa in 2014.
Located right at the other end of the Sakaemachi maze is Adan, a small yakitori restaurant that is deeper than it is wide. After having carefully opened the door, as to not knock over the first person sitting at the counter, and having adjusted to the dimly lit, smoky interior, you can’t help to feel hungry. The counter, which sits around eight people if you all squeeze in, is completely filled with different skewers ready to go onto the coals right behind the welcoming chef.
We once more formed a single line and tried to not bump into any of the other guests as we made it to the two small tables in the back. Which put together created space for another eight eaters. Ten if you’d squeeze this time. The table furthest in the back was occupied by a group of friends, but our attention immediately went to the table closest to us. Ken jumped up and welcomed us with a big smile which set the tone for a night filled with great food, laughter, catching up with an old friend and for Ane making a new friend right at the start of our three month journey through Japan.