The first time I met Taka was also the first time that Ivar invited me over to his house. Taka was staying with Ivar in Delft, The Netherlands, during his one year long trip around the world and they had decided to organize a Japanese dinner that night. During this night, and in the following days, we all got to know each other a lot better.
Arriving at Taka’s Airbnb in Okinawa, almost a year later felt comforting. It was good to meet with a familiar face after having spent the first 10 days in a for me completely different culture on the other side of the world. During the two weeks that we spent in Okinawa Ivar had to work most days and Taka offered himself up as my personal guide. I was so excited to get to stroll around the area with him as the public transport was not as easy to move around on the island.
We left Ivar behind and set out on an adventure in Taka’s minivan, blasting The Beatles over the speakers. The first stop was Ginowan Tropical Beach, a man-made seaside paradise that off-season does not see a lot of action other than newly weds, that when shot from the right angle do indeed appear to be in a real tropical paradise. The next stop was definitely more real and back to earth, a labyrinthic fish market with little stalls overflowing with crazy sorts of seafood and fishes that appeared to be looking at you.
Joined once more by The Beatles we got back in the car and took off to our next destination. This gave us us time to talk about Taka’s life. After working hard for many years at a travel agency, he decided to take a gap year to travel around the world and now he was working on improving his English to finally open a business himself. I’m unsure if it was our talk that inspired Taka, or that he had planned to counteract the fish market, but the next stop took us to some of the cutest craft shops where I found the most delightful hand painted cards and objects.
However, the most exciting part of the day was lunchtime! Taka took me to a very authentic and local Okinawan place. A fishermen restaurant in the harbor, famous for its massive food portions. The kitchen was a queendom with strong women shouting at each other while cooking heart warming food with impressive effectivity (I have a soft spot for strong leader women so I immediately loved it there). When I ordered the traditional soup I did not expect a mountain of vegetables so big that it hid both the soup and the bowl from sight. Getting to the noodles without toppling the entire vegetable mountain was quite the challenge but luckily Taka managed to not only finish his dish but also helped me make a dent in mine.
Thank you Taka for helping me out with the food, for taking me on a tour of your area and for being such a great translator every time I wanted to ask local craftsmen about their techniques and stories!