CONTRIBUTED BY KASSIE O’DRISCOLL
Okinawa Food Flea is a festival held about every other month in Chatan that had me hooked from the very beginning. Back in July 2014, I heard about the very first Okinawa Food Flea via Facebook that was approaching in August. It looked like a fun event full of local cafes and artisan shops, which basically sums up everything I love about Okinawa, so I knew I had to check it out!
On opening day, I arrived right when it started because I was just that excited! I ended up having a wonderful time and stayed until the last booth closed, nearly six hours later. That sounds crazy, but it had been so long since I’d been to a “real” food festival and it felt so nice to just sit back and enjoy the environment.
The venue, Uminchu-Wharf, is perfect! With plenty of outdoor seating and boats coming in and out of Hamakawa Port combined with the relaxed vibe from the vendors, I couldn’t get enough. If you’re interested in making a day of it, you could always take a stroll along the ocean, passing the new Hilton, and watch the sunset.
The vendors are mostly small, cafe-style restaurants that bring lots of flavorful food. One thing that I really appreciated was that, from the first Food Flea to the second, the food completely changed. The first one, as I mentioned before, was in August and we enjoyed burgers, fried chicken, and chilled white wine. Generally speaking, it all had a summer feel to it. The second flea, in November, was all fall themed: soups, local coffees, hot wine, etc… It kept it new and fresh instead of, “been there, done that.”
In November, we arrived later in the day and many vendors had sold out. With that said, my best recommendation is to get there during the first half of the day to avoid any booths selling out, especially if you have a specific restaurant that you want to try! It will be busier, I’m sure, but it will also be worth it.
I could go on and on about the food, but I also really want to emphasize that it’s the perfect place to find local, handmade gifts or mementos. I’ve picked up some great birthday gifts, home decor items, and perfect care package goodies to send back to the states… all while enjoying great music, too!
Okinawa World and Ryukyu Mura are perfect for traditional Okinawan experiences, but I think the Food Flea gives the best impression as to what “2015 Okinawa” looks like. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience so many great restaurants and shops in one location, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Bring yen and be prepared to eat, shop, and eat some more!!
When: The Okinawa Food Flea takes place about every other month and you can find out when the next one is by checking out their Facebook page. At the time of this writing, the next one is scheduled for Sunday, February 22, 2015 from 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. They keep the Facebook page updated with all the latest information, which makes it the best resource for dates and times.
Address: 54 Mihama, Chatan-chō, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa-ken 904-0115, Japan
Directions: From Kadena Gate 1, turn left heading south on 58. After you pass 23, turn right at the first light. Turn left at the next light and you will see the port on your right hand side. You can look for parking in this area, or continue past the port and Hilton and park in American Village, then walk back.
Map Coordinates: 26.321349945845775, 127.75447034655758