Okinawan Restaurant Nanpu closes after 67 years in Kabuki-Cho
March ７, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
After 67 years of its history, pioneering Okinawan restaurant Nanpu in Kabuki-Cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo will close at the end of this month. The 68-year old owner Kiyomi Maeda explained, “I’m getting weak physically, and there is no one to pass this restaurant onto. I think it’s time to quit.” The traditional restaurant, which has been a home for many Okinawans in Tokyo, will no longer be open for business.
Maeda’s parents, Chishun Kadena from Motobu Town and Sachiko from Ogimi Village started the restaurant in Shinjuku when the place was still devastated from bombing raids in World War II. They struggled to collect Okinawan ingredients, and Tomoharu, a master of Sanshin, welcomed customers with Okinawan folk songs.
It was not easy to return to Okinawa for residents who lived away as the island was under U.S. military administration at that time. Okinawans missed their home and visited the restaurant. Kadena fed young hungry students and let them sleep over at the restaurant when they missed the last train. The restaurant was known as “the restaurant without business hours.” When Maeda and her siblings left their home for school as they lived on the second floor of the restaurant, they had to be careful not to step on customers on the floor who were too drunk to go home.
Nagateru Tokuyama, the chair of the Tokyo Okinawan Association, who has visited the restaurant over the past sixty years, recalled happy times at the restaurant.
“I learned Sanshin from the uncle and slept on the floor. This place was a place of comfort for many Uchinanchu.”
Maeda became the owner of the restaurant in 1982 after building a career as a singer and actress with the stage name Kiyomi Kadena. She managed to keep the restaurant open when the area was targeted by land sharks during the economic bubble in Japan, making the restaurant one of the longest-standing businesses today in the competitive Kabuki-Cho area.
Maeda commented, “Our customers sang a big chorus of shimauta and danced Kachaashi every night. This place lasted for 67 years thanks to the Okinawans who enjoyed our restaurant.”
(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma)
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