Retiring in Okinawa in a lovely Ryukyu inspired house with grand views of the ocean while keeping busy running a weekend cafe may only be a dream for many of us, but Takahara-san made that dream a reality with Cafe and Gallery Umito.
Umito is the name of Takahara-san's grandmother, who was originally from Okinawa. She still has distant relatives in Okinawa, most notably, Kenjiro Matayoshi, a descendant of silversmiths who made jiifaa (traditional silver hairpins) for Ryukyu Kingdom royalty. When Takahara-san was a child, her mother was busy working so she was cared for by her grandmother with whom she had many fond memories.
Takahara-san is originally from Osaka and she also spent time in Takarazuka and Kobe where she raised her family. When health concerns made her look south for a warmer place to spend her days, Okinawa beckoned. The house she built had such a lovely view of the ocean that she wanted to share this with others by opening a cafe and a gallery.
Try anything from Umito's menu and you will discover dishes made by someone who obviously enjoys the inventiveness of the cooking process and is well versed with compelling flavor combinations. Homemade bread accompanies many of Umito's dishes. Takahara-san started baking when her youngest child went off to kindergarten and she had free time during the day. She wanted her children to eat homemade bread. After she earned her certificate to teach baking in her late 30s, she gave cooking lessons to her neighbors.
I celebrated my birthday here. We tried all the dishes from the cafe menu and everyone in our party liked everything but we each had our favorites. Mine was the tender beef stew, my daughter the Okinawan style bibimbap, my partner the cheese fondue, and my son, the sandwiches. Takahara-san prepared a festive cake ensconced in half a pineapple and topped with tropical fruits.
Here at Umito, Takahara-san is a most generous host. She will encourage you to sit, relax, enjoy the view, and stay as long as you want. When you're ready to leave, stop by the gallery next door for some Okinawan jewelry and art.