Daizo Kato loves America. Lemonade, Cowboy hats, old Coca Cola Trucks, Duffy the Disney Bear, and Felix the Cat lines his collection, proudly showcased in his living room. Oops, better put away that Volkswagen wallet.
The people of Japan had a long love affair with all things American. Well, not all Japanese, but at Half 1/2 Time, an eclectic blend of dive shop, Japanese style guesthouse, and a lazy “relax anytime” bar, you will find the stars and stripes held in high regard.
Daizo san is the second owner of half-time and continues the tradition of Americana here in Aharen Beach, a village better known for its Okinawa Soba, folk festivals, and suntanned fishermen. His blonde hair reminds me of a quintessential Japanese rock singer. Despite appearances, he is gently spoken, and very relaxed. Five years of gentle swaying in this beachside paradise must have soaked in his persona.
It is a sunny weekday afternoon and laying back in the sun-bathed courtyard with a glass of lemonade, I was very tempted to ask Daizo to play a song from his album, Papaya Grooving Papagon. Maybe I should order him a Jim Beam or Wild Turkey Bourbon first. Here they take their alcohol seriously even though I have never seen anyone drunk. From Asahi to Singha, beers and spirits from around the world are well stocked. Daizo doesn’t speak very much English, but after a drink and some gesturing it is easy to become friends and it is a great way to meet people from around the world.
If your idea of a holiday is the sound of the spinnaker flapping in the breeze or the gentle waves lapping while you are making your sandcastle kingdom, then put Aharen village on the west coast of the Kerama islands on top of your list for your next holiday.
It is however by no means a surfing or hippie town, despite all the locals bearing a healthy caramel hue from the sun and the visitors from the big smoke being pasty white. Actually, there are really no waves to speak of when I visited in September, so the picture postcard of still turquoise and cerulean blue waters is an apt description. The coral reef is within swimming distance from the beach, and Island’s Trip tours can showcase the best of nature with their half-day kayak and snorkel adventure. The dramatic grottoes, soaring cliffs, and the small islands that dot the bay make it a photographer’s delight.
There is accommodation to suit all tastes in this village, from the slightly threadbare-looking beachside campsite run by the youth hostel, to the top-end Kerama Terrace resort, which offers panoramic views of the beach and fine Japanese and French cuisine. Daizo’s Half Time pension sits somewhere in the middle of the accommodation range, with laid-back American and Beachside-themed rooms. It is like you are staying over at a friend’s house, actually. In the morning he makes a nutritious homely breakfast, and you even ask for some American-style hotcakes, while fresh prawns are on the menu for dinner. For ¥16,000 for two adults (breakfast and dinner at an extra charge), you don’t have to lift a finger for your vacation. They serve a variety of cold and hot drinks and you can indulge yourself with a banana sundae. Just as well there are plenty of reasons to go beachcombing or swimming at this laid-back beach, or you would be putting on weight pretty quickly eating Daizo’s feasts.