We visit the very popular Izakaya Hitoshi tuna specialty in Ishigaki Island, Okinawa


After a botched booking a month before the visit, our reporter luckily gets in and ascends to tuna heaven.

Our correspondent in Japanese Kouhey he often tries to escape the autumn chill by venturing to Okinawa. Before Covid, he visited the southwesternmost islands of Yaeyama maybe once or twice a year and thought he had exhausted all the necessary foodstuffs such as yagijiru goat soup and Tommy’s bread. However, one popular izakaya [Japanese-style pub] on the island of Ishigaki, he recently caught his eye on a place he hadn’t visited before – a restaurant specializing in tuna called Hitoshi Izakaya.

There are two restaurants on the island – the main restaurant and the Ishiganto location. He decided to try his luck in the main.

Reservations are accepted only by phone. Unbelievably, he called continuously for a month trying to secure a booking but was never able to get through to a human voice without having the call routed to voicemail.

▼ Kouhey’s phone log for two days. Top line: main restaurant number, second line: Ishiganto location number

Now that he was in town, he decided to try a completely different tactic – walk into the restaurant without a reservation 30 minutes before the “last orders” time. On this particular day the last orders were at 10pm so it arrived a little before 9.30pm.

As he was about to enter, he noticed an ominous-looking plaque stuck to the door.

▼ To sum up: “Due to staff shortages, we are working with fewer tables than usual and may take longer to serve.”

Well, that probably explained why talking to someone on the phone was next to impossible. For a restaurant that was always bustling even at the best of times, this sign certainly suggested that fortune was not on Kouhey’s side. But he gathered his courage and took a step towards the door.

A quick scan of the room showed that all tables were occupied. When the server came he told them there was no reservation. They replied that he could wait until a table became available but could not guarantee that he would get in on time. He replied that he did not mind taking risks.

There was another unqualified person ahead of him, waiting to be seated. After a while, a nearby table paid the bill and left, and this group took their seats. Kouhey waited anxiously and began to feel a glimmer of hope as he saw another table getting ready to leave. Indeed, some five minutes later he was ushered to a wide table, even though he was alone.

Phew! He overcame his biggest hurdle by sitting down at this restaurant where he had been trying to make a reservation for a month. With only a few minutes left to order, he quickly scanned the menu and made his decision.

He checked the recommended dishes beforehand and decided on them. Even three minutes later his awamori [an Okinawan distilled alcoholic drink made from rice] on the rocks arrived followed by akami bluefin tuna [lean part of the fish] sashimi, the latter of which cost 1,080 yen (US$7.70).

Eager to taste the taste of tuna at a tuna restaurant in Okinawa, he smeared a piece of wasabi on it and put it in his mouth…

…to be dazzled by the stunning deliciousness.

Now, Kouhey often buys discounted tuna sashimi at the supermarket just before the stores close, but this tuna was from a whole other dimension. Even though it wasn’t even the fatty part of the fish, it had the same soft texture as if it were. He thought he understood another reason why it was so hard to book a seat here.

Next was a plate of bonito tuna covered in spring onions. Half size portion was 550 yen.

This size turned out to be more than enough for one person. As someone who loves both bonito and spring onion, Kouhey heaped a heaping spoonful and was just as delighted with the taste as he was with the last dish.

Spring onions, plain onion slices and garlic chips covered the tuna, all drizzled with a special sauce and mayonnaise. There was an amazing sense of unity between all the ingredients in his mouth, but the garlic in particular added a sharp edge. He probably wouldn’t get bored of even a full portion of this dish.

The last dish to arrive was sea urchin somen chanpuru, a fried Okinawan dish. The half size portion was again 550 yen.

Somen chanpuru is another favorite of Kouhey’s that he usually orders from restaurants in Okinawa. This particular version, however, was unlike anything he had seen before. In his opinion, the idea of ​​u200bu200busing the sea urchin was innovative. How would it compare to other chanpuru he had tried in the past?

Just as predicted, it was also simply delicious. Actually, it would be more accurate to call it “sea urchin soup spaghetti”. The somen noodles themselves were thicker and springier than other somen noodles and go well with the creamy broth. This half sized portion was again perfect for one person.

He continued to wash down all the delicious tuna dishes with awamori.

Before he knew it, his plates were completely empty. Since he only had time to try the three recommended items on the menu, he couldn’t help but wonder what the other items on the menu would be.

In any case, his greatest mission was accomplished simply because he sat down without a reservation at Izakaya Hitoshi. However, it is strongly recommended that you try to get a reservation if you want to arrive earlier than 30 minutes before the last order. Please note that the restaurant accepts cash only.

Kouhey is looking forward to the day when he can visit Izakaya Hitoshi again, but in the meantime he will try to enjoy some of the other favorite local attractions on Ishigaki Island, such as Yonekoyaki Shisa Garden to the north.

Restaurant information
Izakaya Hitoshi Main Restaurant / 居酒屋ひとし本店
Address: Okinawa-ken, Ishigaki-shi, Shinei-cho 15-8 
沖縄県石垣市新栄町 15-8
Open: 17:00-23:30 (although it may vary depending on the day)

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