notes from the Yaeyama archipelago 2















Hitomi is from Osaka, and after she moved to Ishigaki, her parents shut up shop and joined her on the island, to open a new oden ya. The shop's meishi (business card) and sign read  Oden: made by father, mother, and sometimes daughter too.’ Oden is a dish of various ingredients stewed in soy-flavoured dashi. Hitomi’s parents are proud that they make their dashi (soup stock made from fish and kelp) fresh each day, and don’t use bottled soy sauce. Diners select from a deep and compartmented tray of dashi, which steams at the counter. It contains hard-boiled eggs, daikon radish, konnyaku (a solidified jelly made from the root of devil’s tongue), and chikuwa (a tube shaped fish-paste cake). The oden ya opens at 8 pm, gets busy after midnight, and remains so right up until closing at 3 am. Many of the customers work in other restaurants and come for oden after closing time. Oden is warming, easy to digest, and generally low in calories. Another late-night dish served in the oden ya is dendashi gohan, a bowl of cooked rice (gohan) with the oden's dashi, and a raw egg. Stirred up with chopsticks, the rice becomes a warm, soft porridge. This type of dish is eaten for breakfast throughout Japan. And after all, it's nearly breakfast time by the time the oden ya closes.