Okinawa Pet Foods: Pet boutique and so much more!


After a more than unpleasant experience at a pet supply store in Urasoe (Read about Coo & Riku by clicking here.)  I thought that it would be a good time to highlight one of my absolute favorite pet supply stores on island.

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Okinawa Pet Foods (also known as OPF) is in my opinion one of the best pet supply shops here on Okinawa. There are two branches of OPF here on Okinawa that I am aware of, however my branch of choice is in the south central part of Okinawa not far from Camp Foster.

I first discovered OPF years ago when we discovered our dog Bandit has some sensitivity to food. It was either beef or preservatives that were causing him problems and so we were on a hunt for a dog food that was truly lamb and rice and had minimal if any preservatives. After going to all the places you might expect and trying a variety of photo 2different foods which didn’t end in success we took a leap and headed to OPF. Before knowing what OPF stood for we had assumed it was just a pet boutique because of the fancy items that were displayed in the windows but figured that if they had high end jackets and collars they must also have some sort of food. As it turned out we were absolutely right.

What we discovered, and still absolutely love, is that OPF had a wide selection of premium dog foods from all over the world to include Belcando, Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan,  Canidae and much more. Unlike standard dog food premium dog food tends to have more pure ingredients with less preservatives making it a perfect find to accommodate the needs of Bandit. They don’t just stop at dry dog food either. They have a selection of premium canned dog food from those same brands and even treats and chews made from more natural ingredients (some even local from time to time).

Food is the main reason that I became a regular customer at OPF but the great products photo 4that they supply does not end there. For those purely fun products OPF has cute hats, clothes and fashion collars for your pets. Those who prefer to pamper their pets can also find a wide range of carriers, strollers, shampoos, body sprays, purses and car decals. Then there are the practical items including dog booties, beds, water bowls, heavy duty leashes (which later came in handy for Smokey), backpacks and other pet supplies useful for everyday life.

Aside from merchandise OPF also has a lot of other offerings to include boarding facility for your pets and a grooming service. Although I have never used OPF’s boarding facility I can discuss the grooming service. At one point we were talking Smokey there regularly to get his nails cut and as difficult a dog as he is the staff was always efficient, friendly and incredibly kind to both us and the dog. Again I have never used the OPF boarding facility but I do have to say that based on the way that they have treated Smokey (and other dogs that I have seen in the windows getting groomed) I cannot imagine that boarding the dogs there would be in any way problematic.

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OPF is also a place where you can purchase a furry friend to take home with you. Unlike other pet stores on Okinawa the use of space and consideration for animals that OPF has stands out to me in a huge way. OPF has a pretty standard setup for the pets that they have displayed. Along the wall to the left side of the main entrance are window boxes/cages where the puppies are kept. These window boxes/cages are not huge, I would be comfortable describing them as “medium sized” however the dogs in the cage are always miniature in size making the compartment more than adequate. They also provide much more space due to their design which has a floor which allows waste product from the dogs to fall through to a tray on the bottom where it can easily be cleaned and not take up space limiting the puppies to a corner of the compartment. The compartments also often include a toy or some sort and/or a blanket so that the puppies have an element of comfort and can lay down somewhere. In all the times that I have visited the compartments have also always been clean and the pets have always been clean and vibrant. In fact I can’t say that I have ever been there at a time when the staff wasn’t tending to the puppies in some way leading me to believe that they are well taken care of. Although most dogs available at OPF are small in size there are occasionally bigger dogs for sale, or sometimes older dogs for sale. In these cases the dogs are always in a size appropriate cage (plenty of room to stand up, turn around and lay down) or out of the cage altogether and tied up on a leash and walked around the store by the staff.

As for the store’s presentation OPF is always a pleasant place to visit. It is always clean (even with the “pets welcome” policy which sometimes results in “accidents”) and smells nice. Shelves are always organized, compartments with dogs (as I mentioned above) are always cleaned as are the pets (if and when they have them) in large cages and/or hanging out on a leash in the store. The staff is also always friendly, helpful and willing to work with you.

In reality OPF isn’t for everyone. It is a boutique and therefore you’re likely to see some higher prices then you might find at other discount pet supply stores. However the selection of unique, custom, top of the line items is unlike anything you will find anywhere else on Okinawa!

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Ocean Expo Park: Oceanic Culture Museum


Chances are you’ve never heard of the Oceanic Culture Museum. This is undoubtably because it sits in the shadow cast by two other tourist attractions; the Churaumi Aquarium and Tropical Dream Center.

The Oceanic Culture Museum is located at the Ocean Expo Park closest to parking area P3 and P5. If you don’t know what you’re looking for you may just miss the entrance even though it’s right under your nose. What’s important to remember is that when you walk down the main staircase towards the outdoor water fountain it will be on your left. While we’re talking business it’s important to note that there is an admission fee for this museum which was less than ¥200 for adults and only ¥50 for children. There is also a strict NO PHOTOGRAPHS unless you’re in the designated areas policy which we will talk a little bit about later.

Oceanic Culture Museum: Boat

The focus of the museum is oceanic culture (no surprise there hah?) in the Pacific region. Throughout the rather large sized museum you can explore methods of fishing, cooking, making boats, tattooing, dancing and much much more. There are videos playing and multiple displays that look like you should be able to reach out and touch them to experience textures and feelings of materials. . . . . . but wait there is a do not touch sign there. Past the displays you will find huge boats which are on display. These are the boats that I feature in my video and the photos here mainly because they are the only pieces of the museum that you are permitted to photograph, but we will talk about that a little bit later.

Oceanic Culture Museum: Long Boat - Okinawa, Japan

Moving towards the back side of the museum building you will come upon information related to Okinawa’s oceanic culture. This is the part of the museum that I have to admit was a bit disappointing. Some of the items on display were the same items you can see and purchase at a local fishing shops. Of course there were a few traditional items but in my personal opinion there were a few things left out like Nago’s history of whaling which would have added a nice element to the museum as it seems to be unique compared to the other locations featured in the museum. The route then leads to an open room with a very different feel. There is a great place to take a photo of you and your friends and also features information about Expo 75. This includes some great pictures and models from the expo.

The museum’s second floor features information on how boats are made with both Japanese and English descriptions. Although much less interesting than the rest of the museum there were some great areas of interest to include boat models from all around the Pacific in a display case.

Walking through the museum was an opportunity to experience some beautiful displays and learn the oceanic culture of the Pacific region. However, I had a hard time getting past the very unwelcome and policed feeling we were getting from the staff members. This might seem like a really strange thing to say so let me elaborate a bit. We started our journey off as bloggers, photographers and videographers usually do. . . . by inquiring about what limitations we would have while inside the facility. Most of the time when taking this extra,  yet necessary, step  you are likely to be met with enthusiasm. This was not the case today. It was explained to us where we could and could not take photographs. We were also given maps in which these locations were clearly indicated. At this point everything that we had experienced was pretty much what you would expect. You’re not always going to be granted special access to every location (specifically museums) and that’s ok. In fact the limitations wasn’t really the problem; it was what happened next.

Once we got into the museum and took a moment to regroup (which included taking off our jackets because it was horribly cold outside and a sauna inside). Then we all went our separate ways based on what we wanted to experience. We read a little of this, photographed a little of that. . . . then I start to feel like I am being followed and/or watched. I brushed it off must be my imagination. Nope! Not my imagination. . . . . I was photographing a boat and I see two members of my group walk one direction and in a hurried walk the security guard follows close behind. Shortly after I move to another part of the museum and out of an area behind a large display another staff member hurries to adjust himself in order to keep an eye on my husband and I. Now. . . . maybe it’s the Bostonian in me but I do not like being followed and I do not like being treated like a criminal, which is how I felt. The way that the staff conducted themselves around us (and I am only speaking for myself and my husband here not the rest of the group because I do not know how they felt) put such a sour taste in my mouth that I feel as though I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy some of the displays.

Despite that experience (which I credit simply to the fact that it was 5 of us all wielding cameras although still feel that it was an unacceptable way to treat paying customers) the museum is a wonderful one and a great place to visit on a rainy cold day (like today) or in an effort to enjoy the entirety of the Ocean Expo Park. I could certainly go again. . . . . although this time I might leave the camera in the car.

Yaedake Sakura: The first to bloom in all of Japan


 

It’s that time of year again. . . . . SAKURA SEASON! Here in Okinawa our sakura season is SUPER early compared to the rest of the country. It usually starts around New Years making it a great way to finish off one year and ring in the next. Although we have sakura all over Okinawa the first usually bloom on Yaedake, a mountain in the northern part of Okinawa. (Yaedake is a great place to view sakura because not only can you enjoy them on your entire drive up the mountain but you can also stop and enjoy the view off the mountain, hike through some basic trails and play at the rather large playground. There is also a ton of parking around the mountain making it an ideal place to stroll.)

Although I am happy to report that the sakura have started to bloom it’s important to note that I don’t recommend packing up the car and checking them out this weekend. There are only a few trees that have started to bloom so it will be a little wait before you walk through the beautiful pink pedals. However, sakura being what they are (here one moment and gone the next) it’s time to keep a close eye on the weather and just maybe you can catch them . . . . . before it’s too late.

Kentucky Christmas: Review of Chicken Bucket Holiday Set


Christmas and friend chicken go hand in hand here in Japan. Once the big day rolls around you can’t turn around in a grocery store without seeing either friend or roast chicken. Fast IMG_4886food restaurants also take advantage of the opportunity to sell fried chicken and offer special Christmas sets. These sets of fried chicken have become a Christmas tradition of ours, each year trying something a little different and trying to decide on what we will do when next Christmas rolls around. This year we decided to go for the KFC Christmas Chicken Bucket.

There were two options for the KFC Christmas Chicken Bucket. We ended up getting the 8 pieces of Original Recipe which also included a Christmas Cake (another Japanese tradition for Christmas), salad and a collectible holiday plate. The entire set came to just under $40.00USD.

Because of the high demand of Christmas Chicken here in Japan we had to preorder our bucket which we did a few days in advance. Preordering was super simple. All we had to do was go to the KFC location that we would pick up our order from (ours was in Urasoe), fill out a form (this was in Japanese but you can put 2 and 2 together to place your order or ask staff members), pay and return on your pick up date and time with your slip.

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When 330PM (our pickup time) rolled around on Christmas day we headed over to grab out bucket of deliciousness. We received it amazingly fast and without any problem whatsoever. They simply took our receipt, punched a few numbers into the register and handed us our huge bucket.

Here in Japan the whole bucket thing is a bit different than in the US, at least as far as the Christmas bucket is concerned. The entire meal was in one huge bucket which must have been about a foot and a half tall. This bucket was pretty impressive all on it’s own.

Once we started tearing into the bucket we discovered how much food we actually got. In actuality it wasn’t too bad. First and foremost we got a beautiful KFC collectible holiday plate which is nice and came with a special stand so it can be displayed. The next layer in the bucket was the chicken. The chicken was 8 pieces of original recipe which was absolutely delicious. Now I have to admit there have been people in the past (including my husband) who have had some complaints about KFC Chicken. Usually the main complaint is that it is not like KFC in the US and the most recant comment from a fellow blogger here in Okinawa is that he was disappointed with the fact that it wasn’t as crisp as he was expecting. I can definitely see where he is coming from. The chicken was not crispy, maybe there is an extra crispy option but it wasn’t what we got. However, the breading was very flavorful and we (even my husband who was featured in the video called “Japanese KFC Sucks”) absolutely loved it. Whether or not it stacks up to KFC in the US I honestly can’t tell you because I have not eaten that for over a decade.

The next layer was the cake which turned out the be amazingly delicious. This cake was a “Chocolate Nuts Cake” which featured cream, chocolate cream, chocolate cake and walnuts all dusted with a rich cocoa powder. YUM! The cake was not heavy either so it didn’t overpower anything else that was served.

Finally there was the salad. The salad was pretty delicious and fresh. It also included veggies, croutons, bacon bits, dressing and forks. The entire thing was sealed inside the bucket with napkins and instructions for heating the meal.

The best part about this chicken bucket is that even though it had been prepared ahead of time and taken on a 15 minute drive back home it was still warm when we opened the bucket and cracked into the 8 pieces. This was very pleasant because we didn’t have to take time and dishes to reheat something that we had just purchased. Overall I think that KFC may be out “go to” Christmas chicken from now on. I can’t find anything about it that I really didn’t like.

Coo & Riku: The first time I’ve been disgusted in a Japanese shop


My husband and I are lucky enough to share our home with two wonderful dogs; Smokey IMG_4881and the Bandit. We consider them part of the family and so it was an obvious choice yesterday to make a quick stop to pick them up some holiday treats before grabbing out Christmas Chicken from KFC. Since we were heading to Urasoe the obvious choice was to stop at Coo & Riku.

Coo & Riku is a shop, boarding facility, dog run and cafe located right along Route 58 in Urasoe. It is incredibly easy to find because of it’s huge signs featuring puppies and kittens.  The shop itself features a selection of treats, dog and cat food, clothing, leashes and of course dogs and cats for sale.

Since the store opened just over a year ago I have been to the new location a few times. Each visit had included grabbing a few treats for the dogs, which they always love, so I figured it would be a great place to stop on this particular day. The fact that it was Christmas and Coo & Riku boasted about Christmas sales was also a plus. However, my experience was such that I may never visit this store again.

The first thing I noticed when walking into the store was the overwhelming stink of feces. The smell was borderline unbearable. On top of that all of the windows and doors were closed offering no ventilation whatsoever in the store. This in and of itself was pretty disgusting and the first thing that came to mind was whether or not the upstairs (a sit down cafe) reeked as well.

After looking through the aisles we made out way to the back of the store to look at what pets were available. What we saw was both disgusting and disappointing. Now I will be the first to say that although I do not prefer pet stores which have their puppies in the display boxes/cages I do not mind as much if the cages are well taken care of and good size.  This was absolutely not the case here at Coo & Riku. Let me elaborate a bit more to ensure that I IMG_4879come across clear. There are three “sections” of the pet display area. The first are designed for small pets. They are medium sized compartments on either wall. Size wise these display boxes/compartments are not bad. The dogs are generally so small that they can walk around, have an area to relieve themselves and still a dry area to lay. Then there is a side area with medium sized dogs which are in cages, more specifically those large cages that you would have in your home. There is not a ton of wiggle room but there is enough for the dogs to stretch out, move around and so I suppose I can describe them very loosely as “acceptable”. Finally there are large dogs. This includes Saint Bernards and on this particular day a black lab. They are in the same size cage as the medium sized dogs which for these gentle giants meant that they could not even sit up straight without their head sagged down because the cages were so small. This was in no way acceptable, maybe for travel as it was large enough for them to turn around and lay down, but not as a place to keep them day to day until they found a home. Aside from size the cages were absolutely filthy. I am not sure what was going on here on this particular day that they could not get the cages clean (because there were only 2 people in the store at the time us and one other couple) but they were all completely covered in urine and feces. Some dogs were even stained by their own urine because their cages simply were not large enough.

NOTE: I want to be completely fair in my assessment of this location and therefore I need to note that there was in fact someone in the process of cleaning the cages. However, I also feel that it is important to note that having cleaned up after pets for most of my life there is no conceivable reason that the cages should have been in that shape. If it meant one staff member is designated to do nothing more then clean all day long, so be it. Not only is it an unpleasant experience for the pets to be in disgusting cages but from a business standpoint it’s not a good selling point to have the dogs that perspective buyers want to cuddle and hug covered in their own waste product. 

Frankly, Coo& Riku boasted about a holiday sale and having pets for the holidays. If they couldn’t handle the product they were pushing they should have never taken in so much supply. Very irresponsible both from a consideration for animals and business standpoint. 

As unpleasant and unhappy as we both were with the situation we moved on to get more treats for the boys, the reason that we were here in the first place. After putting a few things here and there in our basket we moved over to the check out counter. There was no one there so we rang the bell. After a few minutes we rang the bell again, and again and again. . . . . no one came to cash us out. The complete disregard for us was pretty upsetting especially considering that there was just a staff member helping an elderly couple a few short minutes before we had prepared to cash out. Where he went . . . no one knows. After waiting at the register for over 10 minutes and being unable to find someone to cash us out we left without making the purchase that we intended to make.

This experience was a huge letdown and was, as I described in the title, the first time I have been disgusted by a shop here in Japan. I have to say I will not likely return to Coo & Riku for any reason. I certainly wouldn’t even think of boarding my pet at this facility either. I mean if you can’t even clean up after the pets that you are trying to sell or cash our your customers who’s to say you will take good care of my pets while I am gone? I am very disappointed with this experience. . . . and that’s to say the least.

 

How Bologna Became Our Christmas Tradition


We don’t have too many holiday traditions in our house. It’s not that we don’t like the holidays, we love them, it’s just that because of our lifestyles and personalities it’s hard to decide on one specific set of things that we do year after year. In other words, the traditions that we do have (as few as they may be) are really special and have significant meaning. . . . like fried bologna sandwiches.

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First I suppose I might as well explain the tradition. It’s quite simple, but it’s a good one nonetheless. Each year on either Christmas or Christmas Eve we have a meal in which the main course is a fried bologna and cheese sandwich. Originally this was our Christmas dinner but we decided to do Japanese style fried chicken for Christmas dinner and so bologna was then moved to Christmas Eve dinner. That being said I am sure you are wondering why on Earth someone would choose to have bologna as a main dish of any meal during the Christmas holiday. It’s actually a pretty fun story.

It was about 8 years ago and my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in Japan. This was not our first Christmas together but it was our first Christmas without family so we naturally wanted to make it special. We had gone out and got the fixings for a nice Christmas dinner with chicken as a main course. I had spent the entire day cooking all of the sides and of course pies (a specialty of mine having grown up in the family bakery). Finally it was time to take the chicken out and put it in the oven. It wouldn’t take very long to cook so I figured I would do it last because I wanted the chicken to be juicy and everything else would be fine to heat up in the microwave after the fact. I took the chicken out, opened it up and noticed. . . . . there was something wrong with the chicken. To this day I do not know what was wrong with it but it was white spotted with red blotches. . . . not something I was about to eat all right.

Needless to say the chicken was on the express route into the trash can. Now what to do? It was almost dinner time and we were not yet familiar with the ins and outs of local grocery stores or aware that Christmas Chicken was a thing at local fast food joints. The worst part? All we had in the house was cheese, a few slices of bologna and bread. We had been planning to enjoy some leftovers for the next few days so there wasn’t much in the fridge.

I am a bit foggy on the details of what happened next. I remember being so upset that we were not going to have a “good” meal for Christmas dinner and then our sense of humor and resourcefulness kicked in and we decided that the main course could be bologna and cheese sandwiches. Of course they would have to be fried also. The logic behind this is because you can’t have a cold main course with warm side dishes. Fry the sandwiches and the problem is solved.

Christmas dinner (which consisted of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, corn and bologna and cheese sandwiches) turned out to be absolutely wonderful. While we were eating my husband said to me “We need to make sure we do this every year” and we haven’t gone without it since!

I love this story because it’s a lot of fun, but at the same time it’s a reminder to those out there (especially those who are far from home) that the holidays don’t always have to be “typical” to be perfect. Sometimes your chicken goes bad. . . . sometimes you’ve got to eat bologna and cheese sandwiches as your main dish. . . . either way it’s all about what you make of it.

Have a happy holiday season everyone!

Emergency Room For Pets (Animal Hospital 22)


IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CLICK HERE

When life happens it’s always unexpected and almost never within normal business hours. That being the case it’s important, at least in my opinion, to have a plan for when the unexpected happens. This is how I stumbled upon Animal Hospital 22, a veterinarian which offers emergency services.

Until today I didn’t have much to say about Animal Hospital 22. I had not taken the dogs there before because we had been using another vet. Early this morning, however when our youngest best friend woke up having what seemed like a seizure we decided that a trip to the puppy emergency room might be necessary. Immediately I knew who to call and dialed the number. It became clear that Animal Hospital 22 was foreigner friendly with prompts in both Japanese and English on their phone line. After getting the after hours emergency number we called and were greeted by a female English speaking staff member. She took all of the important information about the situation and directed us to come in.

Finding the location of Animal Hospital 22 was very easy. It is located down 81 and off 329 on the left before the A&W (map and directions are available at the link in the beginning of this post). The facility was also easy to find due to it’s size and the sign that clearly said Animal Hospital 22 on it. We went inside and were immediately taken into the exam room. The doctor, a nurse and translator were all there to assist in explaining what had happened. Once the basic exam had been completed the explained our options which would include a blood test. Blood was drawn and tested on the spot. It took us only about 15 minutes of waiting for the results. When the results came back the staff explained every detail (in Japanese and then translated into English) and answered every question that we had. We were given a prescription and moments later were cashed out and ready to head back home.

The experience was. . . well I don’t want to say pleasant because going to the ER with your seizing dog is much less than pleasant . . . let’s just say it didn’t suck as much as it could have. The thing that stood out to me was how well everything was explained. The doctor could have simply said “there is nothing that showed up on the blood work” but rather went into details about what each result meant. The doctor and translator also were happy to answer any and all questions that we had about the situation without making us feel rushed or like we were inconveniencing them in any way. Even though we had been there at 430AM it might as well have been noon with the kindness and understanding that the staff offered.

Animal Hospital 22 is open 365 day a year from 9AM to 12Noon and 4PM to 10PM every day. The business hours are the best that I have ever seen at a vet’s office. Translators are available to ensure that you can communicate your problems to the doctor effectively. Paperwork is also in Japanese and English. There is also pet boarding available as are special events throughout the year for pet lovers and their pets.

For more information please don’t hesitate to click the link above. Also please feel free to post your experiences in the comments below.

Note: For those of you who may be wondering our boy Smokey who was in need of the emergency room visit is doing just fine although he did give us quite a scare.