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Pausing and telling a story

The town of Shuri, which prospered for centuries as the royal capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom, still shows signs of its dynastic past. The 2019 fire at Shuri Castle had a great impact on people all over the world who love Okinawa. Fortunately, Shuri’s presence as a royal capital continues and thrives. The ideal way to get to know Shuri is by walking, and a nearby cafe offers a welcome respite to those who stop by, sit and relax, and leisurely contemplate the surroundings.


The cafe restaurant CONTE, which opened in 2015, is located about a 5-minute walk from the Shuri monorail Station. Like the name of the restaurant, which means “story” in French, you can sense the story of the creators, from the food offered to the pottery it’s served on. Fresh roasted coffee fills the store with an inviting aroma. Dishes made with Okinawan ingredients, and teacups and plates made by Okinawan potters add a special touch. There is a wonderful attention to detail, making it no exaggeration to say you are literally “savoring Okinawa”.

CONTE is on a back street of Shuri where many of the streets are paved with cobblestones. Stepping into the shop, you’ll see an open space in the back that invites you to relax and take a breath. Tables are lined up, and the piano centrally placed in this open area is for the regularly held events called “Yoru CONTE (Evening CONTE)” that people can enjoy live music while eating and “Mangetsu CONTE (Full Moon CONTE),” a natural wine and food party held on the night of the full moon.

Sitting in one of the coffee shop chairs, you can see the tropical scenery from the large kitchen window. Shakkei, ‘borrowed scenery’, is a technique used in Japanese gardens and refers to incorporating the scenery of the mountains and forests in the background as a visual component of the garden. Of course, CONTE is not a garden, and as it’s in the town of Shuri, there are no background mountain ridges to be found. Nevertheless, the borrowed landscape, viewed from the large window, is definitely part of this place. Lush overgrown subtropical plants remind you that you are indeed in Okinawa.

After satisfying your thirst, let’s take a walk through the town of Shuri, beckoned by the scenery outside the window. The town of Shuri is centered around Shuri Castle Park, which is located on a small hill at an altitude of 130 meters. It is said that the reason why the royal capital was located in Shuri originally is due to the fact that there was an abundance of natural springs in the area. The owner, Igarashi-san, reminds us that he and his wife were inspired by the rolling hills, scenes such as Tama-udun, the cobblestones of Kinjo, and the towering Akagi trees. 

And now, that spirit of inspiration is embodied in a magazine they publishes called “CONTE MAGAZINE”. Since 2019 they have compiled “the story in everyday life” presented from a wide-ranging perspective. The story spun by CONTE begins with coffee and food, and like the hills of Shuri, with a sure foot, goes up and down, inviting you to the beautiful scenery atop.

text | Mario Anton photography | Hiro Taira