Lunch at Hiromi Kondo’s house in Nanjo town

On our second day in Okinawa, Hiromi Kondo drives over to Donto-in and invites me and Koki to have lunch at her home, after which she will take us on a tour of the local area. We are thrilled! Hiromi moved to Okinawa not long after her daughter was born, 16 years ago, after her apprenceship as a drummer/percussionist in Zimbabwe. She plays hand drums, kalimba and balaphone, with two bands in Okinawa, Amana, and Dinkadunk, an African-influenced ensemble that performs both meditational and dance music. I can’t imagine anyone more generous, gentle and kind than Hiromi.

Perched on the crest of a hill, and simply built of cement bricks with a tin roof, Hiromi’s house is guarded by her pet duck.

Next to the front door, a mask from Africa.

Inside, all is elegant simplicity with a kind of soulful decay, what Japanese call wabi-sabi, and what Americans call shabby chic. It makes wall to wall carpeting and painted sheetrock look spiritually dead by comparison, which, I think, they are.

A painted cloth from Africa defines Hiromi’s sleeping quarters.

Baskets and other folk art on the wall over Hiromi’s woodstove.

Hiromi’s kitchen and dining room, where we sat with her and her friend Matsuko, who owns a local gift store, and who had come by to pick up a load of…

Hiromi’s homemade tropical herbal soaps, beautifully wrapped with her own graphic designs!

Here’s our lunch: a vegetable and chicken soup, a green salad with sea grapes in it, slices of lotus root stuffed with mustard paste, sandwiches, bread and pastry from the local (famous) bakery, freshly baked sweet manju (a soft bun filled with sweet red bean paste) and black tea.

After lunch we wandered out to Hiromi’s car for our tour of Tamagusuku. Hiromi’s neighbor across the road lives in a traditional Okinawan style house. Cement block construction makes sense in an area beset with typhoons.