Local landmark in Ishigaki has a very unique menu.

In Japanese, the word shiru, also pronounced jiru, means “soup.” Miso soup, for example, is called misoshiru, and tonjiru, a kind of soup with pork and vegetables, is a popular food during the colder months of the year.

But on a recent trip to Okinawa, we found something we’d never tried before: yagijiru, or goat soup.

Goat itself is pretty rare in Japan, but the animals are raised in Okinawa’s Yaeyama Island chain. We came across the yagijiru on Ishigakijima Island, the easternmost of the Yaeyama Islands, at a restaurant called Eifuku Shokudo.

▼ It even has a yagijiru (やぎ汁) sign out front.

Eifuku Shokudo is a local landmark in Ishigaki City, and not just because of the restaurant’s unique interior decorated with dozens of country flags and photos of boats, planes, and old-school actors. It’s also famous for its outgoing owner, Kunihiro Toji.

Since we’re always ready to challenge our palate with new flavors, we wasted no time in ordering a bowl of yagijiru (for 1,000 yen [US$8.70]), and after about 10 minutes, Toji brought it to our table with a hearty “Here ya go!”

The soup is accompanied by salt and grated ginger. Toji recommends using all the ginger and adding salt to suit your tastes, but before that we wanted to try a bite of the goat as-is.

This being our first time to eat goat, we’d braced ourselves for a potentially shocking flavor, but it wasn’t as strong as we’d thought it might be. There is a bit of gaminess, though, so if you don’t like lamb, this might not be for you.

However, a lot of that gaminess goes away when you…

…mix in the ginger, which mellows out the flavor while leaving behind a delicious meatiness, which we think would go great with a bowl of white rice. Instead of that, though, Toji recommended we follow up out goat soup with another one of the restaurant’s specialties, the Tony Soba.

Named, for some reason, after the nickname of actor Keiichiro Akagi, this is Eifuku Shokudo’s take on the local Yaeyama ramen with pork, but with cubes of tofu as an additional topping. It’s a combination we wouldn’t have thought of, but we’re glad Toji did, because it tasted great.

Finally, he recommended a glass of Pipachi Chai tea. This is another original creation, which Toji makes by adding a locally grown pepper-like spice called pipachi to chai tea.

It’s a mysteriously refreshing beverage, with just enough sharpness to cleanse the palate of any lingering gaminess from the goat soup. Again, we don’t think we ever would have come up with the idea, but thanks to Toji’s innovative mind and friendly personality, we left Eifuku Shokudo liking three things that we never knew existed before we walked in.

Restaurant information
Eifuku Shokudo / 栄福食堂
Address: Okinawa-keen, Ishigaki-shi, Okawa 274

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