New to residents living in the Chatan area, is the recently opened organic store, Green Leaf. Excited to learn about this new store, I paid a visit there just last week. Owner, Ryoichi Uechi, was happy to talk to me about the opening of Green Leaf, and the products and services available to customers.
One of the first things Ryoichi pointed out to me as I browsed the shelves, was that all the items had neatly displayed labels, conveniently written in both Japanese and English. Ryoichi explained that many foreign customers are often frustrated when they visit other grocery stores and everything is labeled in Japanese. "Our goal," he says, "is to provide a high standard of service for all of our customers."
To further entice customers into shopping at Green Leaf, Ryoichi showed me the gift sets available for purchase and added that customers can also select their own gift items and request that they be specially boxed or packaged. Customers can also ask Ryoichi to assist them in special-ordering products that are not available in the store. "If we do not have what a customer is looking for," says Ryoichi, "then we will do whatever we can to get it for the customer.
The variety of goods available is pretty extensive, however, when I looked around the store I was surprised to see that many of the items I would normally look for in a regular supermarket could easily be found on the shelves. Seasonal produce is also available and is provided by four local farmers who are certified as producers of organic crops.
Also delivered to the store on Tuesdays and Saturdays, is fresh baked goods from Yonabaru Bakery. Brown rice bread, camembert bread, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie, are the favorites and according to Ryoichi, they sell quickly. Another popular item for sale is fresh, and deep-fried tofu provided by a supplier in Urasoe. The Fukuyutaka-brand of tofu, from Fukuoka Prefecture, is known for it's reputation as an additive-free and naturally-made product.
In addition to browsing the shelves for things to buy, customers can enjoy drinking coffee on the premises, or ordering it to go. Ryoichi's wife Yuki, who also happens to be the store manager, was kind enough to make me an iced coffee. Without trying to sound like I'm giving too much of a sales pitch, I have to say that it's one of the best iced coffees I've tasted. Ryoichi claims that many of their customers have insisted that Green Leaf's coffee is better than Starbucks coffee. "The Ethiopian coffee beans," he explained, "are supplied by a local coffee barista, who also roasts the beans especially for Green Leaf."
Other popular items for sale, include Japanese organic ramen noodles and vegetarian curries, and imported organic pasta and pasta sauces. Yuki said that many customers also like to buy organic chocolate, and agave syrup from Mexico.
For customers who enjoy online shopping, Green Leaf will soon be offering this service to residents with an off-base Japanese address. You can follow the updates for this service by visiting www.greenleafoods.com.
In the meantime, a visit to the store itself might well be worth it if you have been looking for places that sell a greater variety of organic goods. Ryoichi and Yuki are more than happy to assist customers with all of their organic shopping needs, and to help ensure that this happens they encourage customers to complete a membership form.
Filling out a membership form entitles customers to receive a club card which gives them the ability to earn and accrue points; points can later be used for purchases. But more importantly, customers are encouraged to become members so that Green Leaf can better track what goods are being sold, and so that they also have the ability to notify customers of special events and offerings.
Ryoichi also wanted to add that membership cards can be recognized by the cash register as belonging to either a foreign or Japanese owner; once the distinction has been made a receipt will be printed in the appropriate language, that is, Japanese or English. This may not seem like a huge deal, but it's all part of the overall effort to make shopping at Green Leaf an enjoyable experience.
If you wish to visit Green Leaf, head north on 58 from Naha. At the major four-way intersection that meets the northern-most edge of US military base Camp Foster, turn left. At the next set of lights (ETWS straight ahead), turn left; then take the first left, first right, and first left. Green Leaf will be on your right.
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Since I wear a few different hats I'm not quite sure how to put myself into any one category, at least when it comes to defining an occupational role. I'm a runner, running coach, blog editor for a women's trail running group, and freelance writer for Stripes Okinawa. I am also a mother of two girls, and the wife of a US Marine. I left my home in New Zealand twelve years ago, and am currently enjoying my ninth year of residency in Okinawa, Japan.