The Cheese Guy in Okinawa

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — John Davis, a.k.a. The Cheese Guy, didn’t set out to be a gourmet. Rather, he simply discovered that excellent cheese wasn’t available in Okinawa and he decided to do something about it.

“It was ghastly. It’s just processed cheese,” he recalls. While he loved many things about living in Japan, the absence of top notch cheese left his taste buds wanting.

So Davis, who has lived in various parts of Japan since 1976, began to study up and he bought the equipment he needed, figuring out the recipes and the methods, and was able to stock his refrigerator with the goods that scratched his cheese itch.

But he quickly found that he was not alone. Family and friends tasted his homemade cheese and began to realize that they too had been missing something from their lives. A friend at a bar in Naha put on a Cheese Night with Davis’ creations, and it received a positive reaction from the patrons.

But to really up his cheese game he needed the right milk, not just the stuff that he could buy at the market. This problem was solved when a friend put him in touch with a dairy farmer in Nanjo city who had wanted to make cheese, but didn’t know how. It was a match made in culinary heaven.

Soon, local restaurants, and especially hotels, began stocking his cheese, and many individual customers too began knocking on his door.

“It is, and always has been, and probably always will be word of mouth,” Davis notes in regard to his advertising strategy.

He now has a shop within the JA facility in Nanjo, and makes about fifty different varieties of cheese, including some that incorporate Okinawan flavors. He says that Ozato Basil and Halloumi are currently his bestsellers.

And what does Davis see as the secret of his success? “I think all the imported cheese, certainly in Okinawa but also most of what you get in Tokyo, is frozen. It’s shipped frozen. So even the soft cheeses are to some degree dead… When you make it yourself, it’s alive, and it’s very, very different.”

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