Visiting Okinawa on my year abroad in Japan - What to Eat?
Studying abroad in Asia does not mean all work and no play!
Whilst on your year abroad in Japan the ability to travel to exotic islands is somewhat a given.
In this post, we will explore the remote island of Okinawa, what to do in Okinawa and how to get to Okinawa from Tokyo. As studying abroad in Japan does not mean you have to remain on the main island, especially when Japan is a country with over 6852 islands (421 which are habitable)
Firstly, you may be thinking ‘where is Okinawa located?’
Okinawa has an area of 1,200 square km and is made up of roughly a dozen, small islands which are located near east of Taiwan. With Okinawa being closer to the main island of Taiwan, many would assume that the island is not part of Japan, however, the hidden beauty in the pacific is, in fact, Japanese territory.
The fact that Okinawa is very isolated was the main reason as to why I wanted to visit. The island has a mystical nature and very reserved which is why I wanted to explore Okinawa whilst I was on my year abroad in Japan
What to eat in Okinawa?
For me, I arrived in the evening, with the flight from Tokyo to Naha Airport (Okinawa) being only 40 minutes in length, I decided to firstly check-in to my hotel and unpack.
However, after freshening up I then decided to grab something to eat.
Studying abroad in Asia would not be complete without sampling the local cuisines. Therefore, after researching Okinawa specialities I decided to try ‘Goya’; a traditional vegetable dish which Okinawa is famous for.
The way I would describe Goya is that it is similar to that of a cucumber, but it is different as it is more bitter than a cucumber. It is usually a side dish, that you have to accompany other main dishes, such as sashimi or Champuru (stir-fry)
As my few days past, I also tried the local snacks and fruits, for example, I tried ‘Shikuasa’ – a fruit that resembles a green orange – however inside it tastes like an orange/melon. – It was probably one of the juiciest citrus fruits that I had tried before – it is a must if you are visiting Okinawa whilst on your year abroad in Japan.
Another delicious snack is Benimo – which is the Japanese name for ‘Sweet Potato’. However, when thinking of a potato, you do not imagine that the dish could be sweet. However, in Okinawa, I discovered that this item is used for making cakes, biscuits as well as used as a flavour for making Kit kats!
If you plan on studying in Naha, then visiting the touristic shopping district of ‘Naha Kokusai Dori Shopping street’ you will be able to find items containing Benimo.
I was a little taken back by ‘sweet potato flavoured Kit kat’ – however I was pleasantly surprised as it was delicious! You would not have known that it was sweet potato flavoured!
Last, but by no means least - the item that you must try when visiting Okinawa whilst on your year abroad in Japan is the famous 'Umi Budou'. This is another side dish, which accompanies other major dishes. Therefore, you can always order a small side to try, without needing to buy a portion full. Again, this is an interesting looking item, yet it has a seaweed flavour. The literal translation of the dish translates to “sea grapes.' - which is apparent by the look at the flavour of the food. But some may refer to the item as “green caviar” due to its tiny, bubble-like sacs and seaweed flavour. The dish is great accompanying salmon roe, sushi and individually purchased foods. I was not too keen on the food, the flavour was not too bad but the texture I found strange.
If you would like to know more about other potential side dishes that can be easily made with a few ingredients be sure to check out - our other post titled 'Exploring Japanese Supermarkets' - As with a few ingredients - you too can make these exciting and interesting dishes.