Discovering Okinawan Food and Goods

goya champuru The Real Japan Rob Dyer
Goya champuru (bitter melon)

The people of Okinawa live longer than anywhere else in Japan (indeed most of the world), and much of that longevity is attributed to their diet.

O​kinawan food is diverse and health-giving, coming mainly from local farms and from the seas surrounding these sun-drenched islands.

​The Okinawa Islands are an island group in Okinawa Prefecture, in the south-west of Japan. They are part of the larger Ryukyu Islands group.

Unlike most of Japan, the Okinawa Islands have a subtropical climate, supporting the production of sugarcane, pineapples, papaya, tropical fruits and cut flowers.

Goya champuru and Okinawan soba

Okinawan cuisine and dishes, include goya champuru (bitter melon stir fry), fu champuru (wheat gluten champuru), and tonkatsu (tenderized, breaded, fried pork cutlet).

Okinawan soba is the signature dish and consists of wheat noodles served hot in a soup, usually with pork (rib or pork belly). This contrasts with the mainland soba, which is made from buckwheat noodles.

goya champuru The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Goya champuru (bitter melon)

Spam (yes, Spam)

Rafute, braised pork belly, is another popular Okinawan dish. The military bases of the United States in Okinawa Prefecture are located on the Okinawa Islands.

American presence on the island has also led to some creative dishes such as taco rice, which is now a common meal served in bentos, and common use of Spam.

You can spot tins of Spam, alongside some Tulip luncheon meat, in the film below.

Okinawa beef steak The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Okinawa beef steak

Bingata fabric

Bingata are traditional Okinawan dyed fabrics that were used to make dance costumes during the Ryukyu Kingdom period.

Characterized by bright primary colors as befitting a tropical island, the fabric is now used for many gifts including hand towels and wrapping cloths.

VIDEO: Okinawan food and goods market

I was walking through Harborland in Kobe and came across a popup Okinawan food and goods market.

Reflecting Okinawa's sun-kissed subtropical climate, this market was a riot of colour.

​Foods for sale included the American imported Spam alongside more traditional foods. There was a few stalls selling traditional wooden toys and hand carved utensils, as well as bingata cloth made in Okinawa.

Location Map

And one more thing…

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Have you tried any Okinawan food? Let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below...


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