Cherry blossom viewing in Okinawa (沖縄) might have already come to an end but it’s never too late to enjoy the sheer grandeur of Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
Due to its geographical location, Okinawa is the only place in the country that enjoys a tropical-like climate comparable to its neighboring countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam. Most of its islands experience subtropical climates with the exemption of the Tarama (多良間), Okidaito (沖大東) and Yaeyama (八重山) islands. This explains the early blooming of the cherry blossoms in this region, compared with the other prefectures.
If you missed Okinawa’s hanami this year and would like to try your luck somewhere north, then be sure to stick around mainland Japan for March and April. But, Okinawa is still worth a visit to commemorate your awesome experience in this place, some unforgettable mementoes may come in handy.
Here’s a list of items you can buy straight from Okinawa’s local shops or Naha airport (那覇空港).
If you or the person you’re buying souvenirs for are a fan of sweets, then Chinsuko (ちんすこう) is the perfect gift. Tourists and locals alike love this sweet treat so there’s no reason for missing out on this delicacy during your visit!
Chinsuko is made from pig lard, sugar and wheat flour and is highly commended for the buttery taste it leaves in your mouth. It’s an ideal snack for any time of day and ideal for matching up with your favorite beverage. It also comes in different flavors including chocolate, purple yam and brown sugar. The good news is, you can order a full, assorted set which gives you the chance to taste all of the flavors. One pack of Chinsuko with 10 pieces is priced around 648 yen.
For those who are looking for legit Okinawan cuisine, then be sure to include this one in your list. It uses purple sweet potato which is officially grown in the prefecture. If you’re a health-sensitive individual, you will be pleased to know that Beniimo does away with preservatives and food coloring typical of the brightly colored sweets we often see in local stores. Plus, it’s sweet flavor isn’t too overwhelming like that of chocolate.
It’s the perfect snack or dessert gift with a moist and delectable taste! A pack of 12 is usually priced at around 1,080 yen.
Yes, we’re not yet done with sweets! If you’re looking for something that can be stored for a long time, this deep-fried Okinawan doughnut is a wise pick. It also comes in different flavors from the all-time favorite coffee to the kids’ pick of purple yam. One doughnut is priced at around 108 yen.
It’s a well-known fact when it comes to traditional Okinawan liquor, nothing beats awamori (泡盛). Its taste is so unique and distinctive that people who have tasted it, especially first-timers, would applaud its fine texture and the strong umami flavor.
If someone back home likes wine, why not grab a bottle of White Tiger awamori? White Tiger is an original brand that can be found in Naha airport, so it’s easy to get your hands on a last-minute bottle just before your flight.
And we thought that awamori was purely about the wine business. Well, of course, it’s the main product line but who’s stopping Okinawans from exploring its taste and using it to produce another souvenir-worthy delicacy?
That’s right, cake lovers, this treat is for you. If you like wine, then even better. The cake is made by adding authentic awamori wine in with the cake ingredients. A tip from the awamori cake experts is to eat the cake along with a high-quality sake (fermented for at least 3 years). This is said to enhance the flavorful taste of the sweets.
If you’d like to add something special to your home décor, Ryukyu glasses make a lovely addition to any table display. They come in a variety of forms such as goblets, small glass wines, cocktail containers and even freestyle, irregular shapes which showcase the glass makers creative expression.
Ryukyu glass is transparent but comes in a variety of different color combinations. This makes a fine gift for a friend who loves collecting unique items. You could even buy a dozen for your own collection!
Traditional Okinawan superstitions include the belief in Shisa charms, which are said to be efficient talismans for warding off evil, thus protecting the family and the company. These charms come in different sizes and designs to suit everybody’s taste.
You don’t have to be a believer to purchase a charm but these make great unique souvenirs that can only be found in Okinawa.
If you’re more interested in a practical gift, the Okinawan Bingata is a must-have. It’s categorized as a towel but it is so much more with the addition of its distinctive, vibrant prints. Its creation dates back to the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom when the colored cloth was primarily used to make dance costumes for local festivals and important gatherings. More recently, its usage has expanded to towels, table cloths, and more.
For those looking for healthier treats fit for all ages, this souvenir should be on your list. Yamahara Shikuwasa is a savory bottled juice made from Okinawan lime which is harvested from a place called Yamahara (山原). What makes this souvenir special, apart from its nutritional value, is the many ways in which it can be consumed. You can choose to add water or liquor to dilute its taste or use it to add flavor to kids’ jelly and ice cream!
It’s also important to note that the processing of the juice is carried out by a highly-trusted seller who uses the safest methods and procedures to extract the lime juice from the fruit without destroying the taste or adding extra ingredients.
Chips are always a welcomed treat so why not add a twist and buy some Mimiga Jerky for your loved ones back home? Jerky is not technically considered as chips as it uses pig ear skin as the main ingredients. The Mimiga Jerky is crunchy and spicy which promises the perfect match with a glass of beer, or any type of liquor for that matter.
Buying souvenirs in Japan can be challenging and overwhelming but with all the unique, exclusive and limited items available in local shops and in the airport, you’re sure to find something that you’re proud to bring home. Just be sure to narrow down your list to genuine Okinawan items and you’ll undoubtedly go home with the best memories of your trip!