Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan, but it’s culture has been greatly influenced by all it’s Asian neighbors.
The island may be nearly 5,000 miles away, but in many ways, it’s just like home, in the way we work, play, and eat.
Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu Archipeligo, with white-sand beaches quickly becoming the tropical playground for Asian tourists. Hikers and climbers are drawn to the island’s towering cliffs, and kayakers find a paddling paradise in the hidden coves of Yanbaru.
Kokusai Street is Okinawa’s Waikiki, with thousands of tourists and locals cruising the boulevard on any given night. That’s not the only similarity to Hawaii.
Colin Sewake said, “Okinawa people, like Hawaii people are very open, welcoming. So living here is like being back home.”
Megumi Chibana said, “Part of the reason is climate. Warm, tropical. Island people are more laid back.”
And just like Hawaii, there are military bases, 28 of them. Although the military’s relationship with islanders is sometimes contentious, there is no doubt of the effect on local cuisine. Because of american G.I.S., Okinawa has spam.
Jarrett Ota said, “Who made the spam musubi or spam nigiri first? The Okinawans say they did, but in Hawaii they want to claim, say no we did. It’s a staple of both people’s diets.”
And taco rice is a perfect fusion of east and west.
“When the Marines around Camp Hansen would go out drinking, on the way back to base, they were hungry, went to one of the snack parlors and asked to eat and the guy said I don’t really have anything, threw hamburger, lettuce, tomato and the guys loved it and since then it’s been a big hit.”
So much so, it’s on nearly every diner menu as an Okinawan specialty.