Food Culture in Okinawa


The Ryukyu Kingdom often entertained envoys and delgates from China, South East Asia and Mainland Japan. Exquisite cuisine incorporating the ingredients and cooking techniques of this mix of nations was subsequently created, as many exotic food ingreients from all over Asia made their way into Okinawa, further enriching its food culture. Meanwhile, common Okinawans made do with whatever the land offered. They sustained on a simple diet consisting predominently of land and sea vegetables. Today, the Okinawan diet is considered one of the healthiest and tastiest in the world. Visiting a local market is an adventure, where you can find a wide variety of colourful vegetables, seafood, sea vegetables, and meat, any time of the year.

Flavours of Okinawa

There are many unique and interesting dishes to try in Okinawa - these are just a sample of what to look out for and try!

Okinawa Soba

Okinawa Soba is a classic dish loved by Okinawans - with an estimated 150,000 bowls being consumed a day! Unlike Japanes soba, Okinawans use noodles made of wheat flour, salt and lye water, with a soup broth made from tonkotsu (pork bone) or katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Standard toppings are boned rib, kamaboko and green onion.


In Okinawan, "champuru" means "mixed together" and is a general term for stir fried dishes. Especially famous in Okinawa - and well known throughout greater Japan - is Goya Champuru, a dish consisting of stir-friedn goya (bitter gourd, a traditional Okinawan vegetable), tofu, egg, spam or pork. The unique bitterness of the goya, while and acquired taste, is believed to sharpen the appetite.


Originating from Dongo Pork, a Chinese pork dish brought to the Ryukyu Kingdom, Rafute is skin-on pork rib stewed in Awamori (Okinawa distilled liquor), Okinawan black sugar, and soy sauce. Despite its fatty look, Rafute is surprisingly light as all the fat is rendered from long hours of cooking. It is quite tender and falls apart when trying to eat it with chopsticks and is traditionally considered to help with longevity.

Taco Rice

After the Second World War, Okinawa became host to a number of US military bases, many of which remain today. Surplus rations of taco seasoning were sold into the communities surrounding the base and, in a delicious fusion of mexican cuisine with a Japanese twist, Taco Rice was born. Hot rice topped with taco fillings proved a hit with both locals and US service personnel alike, and Taco Rice is a satisfyingly, unique comfort food that can be found all over Okinawa, from restaurants, to cafes to school lunches.

Sata Andagi

Sata Andagi is a traditional Okinawan confectionary, In certain Okinawan dialects, "sata" measn sugar, "anda" means oil and "agi" means fry - and as these local meanings suggest, it's a fried donut with lots of sugar! Roughly shaped balls of dough tend to split when fried, rendering the appearance of Sata Andagi like a flower in bloom and Okinawans consider this as a good luck food. Crispy on the outside, and juicy and moist inside, Sata Andagi is certainly worth a taste!


Shikuwasa is one of the secrets to longevity by the Okinawan people. Full of vitamin C, and other excellent antioxidant citric acids, it is often used for alternative health practices. The pulp and peel have health-benefitting compounds such as increasing metabolic rate, and aiding in fat regulation. Shikuwasa is used like lemon, as a flavoring for grilled fish, yakiniku, salad sashimi, as well as for making desserts and juices. Its popularity is due to its strong flavor golden extract, like the sunlight of the southern island.


First introduced to Okinawa from Thailand, Awamori has been the official liquor of Okinawa since the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom.SImilar to shochu in taste, it is made from Thai rice and black koji rice mold and is the product of a single fermentation process. Traditionally consumed straight, on the rocks, mixed with hot or cold water, awamori is quite a versatile drink that can also be used in cocktails. Also linked to the Okinawan secret to longevity, awamori is very low calorie and completely sugar and protein-free.

Orion Beer

Japan is well-known for its refereshingly crisp and fresh tasting beer. The most recognised beer from the islands of Okinawa is Orion. A symbolic beer that represents Okinawan culture and history, Orion is the name of a constellation in the southern sky matched to the image of the sourthern island in Okinawa.


While green tea is popular on mainland Japan, sanpin-cha, is the drink of choice for Okinawans. Originating in the trade between the Ryukyu Kingdom and China, it is an example of the fusion of Chinese and Japanese influence. Popular for its fragrance sanpin-cha is also one of Okinawa's secrets to longevity - as it is very refreshing during the hot Okinawan summers, with a scent is considered to have relaxation effects, while the tea itself promotes digestion and fatigue recovery.

Buku Buku Cha

Buku-Buku-Cha was developed during the Ryukyuan Kingdom period and is believed to bring good luck. Genmai cha (toasted rice tea) and water are whipped into a thick foam and placed atop a cup of hot or cold sanpin cha. Buku Buku Cha was almost driving to extinction during World War II, because the tea sets used to make it were destroyed and there were problems finding the correct water. Luckily, a tea set that had survived the war was discovered in Tokyo. It was returned to Okinawa and the tradition of this tea was saved. It is believed that the name came about because the bubbles made a “buku buku” sound. Aromatic and delicious, enjoying this tradtional Okinawan favourite is a must!

Blue Zone Okinawa: The Secret of Longevity

In the rural north of Okinawa’s main island, there’s a small stone marker with a note in Japanese.
Roughly translated, it reads:
“At 80, you are merely a youth. At 90, if your ancestors invite you into heaven, ask them to wait until you are 100—then, you might consider it.”

Once called the land of immortals, Okinawa has historically been known for the health and longevity of its people. Known worldwide as a Blue Zone; an area where people live exceptionally long lives, Okinawan women have been recorded as living longer than any other women on the planet and its population as a whole record less cancer, heart disease and dementia than other nationalities. This may be attributed to the area's subtropical climate; which is warm year-round and easy in which to love and work. Additonally, its beautiful ocean and rich nature surrounds bless teh Okinawans with the benefit of a more laid back, less urbanised lifestyle. At the forefront though, it is the Okinawan people’s healthy eating habits and mindsets that are said to contribute significantly to the secrets of their longevity.

There are nine secrets that Okinawan's follow for a life of happiness and longevity;

1. Embrace Ikigai: Older Okinawans can readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning. Their purposeful lives give them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.

2. Rely on a plant based diet: Older Okinawans have eaten a plant-based diet most of their lives. Their meals of stir-fried vegetables, sweet potatoes, and tofu are high in nutrients and low in calories.

3. Get Gardening: Almost all Okinawan centenarians grow or once grew a garden. It’s a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion and helps reduce stress. It’s also a near-constant source of fresh vegetables.

4. Eat more soy: The Okinawan diet is rich in foods made with soy, like tofu and miso soup. Flavonoids in tofu may help protect the hearts and guard against breast cancer. Fermented soy foods contribute to a healthy intestinal ecology and offer even better nutritional benefits.

5. Maintain a moai (A group of lifelong friends): The Okinawan tradition of forming a moai provides secure social networks. These safety nets lend financial and emotional support in times of need and give all of their members the stress-shedding security of knowing that there is always someone there for them.

6. Enjoy the sunshine: Vitamin D, produced by the body when it’s exposed on a regular basis to sunlight, promotes stronger bones and healthier bodies. Spending time outside each day allows even senior Okinawans to have optimal vitamin D levels year-round.

7. Stay active: Older Okinawans are active walkers and gardeners. The Okinawan household has very little furniture; residents take meals and relax sitting on tatami mats on the floor. The fact that old people get up and down off the floor several dozen times daily builds lower body strength and balance, which help protect against dangerous falls.

8. Plant a medicinal garden: Mugwort, ginger, and turmeric are all staples of an Okinawan garden, and all have proven medicinal qualities. By consuming these every day, Okinawans may be protecting themselves against illness.

9. Have an attitude: A hardship-tempered attitude has endowed Okinawans with an affable smugness. They’re able to let difficult early years remain in the past while they enjoy today’s simple pleasures. They’ve learned to be likable and to keep younger people in their company well into their old age.

Okinawan Fresh Produce: Supporting a Healthy Life

For the Okinawan people, a healthy diet is believed to have the same effects as traditional medicines. The idea of a cause and effect (food and medicine) is alive in the diet of ordinary people. One of the major characteristics of Okinawan cuisine is that it mixes nutritional and complementary ingredients to create simple and balanced dishes. Superfoods that have a good nutritional balance and are especially rich in some kind of nutrition and health ingredient are common in the Okinawan diet. Blessed by the sea and the sun, the area produces many superfood ingredients that contribute to the longevity of the island's people.

Goya (Bitter Melon)

Beni Imo (Sweet Potato)



Uchin Autumn Tumeric






Tropical Fruits



Sunui Mozuku Seaweed

Uji Sugarcane