Okinawa might lose out to Tokyo and Hokkaido where Singaporeans’ travel plans are concerned, but that’s set to change. The Okinawa prefecture is setting up an office in Singapore in 2015 to promote tourism and trade between Singapore and Okinawa, and here’s why you should sit up and pay attention, whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure.
Trade in Okinawa
Okinawa recently organized its first large-scale food trading fair, matching food suppliers to buyers. This year alone, 17 buyers from Singapore attended, no doubt due to the strong incentives provided by the Okinawa Prefecture – they’re subsidising transportation costs for cargo, with companies needing to pay only for documentation and surcharge costs.
Despite the scale of the event, the whole fair was extremely organised. Buyers and sellers switched tables regularly, according to the time displayed on a giant clock at the event. Each interval was accompanied by a buzz, speed dating style. The adjacent building had many of the products on display.
The Okinawa prefecture’s goal is to make Okinawa the ideal destination to import or export anything from Japan, and they’re facilitating this by making it easy for goods to flow through Okinawa. All Nippon Airways now has direct cargo flights to eight different Asian cities everyday, including Singapore. Singapore’s top imports from Okinawa include peanut tofu, maguro tuna, and sea grapes.
Even if you’re not looking for business opportunities, Okinawa is still a fascinating place to explore from a tourist’s perspective. Here are a few places we recommend for you to get a taste of signature Okinawan products.
Zuisen Awamori Distillery
Awamori is a type of Okinawan spirit which has its origins from Thailand. The people of Okinawa refined the techniques used to make Awamori, but still use Thai rice as a main ingredient of the alcohol. This is a strong, full-bodied drink typically ranging from 30%-50% alcoholic content, and locals dilute it with water to have over dinner.
Visit the distillery to take a tour and learn more about the process, then try the different types of Awamori for yourself. A refreshing change from the usual sake or soju!
You can find more information about the distillery here.
Orion Happy Park
This is Orion’s only factory in the world, and the beer that’s produced here is exported to the rest of the world. The factory is located here because the water is particularly good, and suitable for production.
Again, take a tour of the place, then settle down for a classic beer + nuts combo. Orion’s beer is lighter than other Japanese brands like Asahi, so it goes down easily. If it’s still not your thing, though, you can also try the bottled tea drinks they also produce.
You can find more information about Orion Happy Park here.
Katsuyama Shikwasa Farm
Shikwasa is an Okinawan citrus which used to grow in the wild, but is now cultivated in farms. This farm uses its shikwasas for two different kinds of juices – one is blended with just the fruit, and the other is blended together with the peel and all the fibre. Both contain plenty of Vitamin C, and they are reportedly anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory!
Health claims aside, the drink is delicious and refreshing – think a tangier, more intense variation of lime juice.
Itoman Sea Grape Farm
After having sea grapes multiple times at restaurants, we were fascinated by them and couldn’t wait to find out more. At the farm, they walk you through how the sea grapes are “planted” – in the water, between nets – and the ideal conditions for sea grapes to grow in. We also learnt how to distinguish between different grades of sea grapes.
We ended off our session with – of course! – a tasting of these delicious sea grapes.
You can sometimes find these Okinawan products in Isetan or Mediya supermarkets when they’re having Japanese festivals, but you don’t have to wait for that time of the year any longer. Now that there are direct flights from Singapore to Okinawa via Jetstar, booking your holiday is simply a matter of a few clicks on your mouse.
You’ll fall in love with all the delicious local produce, which is hard to find even in the other parts of Japan. Don’t blame us if you return with your seams bursting and luggages full!
This post was brought to you by the Okinawa Prefecture Tourism board.
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