The food culture of this prefecture is unique, and has taken root and been nurtured in the lives of the people through its long history and exchanges with other countries.
Looking back through history, we see that during the Ryukyu Dynasty, dishes were created to entertain important visitors such as Chinese envoys and magistrates from Satsuma (a kingdom in southern Kyushu), and as cooking techniques and etiquette were refined, it was established as court cuisine. It was then introduced to the upper class, and from the Meiji era onward it spread to general households and developed further.
On the other hand, with the local people’s cooking, a unique cuisine was created through the collected wisdom of the people, using available ingredients in the harsh natural environment of the subtropical islands.
That corresponds with the Chinese idea of “ishoku dogen,” wherein medical treatment and daily diet together support human life and protect our health, and both have the same source. Even today, they continue to play a part of people’s lives through ideas of “kusuimun” (a food that acts as medicine) and “nuchigusui” (medicine of life).
Ryukyu cuisine is the modern inheritor of both of these origins.
In Okinawa, a variety of events are held throughout the year, such as ceremonies for a bountiful harvest and ancestor worship, as well as festivals transmitted from China and Japan.
At these annual events, relatives and local residents gather around the ceremonial cuisine imbued with the wisdom and dedication of their predecessors, and through sharing stories reaffirm their societal bonds, person to person and person to place.
However, against the backdrop of westernization of eating habits and such in recent years, along with the diversification of lifestyles and values, the environment surrounding our food has changed significantly, with event food declining due to the aging of those who support our food culture and the simplification of annual events, and a movement away from traditional food by the younger generation. Traditional food culture is being lost.
For this reason it is urgently necessary to create an environment where the residents of the prefecture can reaffirm the value of traditional food culture, and come together as one to foster a spirit of inheritance.
*The definition given above is the definition given by this project.
- 1. Ingredients
- In addition to using many ingredients native to each area – vegetables, seafood, seaweed, tofu, pork, etc., we have skillfully incorporated imported ingredients such as kombu kelp and sunshi (bamboo shoots) and established them as a part of the culture. Unlike the mainland, there is little influence exerted by taboos on meat, and a meat-eating culture has developed, with pork eating customs particularly strong.
- 2. Cooking techniques
- Basically ours is a cooked cuisine; there is little raw food. We have many soups, simmered foods, stir-fries and foods fried in fat and oil. Pork is boiled to remove scum and excess fat, and pretreated before cooking. Another salient feature is our use of food without waste, such as when the boiled water is used as a soup stock.
- 3. Flavor (stock)
- With pork (meat and bones) and bonito stock as a base, ingredients such as meat, seafood, kelp, vegetables, and lard are combined to give rise to a deep umami and richness that is the keynote of the flavor.
- 4. Nutrition
- As represented in the combination of pork and kombu, island vegetables and island tofu, ingredients are carefully matched and well-balanced. Naturally healthy elements and boiled infusions (‘shinjimun’) are used frequently, with the concept of “ishoku dogen” (the equal importance of medicine and diet for a healthy body) firmly rooted in the culture.
- 5. Sweets
- Made by confectionary artisans who have inherited a tradition passed down since the Ryukyu Kingdom, there are over 50 varieties, and they are often used in ceremonies and festivities. There are many sweets strongly influenced by China, such as chiirunkou and kunpen, but there are also many Japanese and Western-style confections.
- 6. Liquor
- During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, awamori was used as a tribute to the Edo Shogunate, and also for entertaining visiting envoys. Even now, it is also offered on ceremonial occasions and at traditional rituals, events, etc., and is also often aged for long periods and drank well-cured.
- 7. Tea
- Shimicha transmitted from China and jasmine-scented sanpincha are the varieties most consumed in Okinawa.
Bukubukucha is a drink that combines roasted rice soup with sanpincha and coarse tea in a large wooden bowl, where it is whipped with a bamboo whisk and the resulting froth is consumed. It spread from Naha as a characteristic tea of Okinawa.
- 8. Tableware
- Dishes are served on Ryukyu lacquerware, ceramics, porcelain, etc. Tundabun dishes, gorgeously patterned with mother of pearl and Ryukyu lacquering, have since the era of the Kingdom been used for serving guests, and express the beauty of Ryukyu along with the cuisine they carry. 9. Manners and Customs Cooking is a medium for reaffirming social bonds, such as when special dishes are served during holidays and traditional ceremonies where relatives and local residents gather.
- 9. Manners and Customs
- Cooking is a medium for reaffirming social bonds, such as when special dishes are served during holidays and traditional ceremonies where relatives and local residents gather.