Camp welcomes community for hijiki harvest
As a cool ocean breeze cuts across the water, an elderly man standing in knee-deep surf slices through the water with a scythe. Within a few seconds
he harvests a handful of seaweed, known as hijiki.
Members of the Ishikawa Prefecture Fishermen’s Association from mainland Japan and more than 200 local residents of Konbu, Tengan, Akano and Uken villages attended the opening of the 13th annual Hijiki Festival Feb. 23 on Camp Courtney.
Hijiki grows along rocky coastlines throughout East Asia, including Okinawa. It is valued for its taste and reputed health benefits, according to residents. Camp Courtney is one of the few places on Okinawa where residents are able to harvest hijiki.
Residents of the community and members of the fisherman’s association gathered hijiki during low-tide periods Feb. 23-27 and plan to again March 4-8.
“We are out here gathering (hijiki) to ultimately help benefit the residents of the Arinko Home for the Mentally Handicapped,” said Yuriko Sellers, a resident who
lives near Camp Courtney. “A lot of people believe that because of how much we gather, we do it for business, but all proceeds are donated to the home to help its residents.”
The opening of the Hijiki Festival had a large turnout, once again proving to be a popular event. “There were a few hundred residents on opening day,” said Ichiro Umehara, the community relations specialist for Camp Courtney.
Once harvested, the hijiki is used in a variety of traditional and modern cuisine.
Hijiki is not commonly served in restaurants but instead prepared in the home, according to Takayuki Kayo, the community relations specialist for Camp Hansen. It is rich in iron, protein, calcium and vitamin A, and is commonly cooked with soybeans.
Harvesting hijiki is important enough to the community that harvesters make it a priority to attend the opening day of the festival, according to Sellers.
After a hard day harvesting hijiki, exhausted participants headed home, following another display of friendship with the Marine Corps on Okinawa.