(Photo courtesy of photoAC)

Growing up, I often helped my mother in the kitchen and shaved dried bonito fish, or katsuobushi, while she prepared dinner.

It was fun to use the shaver, which looked like a Japanese hand plane flipped upside down, to shave down the hard, dried fish into paper thin slices. Although the shaver box is not used much in households anymore, like many Okinawans, my attachment to katsuobushi has not changed a bit.

Naha City is one of the largest consumers of umami-packed bonito flakes in the country, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). From 2019 through 2021, each household consumed an average of about 895 grams of the fish flakes per year. The striking amount is more than twice the amount of Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture, which came in second place. Bonito flakes are so popular in Naha, that the average is four times the national average.

This love and devotion to katsuobushi flakes is evident in Okinawa’s local supermarkets, where you’ll find every variety of the dried fish including thin flakes, thick flakes, powdered ones, and thread-like long ones. The variety of products translates to various uses of the food. For example, mixing the powdered ones with olive oil, you can quickly prepare a salad dressing, or liven up your pasta with the thread-like bonito flakes.

In Okinawa, bonito flakes are commonly used to cook broth for soba noodles or kachuyu, a simple soup that can be cooked with bonito flakes. Plus, they also add nice accents of flavor to goya champuroo (bitter melon stir-fry), fried vegetables and so much more.

Add some umami to your next meal and find out why katsuobushi is so popular on Okinawa. Bet you’ll love it as much as we do!

Kachu-yu (for one person) Ingredients Dried bonito flakes (a handful) Miso paste (a spoonful)


  1. Put dried bonito flakes and miso paste in a bowl.

  2. Pour boiled water on top.

  3. Cover the bowl with a plate.

  4. Let it sit for two to three minutes.

  5. This is a simple soup, so it would be a good idea to add some more ingredients depending upon your preference. For example, my family likes to add Japanese umeboshi plums to the soup.

  6. Just like miso soup, Kachu-yu can pair nicely with a bowl of rice.

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