MY FAVES: Good eats for a great picnic on Okinawa's beautiful beaches

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

MY FAVES: Good eats for a great picnic on Okinawa's beautiful beaches

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Although the temperature stays relatively warm throughout the year, winter in Okinawa can be a little too chilly for beachgoers. So, it makes sense that many beaches on the island don’t open until the spring. During the season, you won’t only find beachgoers soaking in the rays and waves. Every year on March 3 of the lunar calendar (April 22 on the 2023 calendar), Okinawans celebrate Hamauri, a tradition for women to pray for their health on the beach and be blessed with the water. This event for women is now considered rather an opportunity for family get-together to celebrate the arrival of the spring.

On the beach for Hamauri, you may notice many locals picnicking with bento sand refreshments. Below are some of my favorite foods to bring along for a refreshing beach day and picnic, no matter what time year. Give these a try!

- Fuuchi-muchi/yomogi mochi

Much like Japanese Hina Matsuri (girl’s day) where people enjoy food like hishi-mochi (diamond-shaped rice cake) or hina-arare (cubic rice crackers), hamauri is celebrated with specific foods. One example is fuuchi mochi or yomogi-mochi. This is a type of rice cake mixed with yomogi or artemisia herb. You may recognize the herb since it is commonly served in Okinawa with soba noodles or seasoned steamed rice. Yomogi is considered a superfood because of its strong health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and relieving constipation. Being a textbook-example of the old saying “good medicine tastes bitter,” its strong flavor and scent may be discouraging. However, fuuchi-muchi/yomogi-mochi utilizes the yomogi as a nice accent.

- Inari-zushi & fried chicken

This Okinawan sushi wrapped in aburaage (fried tofu pouch) is a must-try. Flavored much lighter than those of mainland Japan, its delicate sweetness and sourness can get you hooked. And when you eat one, don’t forget to couple it with some fried chicken.

- Tempura

Tempura, in Okinawa, is often considered a snack food. Sakana (fish), ika (squid), and imo (sweet potato) are popular ingredients for tempura. Buy some at supermarkets and convenience stores before you hit the beach.

- Pork tamago (egg) onigiri

Recognized as one of Okinawa’s most popular signature foods, this delicious onigiri sandwiches baked pork spam and egg and is like Hawaiian musubi. You’ll find these at any convenience store or supermarket, but there are even shops dedicated to this specific Okinawan delicacy. Let’s take a bite and replenish energy for some fun on the beach.

- Seaside Drive-in’s soup

When you go to the beach, especially on the west coast of the island, I recommend that you make a stop at Seaside Drive-in Restaurant in Onna Village for a cup of soup. Their homemade pork bone broth-and cream-based soup is loved by locals and tourists alike. You can order one for a take-out and enjoy it on the beach. (GPS Coordinates: N 26.44261, E 127.80348)

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