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Sample the irabuu (sea snake) cuisine on Kudakajima – an “island of gods” – at Shokujidokoro Tokujin
post : 2017.09.17 07:00
Tokujin on Kudaka Island is a restaurant with a menu of foods made from local ingredients, including irabuu (sea snake) soup.
Legend has it that Kudaka was the place where the goddess Amamikiyo, creator of the Ryukyus first set foot. The island itself is small, but it is said that the location was the start of the formation of the Ryukyu Islands. Kudaka Island is known as an island of gods and indeed there are many sacred places scattered about. It is also an island of ocean experts. “Men go out for fish while women work the fields and care for the home” is the tradition way of the island that has been passed down to the present. Thanks to that, fresh seafood, wild vegetables, beans, garlic and other local ingredients of Kudaka are still readily available.
Shokujidokoro Tokujin is a place where you can get to enjoy the flavors of the island. It is only a three-minute walk from Tokujin Port where boats between Kudaka and the main island of Okinawa arrive and depart. The restaurant is a great spot if you stop before finishing your tour of the island.
The signature item there is irabuu soup. The sea snake is known as erabu umihebi, locally. Kaminchu (snake catchers who are usually elder females) catch the sea snakes with their bare hands and smoke them for seven days in special shacks called baikanyaa. After they’ve been softened in water, they are simmered with kelp and spareribs to produce the nutritious soup. In the old days, only people of high rank were allowed to catch and smoke sea snakes, as the activity was considered sacred. Kudaka Noro (Kudaka priests) were some of those people. The baikanyaa is located at Udunmyaa where the secret festival of Izaiho was held once every twelve years in years of horse. Unfortunately, the festival has now completely died out due to a lack of people who are familiar with the historic background and can pass on the traditional knowledge.
The sea snake soup was very precious as a medicinal tonic and for its highly nutritious value during Ryukyu Kingdom period, so ordinary people rarely had a chance to taste it. Despite its appearance, it is surprisingly delicious. When fishermen venture far from shore, they used to pack dried irabuu as a food source. Local people claim that if you eat this soup twice a year, you will never catch cold. If you visit Kudaka Island, the soup is definitely a must try.
Other than the sea snake soup, a refreshing salad made from a bitter, leafy vegetable called nigana tops my recommendation list. The wild vegetable is washed several times in water and then mixed with sashimi and vinegar before serving. This traditional salad dish is traditionally eaten at celebrations and religious services. The vegetable was written as a medicinal herb for calming the stomach in the ancient medical text, Gyozenhonzou,
The umibudo (literally, “sea grapes”) seaweed rice bowl is a great choice as well. The seaweed completely covers the rice. The umibudo seaweed comes from a farm on the island and the soup stock for the miso soup comes from local fish. A dessert made from several types of beans (grown by local grandmas) and potato starch pudding are also available for you to enjoy.
The menu is full of local ingredients put together by the chef is a local mom. Enjoy genuine local food at Tokujin on Kudaka Island.
Address: 238 Chinen Kudaka, Nanjo City, Okinawa
Hours: 11:00-21:00 (L.O. 20:00)
Closed: When boats are cancelled
Parking is not available
Okinawa CLIP photo writer: Aya Asakura