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Pure Brown Sugar in Ginoza Village Makes Us to Remember the Scenery of Old Okinawa
post : 2018.03.25 12:00
Many people live in different places, and each place is filled with unique atmosphere. Also, each place has unique aroma and impressive sound. For example, public market in Naha, Gate 2 Street in Koza, and areas of Yanbaru. Sceneries and the flow of time are different, but residents work very hard to live everyday lives.
On a sunny Sunday morning, I drove toward Northern Okinawa because I wanted to go somewhere different. When my destination got closer and closer, the road changed from 2-lane to 1-lane, and the scenery of concrete buildings switched to the blue sea, and then fences of U.S. military base.
My destination this time was Ginoza Village, the south of Yanbaru area. When I entered a village road, a country view showed up in front of me. I slowed down the speed and passed through a quiet area. After a short while, I saw idyllic sugarcane fields that can be seen on postcards. I parked my car by a small house with building blocks and got out of my car. I smelled a nostalgic sweet aroma all the sudden. There was a sugarcane field in front of the house, and sugarcanes were swinging in north wind. This was familiar scenery of Okinawa decades ago.
“Sataya (small sugar refinery) were located in each area of Okinawa, and we used to smell sweet aroma anywhere in the village during winter before and after the war.”
Suguru Toguchi welcomed and told me a story. He is from Ginoza Village, and he left the village after graduated from school. After working as a businessman in Naha, he returned to his hometown 4 years ago and has been making brown sugar in a traditional way.
“This is a machine that my grandfather used. It does look antique, doesn’t it? I heard the gear was made about 70 years ago. His brother was using this gear on Ishigaki Island, and he gave it to my grandfather more than 30 years ago. My grandfather built its seating and installed a farm engine on it… doesn’t it sound amazing? He started making brown sugar on his own because he loved brown sugar syrup very much, and he wanted to make the delicious brown sugar syrup that he could be satisfied.”
“Squeeze sugarcanes with this machine, and then boil its juice with a pan. Calcium oxide is also added to it to solidify, but I only add a little bit of it to make it as semi-hard texture. That is why this brown sugar does not have the harsh taste of lime, and anybody can enjoy its taste as it is. Brown sugar can be tasty with less lime. When my grandfather was a child, people used corals instead of calcium oxide.”
According to Toguchi, the amount of calcium oxide is not the only thing that changed the flavor of brown sugar. For example, breed of sugarcane.
“Breeding of sugarcane has been proceeding recently. White sugar is the top product of sugar factories, so people seek for breed with sugar high content. For farmers, they prefer to harvest sugarcane as many as they can, so they seek for high-yield sugarcane breed. Old breed of sugarcane contained lots of minerals and rich aroma and flavor. However, to address a need for production, new breed lost the good parts of old breed little by little.”
To continue farming, people need to look for greater efficiency. It is not a bad thing, and it is natural. However, certain things will be missed for sure.
“Old breed has more sweetness and rich flavor, but it has low-yield. Also, we need to use lots of fertilizer to increasing sugar high content. My favorite breed is the same as my grandfather’s favorite one, and it is more excellent compare to another breed. I am doing a thing to swim against the stream. I squeeze sugarcane one by one slowly by using a traditional machine, and I squeeze it only once. That’s why it is not bitter much. Usually, many people squeeze sugarcanes twice.”
Put sugarcane juice into a big pot, put wood on the fire, and boil the juice.
“It is more convenient to use gas since the temperature management is easier and time can be shortened. But I still follow a method that I learned from my grandfather. People back then learned how to make delicious brown sugar from long experience. My grandfather tried to figure out the best way to put wood on the fire for many years.”
“By mixing it tenderly as much as possible for many hours, it gets air and its palate will be pleasant and texture gets soft. My grandmother and others used to said ‘brown sugar is born’ when they made brown sugar.”
Just like delivering babies, each situation, environment, and ingredient are different. Also, each baby has different character. So, they considered delivering baby and brown sugar making were very similar.
“Keep eye on heat to adjust it and judge the condition with my eyes and nose.” Just looking at the view from the side, it was obvious that its aroma was getting better. Suddenly, the sugarcane juice got sticky from moment to moment.
“It’s been 4 years since my grandfather passed away. I really loved him. I had helped him making brown sugar since I was a child, so I am very attached to brown sugar. After he was gone, I wasn’t able to smell the aroma of brown sugar from this small house, and it made me sad even more. I started making brown sugar occasionally for certain family events and offered it in front of the family altar. One day, one of my relatives told me that the flavor of my brown sugar is getting close to the one my grandfather made. That was the moment that I decided to make brown sugar just like my grandfather made, so I quit my former job and returned to my hometown.”
Brown sugar that he made with passion is very delicious, and it is good as handmade chocolate. I want each of you to try this brown sugar when you come to Okinawa. Also, if you have enough time, how about visiting Ginoza Village and looking around the scenery of Okinawa?
●Brown sugar that he makes is available at “Road Station Ginoza” (address: 1633 Kanna, Ginoza Village / Tel: 098-968-4520) and “Kokutou-ya” on Kokusai Street (address: 1-3-52 Makishi, Naha City / Tel: 098-861-4411). Also, chocolate which was made with his brown sugar can be purchased at Timeless Chocolate (9-46 Distortion Seaside Bldg. 2F Mihama, Chatan Town / Tel: 098-923-2880).
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda