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Island Smoothies and Squash Beverages at “okinawasun” (Motobu Town) are Made with Fruits Grown Under the Hot Okinawan Sun and With TLC from the Growers
post : 2018.12.30 06:00
The beautiful blue seas of Okinawa, the dolphins enthusiastically jumping toward the clear skies and the whale sharks swimming in the gigantic tank at the aquarium. The Bise community where the gentle breeze passes through the Fukugi trees. Only 800 meters from the Churaumi Aquarium in the Ocean Expo Park located in the northern regions of Okinawa, and only 200 meters away the Fukugi-lined neighborhood of Bise is “okinawasun”. Offered at this vivid and colorful shop are cold and delicious beverages made with fruits grown with loving care by the local farmers. For visitors to Okinawa, the carefully prepared smoothies and squash drinks will soothe the fatigue from life in the city, and is just right after a day of enjoying Okinawa to the fullest.
The rainbow-colored shop that is full of life and energy used to be an old residence from a bygone era, which was renovated by the owner. The pop, cute, and natural interior of the shop is great for photos to share on your SNS.
“There was a children’s book that my kids had borrowed which really taught us a lot, too. At first, we were thinking we should make the shop in a way that blended in with the calmness of Bise with its rows of tall Fukugi trees. Then, we decided to be free, to be ourselves, and make a shop that was bright and colorful. We wished for our customers to feel excited about being here,” says Kazue Akiyama whose smile was just as bright and beautiful as her shop. She talked about the excitement, the great feeling of being ourselves, and meeting great people. Talking with her, I saw that she really wanted to do her part in welcoming visitors to Okinawa and to help them to make great memories that they won’t forget.
When you visit okinawasun, I really recommend the Shima Smoothie (650 yen before tax, additional 100 yen for passionfruit topping). With two tropical fruits taking center stage, this drink is the most popular among the customers. The sweet and tart yellow passionfruit and the brilliant purple of the dragon fruit are blended perfectly. One sip of this smoothie will bring a huge wave of rich, fruity tastes to wake your senses and revive the energy in your body. The fresh acidity and the lovely aroma of the passionfruit and the creamy dragon fruit with a mild sweetness is a perfect match. The banana, shikwasa citrus, pineapple, and soy milk also bring out and add to the delicious tastes. This brilliantly colorful smoothie is lovely to see and taste.
The next recommendation is the sharp and refreshing Shima Fruit Squash (500 yen plus tax) made with the island’s seasonal fruits. The main ingredients are again dragon fruit and passionfruit. With this drink, you can fully enjoy the great taste of the fruits nurtured under the Okinawan sun, and the soda will quench your thirst. Dragon fruit is also known as a superfood which will give your body great nutrients.
Dragon fruit is rich in vitamins B1, B2, B6, folic acid, niacin, vitamin C, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron, as well as polyphenol. On top of that, there’s only 50kcal in 100 grams of dragon fruit. Blended with carotene-rich passionfruit, nobiletin- (a type of polyphenol) rich shikwasa citrus, your body will thank you for the wonderful energy.
“We wanted to mainly use the dragon fruits and passionfruit grown by farmers who were our acquaintances, and really wanted to tell the world about the great fruits on Okinawa! This is how we started our shop, okinawasun, and that hasn’t changed today. We adjust the measurements and combination of fruits since the sweetness and taste of the same fruits vary by season, and we work hard to provide delicious smoothies all year around,” explained Kazue and Eisuke Akiyama. Before they put anything on the menu, they get their kids, who are in kindergarten and the first grade, to taste them. They only add to the menu that the kids give a thumbs up to, saying, “Yummy!” or “This is so kawaii!” The taste of their beverages have the right amount of sweetness, adjusted with only shikwasa citrus and sugarcane sugar, making them not too sweet nor light, but a taste that people of all ages can enjoy. I especially recommend their beverages after a day of fun on the beach or after working up a healthy sweat strolling the Bise neighborhood.
Many of the ingredients used in their items are made in the northern Yanbaru region. The dragon fruit and passionfruit are from Motobu Town. They try as much as they can to get the bananas from the adjacent town of Nakijin, and their shikwasa citrus from Katsuyama in Nago City. The foundation of their shop is their wish to “offer to the people we meet at our shop the blessings of Okinawa and the warmth and kindness of the people of Okinawa through our smoothies and squashes.”
Kazue and Eisuke had visited Okinawa on numerous occasions since the time they were both at a technical school for clothing and accessory design. They finally decided to move here nine years ago. “Life in Yanbaru reminds us of the lifestyle that our grandparents used to lead and we watched as kids. People share the vegetables they harvest from their gardens and fields, and there are elder ladies who live near fishermen who come to share what they’ve been shared. They teach us how to each certain foods like they did in the past ages, like asa sea grass prepared like chewy tempura. The grandpas and grandmas in the community are all really very kind and warm. I enjoy conversations with them and hearing the Shima Kutuba (the island language) in their speaking. I enjoy hearing about the past ages in Okinawa, the food and how they used to prepare them, the plants, everything about Okinawa. Including the traditional events and rituals, about the gods. They teach us so much. When we don’t understand something, or ask them to repeat something, they laugh and teach us over and over. I really appreciate them and we are so grateful to them. At okinawasun, that’s what we hope to deliver to our customers through our beverages; the warmth of the local people.” It seemed that the locals have really welcomed the Akiyama family as their own. We can say that their smoothies and squash beverages really came to life through their meeting with such lovely locals.
They said they met the yellow passionfruit grower, Mr. Furugen, at the local market. He approached them with a smile, saying, “What are you up to?” Turns out, he was a local celebrity in a sense, being a disc jockey for the community FM radio, and a central member of the local badminton club. After talking with him, the Akiyamas learned that he grew passionfruit and other tropical fruits using minimal amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and as natural as much as possible. The conversation was so natural that by the end of it, he had invited them to see his farm, and that’s how they became friends.
They met Mr. Urasaki two years ago, and he grows the dragon fruits they use in their beverages. They met through the owner of a local izakaya pub. The Akiyamas explained, “Mr. Urasaki is very knowledgeable and also very kind. When he saw a cutting that we planted in our garden, he would advise us on when to give it fertilizer, or teach us about how we needed to cut down a banana tree in order for the next generation of bananas to grow. He would teach us how to grow various plants, how to prepare and enjoy the unique characteristics of fruits and vegetables that grow on Okinawa. He advised us on what to be careful with, the insects, how to prepare for typhoons. When we were having trouble in our garden, he would rush over straight from his farm. Also, when our banyan tree had a branch that was too big, he climbed up the tree like nothing, and chopped it off so easily. When we run out of dragon fruit at the shop, he would head straight over, again from his farm. Really, he’s a huge help.”
Mr. Urasaki even dropped by on the day of the interview for this article and offered to take me on a tour of his farm. He taught me, “The dragon fruit flower only blooms at night. Actually, on the nights of a new moon and full moon, on the first and 15th according to the lunar calendar,” as he harvested the ripe dragon fruits. According to Mr. Urasaki, the dragon fruit flowers bloom from June to November and the fruits are ready for picking after 30 days in the summer, and 40 days in the cooler season after the flowerings. He also added the buds are delicious as tempura. I intended the visit to his farm to be a short one, but ended up staying there for almost two hours, learning so much about farming and how to enjoy various foods. I lost track of time in the fun conversations we were having.
As Kazue says, you’ll come across the energy of Okinawa at okinawasun. She said, “It’s because of the farmers that we’re able to offer the fresh tastes and hear our customers say how much they enjoyed it. I hope that the intentions and hard work of the farmers are being well represented in our beverages and I hope that smiles as brilliant as the sun will spread all over to everyone.” I definitely recommend this special spot when in you’re in the neighborhood in Yanbaru.
◎After enjoying their beverages, if you’re thinking you want your friends back home to enjoy them too, but of course, you can’t exactly take them on the plane…Well, I have some good news. You can take home accessories made by Eisuke. As mentioned before, he studied accessory design and after graduating and moving to Okinawa, he was working in that field. His accessories are created using bougainvillea and sold under his original brand name of “simaloha” and are available at okinawasun.
Address: 224 Bise, Motobu Town, Okinawa
Business Hours: 13:00-17:00
Closed: Sundays, Mondays & Holidays (Irregular Closing as well)
*Prices in the article are current as of July 2018.
*Closed for the holidays, open in the New Year from Jan. 2.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Nobuya Fukuda