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The Brilliant Contrasting Colors of the “Adan” Trees and the Okinawan Sky and Seas
post : 2019.03.31 06:00
Lining the streets in some parts of Okinawa, you’ll often see trees that the locals call Adan. These species of plants are of the Pandancaceae family (Pandanus odoratissimus), and some of the common English names include screw palm, fragrant screw pine, or umbrella tree. In Japan, this species of plants grow in Amami Oshima and southward, and is a popular plant in Okinawa.
The photo above shows Adan trees surrounding the beach. These plants often grow closely together, and it is not uncommon to see beaches surrounded by them. They help to protect the islands during the typhoon season, functioning as windbreak.
Growing on the Adan trees are brilliant orange fruits that are about 15 to 20 centimeters in size. The color and shape of these fruits really match the southern paradise of Okinawa, as the brilliant rays of the sun, the breathtaking blue seas and skies are a fantastic contrast with the Adan fruits and create a tropical scenery.
Before, it was said that these fruits that look similar to pineapples contained poisonous components and were not edible. But actually, they are edible (although I’ve never actually tried it yet!). In the Yaeyama region, the people collect the new buds and use them as edible wild plants and are necessary ingredients for various ceremonies. They are prepared in many different ways, such as a simple method of cooking in bonito broth, or prepared as tempura, and even cooked together with braised fish. The Adan fruits have a hidden potential as an ingredient for various dishes. Discovering that information, yes, I was intrigued. Since the Adan are found growing naturally by the shore, they are also a favorite feast for the coconut crabs, too.
The leaves grow around the fruit as if to protect them, and they have many thorns. You need to be careful around these prickly leaves, but the locals make very good use of the leaves that they refer to as Adan-Ba (meaning “leaves of the Adan”).
Sandals made with Adan leaves (Left). Coaster handmade by the writer at an Adan-Ba weaving class (Right). I’ve been using the coaster for a few years now, as I’ve gotten fond of what I created.
After collecting the Adan leaves, the thorns are sliced off (nowadays they are removed with peelers as that’s easier). Then the leaves are boiled, dried under the sun, and the material is used to weave sandals, baskets, hats, and other crafts.
At the Shiraho Nichiyo Ichi market held every Sunday in Shiraho, Ishigaki Island, the local grandmas and grandpas can be seen sitting in the tatami floored area, chatting away (or Yuntaku, in the local language) as they weave Zabuton seat cushions and other items. It’s a heartwarming sight where you can feel the “slow, island time”.
You can say that the Adan trees have coexisted closely with the islanders, so when you’re out and about on the islands, whether on a drive or at a beach party under the bright sun, I hope you’ll enjoy the “southern paradise aura” of the Adan and its fruits.
Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)