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The Island’s Gifts at Okinesia (Naha) are Full of Chimugukuru (Heart)
post : 2019.03.27 23:00
Situated in the old capital of Shuri in Naha, Okinesia offers various original merchandise that they plan and produce. Their wide selection of goods expands from foods to aroma products, made to bring out the best in the local ingredients that they use.
You’ve probably seen their lineup of great products at the airport or at souvenir shops. These are all produced by Okinesia.
The name of the company was inspired by the island prefecture of Okinawa, with all of its many islands surrounded by the beautiful seas. The CEO, Yukitaka Kinjo, says, “The customs, traditions, culture and items that are all unique to Okinawa. These are the points that I always have in my heart in creating products.”
“We are basically a company working in collaboration with other companies and people to produce goods in a ‘fabless’ style, and we make merchandise as Okinesia, a private brand,” he explains as he apologizes for the office being like a storage warehouse. I looked around and their products were mounted high in boxes that were really eye-catching! There was a box with bonito fish designs containing their Katsuo Mame (written in the auspicious way of Katsu=to win and Omame=beans), and another product that uses sesame seeds, or Goma in Japanese, and named “Gomagine” in an homage to the famous Beatles’ song, Imagine. Gomagine has become a very popular sesame snack. The merchandise were fun to see and delicious to taste, and I felt that their attention to detail was a product of Kinjo-san’s desire to offer goods where we can “deeply feel the essence of Okinawa.”
Now! The above photo contains the four pillars of Okinesia, some of the most popular items available at various shops and also online. The packaging with the owl is the “Goma Fukuro Kokuto Macadamia,” made with Kuro-Goma (black sesame) and macadamia nuts with Kokuto (brown sugar). The blue packaging is Zawawa Hitokuchi Kokuto, produced with brown sugar from Iriomote Island. The Nantiti packages are macadamia nuts with coconut or cheese flavors. The owl design on the Goma Fukuro is of the rare Ryukyu Scops Owl, a species listed as near-threatened in Okinawa Prefecture. The word Nantiti in the Okinawa language is “burn” and about the name, Kinjo-san says, “We don’t often hear people using that word anymore, but it has a charming ring to it, don’t you think? I wanted to use Okinawan words in the product so that the language can be passed along to the future generations.” The children on the Nantiti packages were taken by photographer Shomei Tomatsu, who is deeply connected to Okinawa. The products by Okinesia are carefully prepared with their attention to the product names, and actively introducing designs created by artists that portray Okinawa and its bygone days, so that the consumers can visually feel and enjoy Okinawa, too.
All of the products from Okinesia have “gentle and simple tastes”. The secret to this lies in their special care in choosing the ingredients for their products. Take the brown sugar for example, the sugarcane juice is boiled as is and because of this, the minerals remain rich and intact. Okinawan coral calcium, the natural minerals from the blessings of the ocean, the beautiful corals, are also used abundantly in the items.
Okinesia has won numerous awards for their products in various contests and exhibits, including the Chamber of Commerce Specialty Product Contest; Supermarket Trade Show, 30 Selections of Food; Naha Products Exhibit; and Okinawa Industrial Festival and others. The merchandise are mainly available for purchase within Okinawa, but presently, among the 13 varieties of snacks, the four mentioned above have gained much popularity and are now available at their online shop. If you get a chance, try them!
As Okinesia worked to introduce a series of souvenirs and gifts, they wanted to make “an ochazuke set that was very Okinawan.” Again, using a play on words and kanji characters in the name, they decided to name their new ochazuke product, Kimi no Nawa. That’s right! A very catchy and familiar name (but with different kanji) as that popular animation movie.
Their Zawawa Chisuko (coarse salt, coconuts, and black sesame and kinako soy powder) uses carefully select processed Okinawan brown sugar, coarse salt, and domestic flour has a deliciously crispy texture and bite-sized pieces. The packaging has a design of an Okinawan red-tiled roof. Even at the bottom of the box is a heartwarming design of stones that we often see for walls and at entrances to traditional Okinawan structures.
Sanpin Cha or jasmine tea has been enjyed in all Okinawan homes since long ago, and are available from Okinesia in convenient teabags. The tea is an original blend with locally grown lemongrass added to the jasmine tea, making it a more refreshing taste.
“We hope that when visitors to Okinawa, whether on a sightseeing trip or through some connection to Okinawa, when they come across our Okinesia products, they sense the ‘value’ of Okinawa in some way. The things that are important for Okinawa,” says Kinjo-san, who wishes to create products that will let consumers feel the “heart of Ryukyu”, as they see and learn about the history and culture here. The company creates products that will be loved for a long time, no matter what the trends are, and packages them with heartfelt feelings of the islands.
Long after you enjoy the wonderful tastes of their products, the packaging that is created with their passions and heartwarming thoughts will let you enjoy the afterglow of a relaxing island time.
Okinesia Co., Ltd.
Address: 4-71-12 Kinjocho, Shuri, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Closed: Weekends & Holidays
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Naoko Tsuruta