Jan 13, 2018
What are snakes for in Okinawa?
Okinawa Prefecture is one of the most interesting parts of Japan due to its rich and complex history. How the 500-year history of the Ryukyu Kingdom came to an end in the early 17th century, the region becoming what we now call Okinawa Prefecture.
Okinawa is the most southeastern prefecture of Japan and made up of group of islands. Because of its archipelagic setting, Okinawa was a place for traders coming from different parts of nearby Asian countries such as Korea, China and the countries of Southeast Asia as well as other parts of Japan. Because of this former role as the place for the trading of goods, Okinawans adopt some of the traits and traditions of these nearby countries, making their culture richer.
Map of Okinawa, Japan
Okinawa Prefecture, just like the Philippines, is an archipelago where many beautiful islands can be found, often being compared to paradise. Aside from the paradise-like islands, though, Okinawa has many more things to offer such as the region's unique foods.
Every region in every country has its own uniqueness when it comes to food processing, storing, cooking, preparing and many more factors relating to food. In fact, Okinawa has foods that for others may seem to be weird and gross but for Okinawans are just simply part of their rich culture and tradition.
Do you love exploring and looking for food to taste something new, but are you afraid of snakes?Hmmm. It would seem that food and a fear of snakes have nothing in common, but Okinawa relates these two things very closely. In fact, two of the most bizarre foods to eat or drink that can be found in Okinawa have the ingredient of snake. Yes, venomous snakes are part of Okinawan's cuisine.
Let's try first the sea snake. What would you do if you were in a situation where you come face to face with one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the sea snake? Well, as human instinct dictates, you would probably hurry away and avoid contact with said snake. A prefectly normal reaction. But encountering a sea snake in front of you, on the table served and ready to eat may bring about many different reactions, such as thinking if you're going to eat it or move on to the next food item. Well, if you happen to be in Okinawa, some restaurants have sea snake soup (イラブー汁, irabu-jiru) on their menus, so grab the opportunity and try to have a delicate experience with this venomous snake. It is said that sea snake soup originated as part of the Ryukyu Kingdom Royal Court's cuisine. So, there is a royal experience to be had in trying out sea snake!
Aside from the sea snake Okinawa also offers another kind of sake. The habu sake is used in Okinawa in a type of "Awamori" alcohol, quite popular in the region. This type of sake consists of the typical rice wine mixed with the snake's venom. Venom? Why not?!. Habu are pit viper snakes which are extremely venomous. The snake is left inside the jar where it will die, with extremely scary face. Even though the venom is a ingredient of this sake it is allowed to be sold in the market. I think this habushu（ハブ酒）is safe to drink?!
Example of Habushu（ハブ酒）.
Do you have the guts to take in these two Okinawan foods/drinks? If you have the opportunity to visit Okinawa why don't you try them and have yourself an exciting and thrilling experience in Okinawa?