As I sat down to write this list of Okinawa souvenirs, my mind flashed back to my earliest experience of a ¥100 store. It was my first time to independently explore a foreign country, and what I had prioritised in my itinerary was my pasalubong shopping spree. In retrospect, travelling just to shop for souvenirs is quite comedic. But also, if you’re just as Pinoy as I am, you would have probably done the same thing.
The pasalubong culture is strong among Filipinos. We value our friendship and family ties, and we want our loved ones to experience the greatness of our trips. This said, having a foolproof list of Okinawa souvenirs was a must when our team visited the peerless island in Japan. And because the Japanese prefecture is like no other, the team made sure to bring pieces of beautiful Okinawa home, too. So without further ado, here is a list of the best souvenirs in Okinawa — especially handpicked by us, Filipino travellers, for you.
Okinawa souvenirs that will remind you of their local cuisine
1. Okinawa soba
Level up your pancit canton game with the authentic taste of Japanese noodles! Okinawa is especially known for its culinary delicacies. One of its most famed dishes is the Okinawa soba — a pork-flavoured bowl of hot soup with chewy noodles. As this meal is well-loved in Japan, it’s even been made into a flavour for instant noodles!
Bring home packs of instant soba and relive your Okinawa trip (because you will want to, we promise!) any time. Call up your friends and family and cook them a batch of these — they’ll definitely thank you for it!
2. Chinsuko (shortbread cookies)
Okinawa is not just home to savoury noodles — it also has tasty delights for the sweet tooth! A traditional Okinawan treat, chinsuko is a small biscuit that hails from the Ryukyu Dynasty (1429 to 1879). Back in the day, only royal and noble families snacked on chinsuko during festivals and other celebrations.
With its melt-in-your-mouth goodness, chinsuko almost resembles the experience of eating polvoron. But, this treat comes in a wider variety of interesting flavours. While the common chinsuko taste takes after the mildness of shortbread cookies, you can also find it in sea salt, coffee, ube, brown sugar, or pepper flavours. So if you or your loved ones are foodies, chinsuko should definitely be on your list of must-buy souvenirs in Okinawa. We’re telling you: It’s perfect on its own, but even more heavenly when paired with a cup of coffee!
3. Beni-imo (sweet potato) tarts
Ube lovers are bound to fall under the spell of beni-imo, Okinawa’s very own superfood. The iconic sweet potato has made a name for itself on the island. With its sweet taste, you’ll regularly see it around Okinawa in the form of ice cream, biscuit toppings, and cheesecake fillings. Needless to say, you won’t have trouble finding beni-imo anywhere. Its rich, purple colour makes it stand out in any crowd!
Not only is beni-imo luscious, but it’s also very healthy. It’s rich in fibre, vitamin A, and vitamin C — a perfect snack for your wholesome diet! Head over to Okashigoten, a souvenir store in Onna-village, to experience making your own beni-imo tarts. Nothing beats Okinawa souvenirs that are not only edible, but also made with love!
4. Kokuto (brown sugar)
You’re probably wondering what is so special about Okinawan brown sugar. Well, surprisingly, locals consider kokuto a building block in Japanese cooking — just as much as miso and shoyu. If you think of your favourite Japanese dishes, kokuto is probably a key ingredient of those as well.
The Japanese particularly prefer kokuto over other types of brown sugar because of its relatively mellow flavour. To attain this, producers of kokuto employ slow cooking of pure sugarcane juice.
Because it’s as nutritious as it is delicious, many locals eat kokuto as it is. You can score kokuto in tiny packs, making them ideal Okinawa souvenirs for your friends!
5. Pineapple cake
In the northern part of Okinawa Island, there lies a gem for pineapple lovers. Pineapple Park in Nago is home to various kinds of food infused with — you guessed it — pineapples. You can have wine, juice, pie, tarts, cookies, ice cream — basically, all the things you can ever wish for, wrapped in the fibrous fruit’s tarty goodness.
Among all the treats in Nago Pineapple Park, the premium pineapple cake steals the spotlight. Made with the finest ingredients, this moist snack has held the Monde Selection Gold Medal for eight consecutive years. Indeed, premium pineapple cakes are some of the most luxurious souvenirs in Okinawa you can bring home with you. So, make sure not to miss them!
If you’re wondering what souvenirs in Okinawa to get your officemates, we highly recommend 35Coffee. A brand of coffee that is only available in Okinawa, 35Coffee employs an eco-friendly roasting method of using dead corals as fuel. With their unique process, their coffee becomes light and mild; simple, yet delightful. And because of their methods, 35Coffee has encouraged the regeneration of coral reefs in Okinawa. Ambitious in their advocacy, the brand has planted almost 3,000 new corals over the decade.
For your pasalubong shopping, you can purchase 35Coffee in small packs — either in beans or in powder form. But if you want to stock up at home, you can also buy 35Coffee bags that are packed in 440 grams. We recommend getting the bag of beans so it lasts longer!
7. Awamori sake
Karii! If you’re a fan of adventurous experiences, then awamori sake is your new best friend. A strong and exotic beverage, awamori actually goes a long way into Okinawan culture. Besides being the island’s official liquor since the Ryukyu Kingdom, awamori is also considered to be the oldest distilled liquor in Japan!
What makes awamori distinctively famous is its incorporation of the black koji mold. This key ingredient, which is proudly Okinawan, creates the optimal environment for producing sake in the subtropical destination. With the traditional techniques utilised in generating awamori, the liquor has become known for carrying the “flavour of Okinawa.”
8. Sata andagi (doughnuts)
Another popular saccharine snack in Okinawa, sata andagi are deep-fried buns that are made of eggs, sugar, and flour. Crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, this classic Okinawan snack is quite an experience in itself.
While the recipe for sata andagi sounds uncomplicated, this confectionary actually fuses both Chinese and Japanese techniques so that it’s fried to perfection. Nowadays, the buns are commonly served in grand celebrations in Okinawa. And with their lasting distinct sweetness, sata andagi have also become among the most popular souvenirs in Okinawa tourists would never want to miss out on!
Artsy and fun DIY souvenirs in Okinawa
9. Coral dye products
Speaking of corals, coral dyeing is one of the traditional experiences you can’t miss when in Okinawa. At Shuri Ryusen in Naha, you can make your own coral dye items and bring them home as personalised Okinawa souvenirs. For you to accomplish the coral dyeing activity, the staff at Shuri Ryusen will hand you fossilised corals that you’ll use for adding patterns to your chosen items.
The great thing about coral dye items is you can choose to dye a shirt, a shawl, or a tote bag. That said, they make great gifts for family members of all ages!
Another traditional experience you must try in Okinawa is glassmaking at Ryukyu Glass Village, the largest glass factory on the island. Glassmaking goes back a long way for Okinawans, as this became one of the major occupations of the Japanese after World War II. As an attempt to recover from the war, Okinawans created art out of tossed out glass bottles. Now, the tradition is one held proud by the people of the island.
At Ryukyu Glass Village, you can create your own glassware — including drinking glasses, accessories, photo frames, and candles, with the help of the staff. If you’re pressed for time, though, you can purchase readily available glassware at either the Ryukyu Glass Village or Okinawa World.
11. Origami items
You’re a true-blue Japan fanatic if you’ve tried folding a thousand origami cranes to be granted a wish. Ingrained in Japanese culture, origami cranes are thought to be symbols of peace and longevity. That said, locals make it a habit to fold cranes when they pray. In fact, you will find origami cranes engulfing the Former Japan Navy Underground Headquarters, a place that serves as a memorial for the soldiers who died during the Battle of Okinawa.
At the Former Japan Navy Underground Headquarters, visitors can also make their own origami cranes as they undergo a quick folding workshop. You can make multiple origami items and take them home as beautiful handcrafted Okinawa souvenirs, too!
Quaint trinkets and special souvenirs from Okinawa
12. Shell pendants
Couples flock to Kouri Island for the romantic ambience it exudes. Rightly deserving of its moniker, the Love Island is pervaded with heart-shaped rocks and shells that have drawn tourists from all over the world.
Exhibiting the amorous charm of the Kouri Island shells, a Shell Museum stands inside the Kouri Ocean Tower. Over 10,000 shells of all shapes and colours are displayed in this museum. Nearby, there’s a gift shop where you may purchase shell pendants and corals as Okinawa souvenirs. Depending on the quality and rarity of the shells, prices can cost up to a million yen!
13. Organic soap and other skincare products
Korea may be stealing the limelight for all things beauty, but you definitely can’t deny that Japanese beauty is just as swoon-worthy. As the former teems with sheet masks and BB creams, the latter boasts of minimalist and organic beauty products that are gentle on the skin.
In Okinawa, SuiSavon takes the number one spot for organic soap and skincare products. Grabbing inspiration from the natural wonders of Okinawa, the brand carries a wide variety of soap products that will trigger your senses. With the mission to refresh customers with the specific scents of the island, SuiSavon indulges in natural ingredients and essential oils that are derived exclusively from locally grown plants.
Searching for a special gift for your special loved ones? Delicately swathed in snakeskin, the sanshin is a native musical instrument that originates in Okinawa. It resembles a banjo, but only sports three strings which musicians should pluck one at a time.
One interesting feature in playing the sanshin is that its musical arrangement is written as Chinese characters, as opposed to musical notes. And while this instrument conveys a traditional way of music, modern Okinawans still enjoy the fun tunes that the instrument produces.
15. Marine animal keychains
Keychains are a staple for every Filipino’s list of must-buy pasalubong. After all, they’re affordable, compact, and easy to bring home, even in bulk.
For this list of souvenirs in Okinawa, we aren’t just talking about any keychain. We’re talking about keychains that symbolise the diverse underwater found in Japan’s stunning island paradise. From vibrant fish to majestic whales, Okinawa’s aquatic animals make up a vital part of the island prefecture.
You can easily purchase marine animal keychains from ¥300 stores. Rest assured, while purchasing these simple trinkets is a no-brainer, they will serve as great conversation starters, too.
Without a doubt, Okinawa is best experienced first-hand. But if you can’t bring your loved ones with you yet, we highly recommend sharing a taste of the island through these interesting Okinawa souvenirs!
Brought to you by the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.