Kume Island is a small island located just north west of the bottom tip of Okinawa Island. Not so long ago, only a very few planes landed there and visitors had to stay at minshuku/民宿, the japanese equivalent of Bed & Breakfasts.
Nowadays at least three major hotels welcome tourists coming on daily flights.
Guardian Lions at Kume Island Airport.
Kume Island Airport is tiny but welcoming. In any case two massive lion guardians are there to fend off all bad spirits!
Another statue proves that the island is also a major centre for whale viewing. Actually it is also natural park where sea turtles are protected (but I will talk about that in another part!) and skin divers come from far away to admire the beautiful white sand sea bottoms, corals and abundant marine life.
We arrived in the evening after dusk. Incidentally all the above pics were taken later. We stayed at a farily decent hotel called Resort Hotel Kume Island, which boasted all the facilities wished for.
Although the season starts only in April, a large swiiming pool with bar, mini golf, parks for eating outdoors are on hand forthe lazy guests!
As I said we arrived in the evening just after the last limousine bus had departed. Instead we boarded a taxi whose local veteran driver proved a mine of information on the island and especially its nature.
After a quick dinner (all meals were included in the package) we had a look at the souvenir stand for later reference.
There is only one Japanese sake brewery on the min Island and a few shochu distilleries, but the regional drink is fiery spirit distilled from Thai rice and called awamori/泡盛. The minimum alcohol content is 25 degrees proof, but more usually 30 and can go as far as 45 and more!
You can drink it straight, on the rocks or with water.
They come in striaght one-year casked spirits or aged up to 18 years and more with consequent prices.
Kume Island is host to two distilleries, Kumeshima Distillery and Yoneshima Distillery for a population of less than 10,000 souls!
Collectors should be on the look-out as limited labels are sometimes printed like the ones above commemorating the Spring camp visit of the Rakuten Eagles Baseball Team playing in the Japanese Professional Basebll Pacific League (there are 12 professional clubs in two leagues in this country)!
Awamori in ceramic vessels make for beautiful souvenirs back home!
Some of the limited bottles even look like perfume vials (an interesting way to conceal your secret vice? LOL)!
More in old-fashioned, rustic, pottery!
Frankly speaking, the dinner had been a bit light after a three-hour long journey from Tokyo and we were still mightily hungry (and thirsty)!
Luckily enough (it was closed the next day!) an izakaya belonging to the same group owning our hotel stood across the street.
Called Nantoshokurakuen/南島食楽園, it is a welcoming place open from 17:30 to 24:00 (closed on Thursdays) which boasts truly local food.
The Missus opted for a couple of glasses of umeshu, but I ordered a small bottle of 3 years-aged Bi Awamori distilled by Kumeshima Distillery. It was served in a local pottery flask with ice and local water.
This water is a bit unusual, although typical of Japan. It is water flowing in neighbouring deep sea. It is of the purest kind and needs very little filtering or know because of its very low saline content!
We were in a bit of a fix at which fish or seafood to order for sashimi as the izakaya proposed no less than nine of them all caught along the island shores!
The sashimi on the left (above picture for closer look) is called “irabucha”, a green or brown-skinned snapper variety. A bit crunchy and delicious, it is eaten with its skin.
The fish in the middle is called Akamchi, another variety of snapper caught at 300~400 metre depths. Now this fish is extravagant for its rarity (you wi\on’t find it in Tokyo!) and an absolute delicacy melting in your mouth!
Can you spot the umibudo/sea grapes between the fish and the prawns?
Now, the kuruma ebi/large prawns were also an extravagant morsel. They were still alive and he head and tail moved even untouched!
As for the taste, they were halfway between raw lobster and ama ebi/sweet shrimps!
To ensure we came back to our hotel room unwanting, we ordered two different typically Okinawan foods: Champuru rice noodles as above.
And Agedahi Mizore Shima Dofu made with the local tofuu which is notably firmer than tofu found in other regions of Japan.
If you have the occasion to visit the island know that Kume Island is celebrated for its umibudo/sea grape seaweed, kuruma ebi/large prawns, ogo nori/seaweed, shima kamaboko/fish paste, Kumeshima soba/called soba but actually wheat noodles, miso cookies, awamori spirits, and deep sea pure water!
See you in Part 2 which will relate our second day with a load of pictures. Stay tuned!
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