Secret In The Map #2: The Fish In Motobu
I included a fish symbol in Motobu, which I will explain in a moment. First I want to help you understand where Motobu is and my interaction with the town’s tourism office.
Millions of people pass this quiet town on the way to the world famous Churaumi aquarium. It’s small, and the downtown core is hidden from the main road, so many don’t even realize its existence. Its name is Motobu.
Strolling around downtown core Motobu, you will find a couple eateries where the tourists gather. One of them is particularly famous among tourists from Taiwan and Korea.
I learn about Motobu when I was invited by a local paper company to meet with the Tourism Department of Motobu town. They wanted to use the map at their local festival. I wasn’t aware of any gathering in Motobu. News from this place hardly spread to the south side of the island. In the original version of my map, I didn’t incorporate any famous local products in the map, which irritated the staff of the Motobu tourism board.
“You don’t know about Katsuo?”
Katsuo is a local fish, also known as Bonito or Skipjack Tuna. You know that brown dancing flake on the grilled Japanese octopus balls, Motobu produces lots of them, lots.
“How about Aserora? Motobu beef?”
“I am sure they are great”, I said, “but I’ve never heard of them. Apparently, the message didn’t travel far enough.”
During our conversation, members of the tourism board expressed their frustration. Millions of people drive pass Motobu every year visit Asia’s largest aquarium. However, in their opinion, there is nothing in Motobu that’s worth stopping by. No big AEON shopping mall, no decent restaurants. There isn’t even a presentable supermarket in town. There is in deed, but it’s hidden. Even if Aeon is in town, the money will flow to Aeon’s shareholders in mainland Japan, not enough left for the city.
What they say about Katsuo and Aserora did catch my attention. In Japan, the tourism board in each city runs a big shop to feature local products. Go to the one in Motobu and you will find so many products made around Katsuo. I bought a bunch, and they are delicious. You can also buy fresh Katsuo in any major supermarket. They taste like Tuna for half the price. During Katsuo season, you can buy enough for 4 adults under $5 USD.
Motobu also produces a lot of Aserora. One famous product is Aserora juice. They are being sold in every corner in Okinawa including everyday convenience store to 5-Star hotels. Aserora is said to have many times more Vitamin C than orange and kiwi. The fruit itself is sour but the juice is sweet, and it’s been to mix with water before consumption.
Motobu also has some of the best natural, untouched beaches in Okinawa. In winter when everyone is wondering where to spend time, you think about diving and snorkeling in Motobu. According to marine activity professionals, the tide on this part of the island during winter is calm, and lower water temperature makes the coral look more colorful.
Last but not less, Motobu does produce amazing beef. When you think Japanese beef, you make think of Kobe beef, and how beef farmers in Kobe feed the cows and massage them every day. In south Japan, Ishinagi beef is the equivalent of Kobe beef. Motobu beef is just as good, but in my opinion, there is enough marketing effort behind it, so it’s been living under the shadow of Ishigaki beef.
When I think of Motobu, I think of its mountain, its river, and all the beautiful nature there. I can park on the roadside, roll up my pants to scroll along the river. If I want to shop at Aeon, I don’t need to travel all the way north to Motobu. Out of everything I have interacted while in Motobu, Katsuo seems to be the one things that the locals are so proud of. It’s something that they rely on for survival and source of income for a very long time.
You can find fresh Katsuo all year about in the grocery store, and they sell the seasoned Katsuo in boxes. Try adding them to your rice, they are delicious. If you are not sure about following Japanese recipe, try this local restaurant.
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