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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 of eateries where the tourists gather. One of them is particularly famous among tourists from Taiwan and Korea.

I learned 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 on 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 grilled Japanese octopus balls, Motobu produces lots of them, lots.

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“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 passed Motobu every year to visit Asia’s largest aquarium. However, in their opinion, there is nothing in Motobu that’s worth stopping by. No big AEON shopping mall and no decent restaurants. There isn’t even a presentable supermarket in town. There is indeed, but it’s hidden. Even if Aeon is in town, the money will flow to Aeon’s shareholders in mainland Japan, which means not enough left for the city.

A restaurant in downtown Motobu featuring Katsuo rice (source:

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 were delicious! You can also buy fresh Katsuo in any major supermarket. They taste like Tuna for half the price, which is a great deal. 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 stores to 5-Star hotels. This makes it easy for people to try it out and take it with them. Aserora is said to have many times more Vitamin C than an orange and a kiwi. The fruit itself is sour but the juice is sweet. It’s meant to mix with water before consumption.

Motobu Aserora Juice comes in all sizes and shapes (photo source:

Did you know, Motobu also has some of the best natural and untouched beaches in Okinawa? Well, it does! In winter when everyone is wondering where to spend time, you can 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 least, Motobu does produce amazing beef. When you think Japanese beef, you might 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 not enough marketing effort behind it, so it’s been living under the shadow of Ishigaki beef.

Sesoko Island Near Motobu (photo
Katsuo festival in Motobu (photo source:

When I think of Motobu, I think of its mountain, its river, and all the beautiful nature there. I can park on the roadside and roll up my pants to stroll 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 with while in Motobu, Katsuo seems to be the one thing 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 around in the grocery store. They sell the seasoned Katsuo in boxes. Try adding them to your rice, they are delicious! If you are not sure about following a Japanese recipe, try this local restaurant.

Try Katsuo in this local restaurant. Location above.

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**The information in this article is written by the designer of the Okinawa Story Map based personal experience. It does not aim to be 100% accurate or academically correct. Please enjoy the stories and feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this article.