Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kajimaya Kokuto (brown sugar)

Posted by Maki Nako

Okinawa is also known for the production of quality brown sugar. My pick for this month is kajimaya kokuto, brown sugar wrapped in a pinwheel shaped package with a prayer for longevity.

  Why longevity? It’s because the package shape is based on a pinwheel celebration, or kajimaya in the Okinawan language. It’s a traditional event held in Okinawa for those who turn 97 years old. The colorful print is a bingata motif, a traditional resist dyed textile of Okinawa. The pinwheel package was awarded the President’s Award by the Okinawa Branch Office of the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation at the Okinawa Industrial Fair in 1998.

When I went to Shurijo Castle to take some photos for this article, I heard an interesting story from the employee in the photo below.

One time she sent this kajimaya kokuto to her grandmother-in-law living in Kumamoto Prefecture. The grandmother-in-law liked the taste very much and asked her to send more to give it to her friends. Then she told me her grandmother-in-law is in her 90s and her friends are almost 100 years old! It means this brown sugar is not only tasty but also soft enough (or melts easily in the mouth) for aged people. Furthermore, brown sugar has far more minerals than white sugar; for example it contains calcium, potassium and iron, so it can be a healthy snack.

 One package contains three different flavors: original, sesame, and shikuwasa (a kind of citrus). There are fifteen bite-sized blocks per package; five of each flavor. In addition, this exclusive Shurijo Castle edition comes with sanpin (jasmine) tea, another taste of Okinawa.

A gift box version of two kajimaya kokuto and three sanpin teabags is also available.

Available at Kyuyo Museum Shop in the Hokuden (North Hall) within the paid zone of Shuri jo Castle.
Open from 8:30. Closing time varies depending on the season.