The changing plate of Okinawa

Tell people you live in Okinawa and those who’ve heard of this small island over 1500 kms south of mainland Japan will either know it because of the massive American Military presence or because of the longevity of its inhabitants.  In fact the village in which I currently live has the highest concentration of centenarians in the world. In recent times, however, these two well known attributes have become inherently, and detrimentally, linked in more ways than one.

The American influence in Okinawa is leading young people to swap their healthy, locally sourced diet with highly processed western foods with terrible consequences.  The changing diet of Okinawa has been well reported.   A quick Google search reveals depressing headlines including “The Okinawa Shock: As life expectancy falls, world watches with bated breath“; “Western Diet: A Killer in Okinawa“; and “Japanese get a taste for Western food and fall victim to obesity and early death“.

I don’t need to write a lengthy blog post about the changing Okinawan diet to prove to you that things are changing – least of all because I am not qualified to do so – instead, I wanted to share a couple of photos that illustrate my experience of changing diets in Okinawa. The following photos were taken on the same weekend at two different restaurants in the northern part of Okinawa’s main island:


A selection of locally grown, mostly organic, foods found at Caanan Slow Farm in Higashi, Okinawa.


A ‘Kansas City Burger’ from a restaurant on the American Military base in Okuma, Okinawa. The majority, if not all, of the ingredients used in this meal are shipped in from America.



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