Tonight I got to walk along Okinawa’s most famous street, Kokusaidori. At night, Kokusaidori sparkles with lights and is filled with restaurants, shops, and bustling tourists looking for the latest island souvenirs. While the main street attracts all of the newcomers, locals tend to keep to the side streets where a more mellow vibe can be felt. I enjoyed the leisurely stroll with my host family in and out of shops, and was excited when our journey ended with an ice cream stop.

Peeking into the side streets
Host sister and me posing with a Shisa playing the shanshin- a traditional Okinawan stringed instrument

There are several unique delicacies that originated in Okinawa. Along the streets of Kokusaidori, you may run into one of them being sold- Habushu, an alcoholic drink that features a vicious looking snake submerged at the bottom of the bottle. Each bottle sells for a couple hundred dollars, with some varieties not even allowed in the United States. I had heard about this drink from one of my friends and after seeing it, I could understand its intrigue.

Habushu- an alcoholic drink with a viper inside

The normal base of this drink is a liquor called awamori (distilled long grain indica rice). The beast inside is similar to a rattlesnake and is called Trimeresurus flavoviridus, or put simply, a pit viper snake. This snake is unique to the Ryukyu islands of Japan and contains a highly toxic bite. The process of getting the snake prepared and into the jars is a bit gruesome (think freezing, gutting then thawing the snake till it wakes / directly drowning it in alcohol) but for those who want to read more, this page has a good description.

*See how my habushu tasting experience went!

Another (less scary) Okinawan favorite is Blue Seal Ice Cream. Although this brand was born in America,  it was raised in Okinawa. Many Blue Seal shops can be seen all over the island, with multiple lining Kokusaidori. It was past 8pm, but the weather was still uncomfortably hot. My host family and I decided to stop at the biggest of the Blue Seal shops and cool off with a sweet dessert. With over 30 different flavors, plus the option for crepe ice cream and a variety of drinks, making a decision was harder than ever.

I decided on a strawberry, vanilla and mochi crepe ice cream and watched as my creation was made.

Swirled crepe batter becomes the wrapping to icecream
Vanilla ice cream with strawberries, mochi and a dollop of whipped cream. All wrapped in a crepe shell.

In addition to the ice cream, I couldn’t resist a mango soda drink filled with colorful popping juice balls. Easy to make yet so yummy. No better way to escape the heat and humidity than with a trip to Blue Seal.

Mango soda with popping juice balls

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