Unique local Okinawan brands you can be proud of
By David Higgins
The term ‘globalization’ is on the lips of all politicians and economists these days but what does it actually mean and how does it affect us? Can you think of three ways that you have personally been affected by this phenomenom? If you can’t, consider the fact that you can drive through even the smallest town and still expect to find the same dependable corporate franchise businesses that you depend on in your own city or town, and that we tend to expect to be able to rely on these franchises in every town we visit. These franchises all have the same appearance regardless of their locations around the world, and these franchises are contributing to the homogenization of the character of our cities and towns across the globe.
‘How did this happen?’ you might ask. By slowly and gradually brain washing us into believing that this will provide us with greater variety, quality and consistency of goods while in reality, this form of corporate greed is contributing to the decimation of small businesses, and the local ‘personality’ that draws us to particular cities, towns and neighborhoods.
On Okinawa, there are many businesses that stand firm and strong against this trend. In fact, there are three brands on Okinawa that are the heart of our local shops owned and operated by proud local business owners. Businesses such as these are increasingly rare and unique in a character that harks back to the original Okinawa-style that cannot be found anywhere else in Japan or around the world.
The first shop called Saikicks, is right down the street from my house. This little shop on the bottom floor of the building is owned by Kota-san. His quaint shop sells skateboards, shoes, and original Saikicks apparel. I have purchased several shirts from this shop and by far one of the coolest T-shirts I acquired was black with an embroidery printed pocket of an aged Okinawan pattern with a Yanbarukuina bird on it. It also has ‘HaiSai’ stitched on it, the Okinawan word meaning ‘Hello.’ The prices are reasonable and the products he sells are one of a kind. They contain the depth of what Okinawa is actually about rather than the superficial generic product that has “I love Okinawa” printed boldly across it.
The second shop is my new favorite coffee shop called Chocolate Jesus, which is owned by Kazufumi. A hot cup of Chocolate Jesus coffee is a positive start to any day. If you enjoy drinking Starbucks coffee then you are admitting that you enjoy drinking beverages that taste like diarrhea. Instead, you need to head down to the Sunabe Area and find this coffee shop. The Chocolate Jesus Americano is reasonably priced and packed with intense pure coffee flavor. For an additional ¥20 you can get the Ethiopian Blend which has an amplified smooth rich flavor.
While the friendly staff at Chocolate Jesus creates your fresh coffee, you can peruse their attached boutique and pick up some Chocolate Jesus apparel or grab a seat to read some of their cool underground retro magazines. If you are searching for that perfect ‘Okinawa proud’ gift, nothing shows more generosity and character than a Chocolate Jesus T-shirt.
The last brand is new to Okinawa and was created by rock star photographer Pete Leong who partnered with local entrepreneurs. They represent an Okinawa I can connect with by fusing beautiful scenic photography along with their brand name Oki Life, into their designs. The name ‘Oki Life’ reminds me of the reasons why I live on this island, and the lifestyle I am able to enjoy here. It symbolizes the ocean and nature but with a splash of urban sprawl and city life. My first Oki Life purchases was one of their sleek vibrant stickers depicting a detailed diecut of an Okinawan turtle complimented by their Oki Life logo for sale at Pizzakaya restaurant. Soon after, I went online and bought their T-shirt splashed with the design they created in collaboration with the Blue Reef Surfing School Okinawa. Combining both brands with colorful ocean scenery that was embedded into the wording of their brands, the design was pure synergy. I appreciate that the size XL was the actual US sized version and it fit perfectly.
If you are searching around American Village, Rycom Mall, on base at or around the BX, and you feel uninspired because everything you find is unoriginal, lame corporate crap, then stop searching. Mosey on down to the Sunabe Seawall, soak up the uniquely Okinawan vibe, and support these local shops by purchasing their original designs and products that are truly invented from the grassroots of this island’s proud and creative people.