Bees are the only insect in the world that make food that people can eat. http://www.bees4kids.org.uk/fun-facts-about-honey-bees/
When you move to a foreign country, you sometimes seek familiar comforts only to realize that you don’t know where to look. Well, this quest wasn’t so complicated; I wanted honey. I knew that I could buy honey at the commissary, but what about local honey? Honey was one of the things I determined in my mind that I would find here.
I learned towards the end of my residence in Valdosta, Georgia of a place where I could enjoy pure, locally grown honey. Had I known that about 2 1/2 years prior, I could have been enjoying delicious honey for the whole 3 years that I lived there. I also learned of the amazing produce that could be found where I lived by journeying down the road from that Wal-Mart we relied far too heavily on. How easy it can be to mourn over your hometown comforts that you miss–and all the while you are missing opportunities your present location has to offer. I knew when I came to Okinawa, I needed to seek out the edible treasures of this island rather than cry about the lack of Texas Jalepenos, salsa verde, chorizo, leche quemada, chicken n’ dumplins’, sweet tea, Georgia Peaches, Rudy’s, and “The Smokin’ Pig!” Sure, I will miss the Texan and Georgian Specialties developed by rich Southern, Southwestern, and Mexican Heritage; but I brought that history with me. Plus, I can now learn from the Okinawans and add to that history. This is why I grow a garden using seeds from the past and the present.
So with the help of my friend Kaity, I sought out a honey shop called “Okinawa Yoho.” There are two locations for this store on the island (both off of Route 58) so we chose the southern location which is just past the Foster “Commissary Gate” and you will see it on your right. It has a honey bee on the sign and there is another blue sign on the neighboring shop that reads “No Hobby, No Life.” (Address: 901-2221 Ginowan City) We learned about the shop through our most beloved and relied upon community blog www.okinawahai.com, and planned a day to go check it out along with antique stores we found along the way.
As soon as we entered the shop, I could smell a subtle sweet aroma created by honey samples and homemade soaps. The hardwood floors and complementary shallow shelves were neatly stacked with Royal Jellies, Honey Blends, Edible Propolis, Ointments, handmade soaps, and of course pure locally harvested honey. Throughout the shop are small but detailed signs that are handwritten in elegant penmanship in English which give you information about the products. In the center of the small shop we found a sample station in which you could grab a small cup and tiny plastic spoon to sample their honeys and honey blends. We were able to smell and compare the soaps. When I used Google translate to read their website, I noticed the phrase, “Our goods are backed by solid tongue!” right beside a picture of the sample station. I now understand what they meant. Before you buy it, you’ll know if you’ll like it–I did!
I bought Pure Honey, a blueberry honey blend, and one of the handmade soaps with a little over 2,000 yen (which is maybe $20). I have already had some honey with my coffee and it’s delicious. I couldn’t help but continue to think about the signs I saw in the shop regarding Propolis products so I did some research.
“Propolis” is a Greek word that means, “Walls to prevent the invasion of the enemy.” This is no surprise seeing as how the medicinal use of Propolis dates back to 350 B.C. when the Greeks used it for Abscesses, Assyrians used it for healing wounds and tumors, and Egyptians used it for Mummification. Today it is still used for infections that are caused by bacteria, cancer of the nose and throat, boosting of the immune system (which is also what we use honey for), gastro-intestinal problems, as an antioxidant, as an anti-inflammatory agent, to clean wounds from genital herpes and cold sores, on minor burns, and as a mouth wash that speeds healing after oral surgery. Current research shows that there is evidence that it does help with inflammation, oral healing, and cold sores. It is not an advised treatment for women who are pregnant or nursing, people with asthma, or people with allergies to bee products; although it is unknown if Propolis causes any harm to these individuals. Overall, you’ll find that anything created by bees, with the exception of bee stings, is beneficial. They benefit plants with pollination; they benefit people with fruits, vegetables, sweetness, and good health. So if you think you don’t like insects, reconsider the busy bee.
After our delicious visit to the honey shop we went on our way to find some antique stores which we did but along the way we also found a couple of other places we did not expect. First it was a small farmer’s market that couldn’t have been much larger than two standard sized bedrooms. This small market was tightly packed with more fresh, local produce than you would find in most supermarkets. Huge bright carrots, fresh bean sprout characteristic to authentic Japanese cooking, and colorful cabbages plus many more yummies that overflowed out of the crates. I didn’t buy much as I wanted to save some yen for the rest of the day but the next time I am in that area I will stop in and buy every fresh ingredient I can use for dinner that night.
A couple more antique shop visits and we spotted a shop called Plants + Nicoli. I don’t know the origins of the store name nor did we realize it wasn’t a plant shop, but once again we were surprised at the edible blessings that awaited us. First, I noticed as soon as we opened the shop door there was an aroma of banana bread mixed with other fresh baked goods. Second, I noticed rows upon rows of muffins that lined the counter on the left hand side. Third, I noticed all the gorgeous knick knacks on the right hand side of the shop that were characteristic of neat beach, garden, and home décor you would find in New England. Every corner of the shop was Pintrest-worthy with it’s beautiful details. So as you can imagine, I spent a couple more hundred yen (just $2) on some delicious muffins.
The honey bee travels extensively spreading pollen and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive so that it can refine the products it gathered from nature and create something beautiful. If it weren’t for the journey it went out on, the bee would not be able to make honey and less fruits and vegetables would be able to grow (The majority of pollination occurs due to bees, second only to wind). So like the honey bee, in our travels it is up to us to explore the environment around us, leave traces of our grace wherever we go, and bring back to our hive goods that will enrich our lives.
Keep Going and Growing,