Just two days ago, on November 23, Kume Island held its annual Kuruma Shrimp Festival. The festival is small, but popular with visitors coming from outside of Okinawa for a unique chance to see and taste the prized shrimp (they’re actually prawns but you get the idea).
The festival started off with the usual welcoming speeches by the town tourism office, mayor, and shrimp industry representatives. Workers from the four local farms and the Okinawa shrimp cooperative sent the season’s first boxes of shrimp on their way to the drumming of a local taiko group.
Throughout the event food stands sold a variety of dishes many of course featuring the shrimp. Two of the most popular were Okinawan soba with boiled shrimp and mozuku and the ebi dog. Instead of a hotdog, a bun was filled with lettuce, tartar sauce and a whole shrimp.
The tourism office also served up grilled shrimp seasoned with salt for 100 yen. These shrimp would sell for much more in Tokyo and other cities around Japan.
In addition to the food stalls there were two booths selling refrigerated and frozen shrimp. The cool live shrimp are so popular that limits were applied and people were given tickets on a first-come basis. As an event special they sold 1kg boxes for 2,000yen. Normally these shrimp fetch 7,000 yen or more at auction. The frozen shrimps were not for immediate sale but to ship to friends and family around Japan, a popular custom during this time of year. Often the shrimp are sent as osechi for New Years celebrations.
In addition to the food, several local groups performed to entertain the guests. A musical group that performs at a local izekaya performed famous and original Okinawan songs.
Finally, the tourism office also ensured the children had as much fun as the adults with a shrimp grab. Live shrimp were placed in a small tank where children had a few minutes to try to grab as many as they could. They were then able to either grill the shrimp or take them home live.
All together it was a fun afternoon with a great chance at trying one of Kume Island’s most important and delicious exports. See you there next year!