News: Camp Courtney opens gates for Hijiki Festival
Story by Sgt. Rebekka Heite
CAMP COURTNEY, Japan - Fishermen from the Ishikawa Prefecture Fisherman’s Association and more than 200 people from Kunbu, Tengan, Akano and Uken villages attended the opening of the Hijiki Festival on Camp Courtney, Feb. 20.
Camp Courtney opens its beach to the residents of the four sub-villages and the fisherman’s association for 10 low-tide days during February and March so they can harvest hijiki from the beach’s shoreline every year.
Hijiki, or brown seaweed, grows wild on rocky coastlines around Japan, Korea and China.
“Hijiki is good for health and long life,” said Sueko Kudaka, an Akano resident who harvested hijiki during this year’s festival. “You don’t want to miss the first day; by the second it’s all gone.”
This year’s first day was on a Monday, which made it possible for the older residents to harvest more hijiki because the younger residents were at work, she added.
Those who harvest the seaweed are free to eat it themselves or sell it. They are limited to two bags per person, according to Ichiro Umehara, community relations specialist for Camp Courtney.
“I boil, dry and eat the seaweed throughout the year,” said Gerald Denney, a retired U.S. Army veteran who lives on Okinawa. “My wife has a big family, so we use it all.”
Once harvested, the hijiki is used in ceremonies and as food.
“We boil the seaweed for two hours and then put it on the floor to dry,” said Kudaka. “We use the dried seaweed in rice and in fish patties.”
“Once dry, the seaweed can be used for 10 years,” she added.
At the end of a day of harvesting hijiki, Kudaka said she is always tired.
“But I always come back the next year,” she said.