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Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Timothy Eales transports hijiki for an Okinawa resident during a Hijiki Harvesting Festival March 11 aboard Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan. Hijiki is edible seaweed that has been a part of Japanese cuisine for centuries. It is rich in minerals and dietary fiber, and according to local folklore, it improves health and beauty. Hijiki festival allows Okinawa residents the chance to come to the beach of Camp Courtney to collect hijiki once per year. Eales is a special intelligence system administrator with III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Douglas D. Simons)

Photo by Sgt. Douglas Simons

Hijiki Harvesting Festival: an Okinawan’s perspective

15 Mar 2017 | Sgt. Douglas Simons Okinawa Marines

Her feet sloshed as she walked with her sacks full of hijiki seaweed through the cold, wet sand. Waves crashed against the shore as the wind and rain stung her face. The weather was fierce, but she was fiercer.

Yoshiko Williams, an Okinawan-born, Air Force wife, braved the inclement weather and frigid ocean March 11 to collect hijiki on the beach of Camp Courtney during a Hijiki Harvesting Festival. 

 Hijiki is edible seaweed, which has been a part of Japanese cuisine for centuries. It is rich in minerals and dietary fiber, and according to local folklore, hijiki improves health and beauty.

 Even at the young age of 64, she accepted no help from service members who volunteered to help locals carry the heavy hijiki to their cars— a strong indicator of her rugged spirit.

“I’m not old yet,” exclaimed Williams, as she tied her sacks with cold, trembling hands. “I won’t need help for another 20 years.”
Residents from all over Okinawa came to take part, and their reasons varied. Some love to cook and eat it, others like to sell it, but Williams’ reason is sure to humble anyone.

She collects the hijiki for her 95-year-old mother, who is not strong enough to collect it herself.

“My mother is too old to collect hijiki, but she enjoys cooking and selling it,” said Williams. “So I came here to collect it for her.”

Her mother’s social security is barely enough to survive on, and she goes crazy when she is bored, according to Williams.

“Preparing hijiki keeps her busy, she can make some money, and stops her from losing her mind,” Williams said with a friendly smile.
William’s mother boils hijiki in a giant pot, dries it, and sells it for 300 yen per pound.

“The Okinawan people almost never stop working,” said Williams. “You will see that even 100-year-old women still work, and they keep working until they physically can’t anymore.”

It is difficult to find a good place to harvest hijiki, according to Williams.

“Hijiki doesn’t grow well in many places on Okinawa, but on the beach of Camp Courtney, it’s bountiful,” said Williams. “Camp Courtney has the Hijiki Festival once per year, and my mother and I are extremely grateful to be able to access the beach for the harvest.”

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