CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan – Members of the U.S. military and local communities on Okinawa participated in the Hijiki Harvest hosted by Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan on Feb 22.
The annual event opens Camp Courtney beach to the communities surrounding the base for a few days each year to collect hijiki, a type of seaweed used in many Japanese dishes.
“It’s been used a lot for their ordinary daily life or religious ceremony as a preserved ‘sea’ food, which will last over years once it is dried,” said Ichiro Umehara, liaison officer, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “Recently, the most popular use is a side dish for ‘bento’ lunch box or daily meal, or ‘juushii’ rice which is well-known as a side menu of Okinawan Soba noodles.”
Additionally, the event provides an opportunity to build relationships between the Marine Corps, the host nation of Japan, local Okinawa communities and members of the Uruma Fisherman’s Association.
Because the base is the main location on the island where hijiki grows, U.S. and Japanese officials work together to protect it from being overharvested.
“We had the agricultural experts and the Japanese Coast Guard come down and we worked hand in hand with the Japanese security forces here to ensure that this is the right time. This was [a] bright day to harvest it”, said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Spencer E. Scott, sergeant major, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
With a windy day of sunshine, everyone that came out to participate in the event enjoyed harvesting hijiki with smiles on their faces.
“We’re good caretakers of the environment and we want to make sure that the harvesting is done right so we can take advantage of it over time, and our friends from the local communities come out and harvest every year,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Matthew R. Nation, commanding officer, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.