Summer Vacation, a Time of Learning
As you might know, in Japan from mid-July through the end of August is summer vacation for Japanese school children. During this timeframe, kids can attend various learning workshops around the island. This is where children can conduct ‘independent study’ or “jiyu-kenkyu” with the assistance from an education mentor. This is important, as many students still receive homework during summer vacation and may require assistance. Thus, many of these jiyu-kenkyu stations or booths are found in shopping centers to help the needs of these students. Trial classes are usually available. Please inquire with the individual jiyu-kenkyu stations for more information.
Additionally, kids can participate in a company tour with an organization or company. Here kids can learn about what the company does and how their products are made and assembled. They can write about their experiences and submit it as part of their homework. Below are examples of companies that offer company tours to their facilities.
Helios distillery is one of most unique distilleries here on Okinawa. Known for their innovation and fresh ideas, Helios not only produces Awamori such as their brand favorites “Kura” and “Todoroki”, but they also produce other alcohol beverages like their “GOYA Beer” (bitter melon), “Shiquwasa White Ale” (Okinawan citrus), Brown Sugar Plum Wine, Rum, Shochu, and Whisky.
What makes their products even more special is that most of the ingredients are produced here in Okinawa. Another unique feature is their use of wood barrels to mature their awamori. That is why the Helio’s Kura Awamori doesn’t come in the normal clear hue as other awamori brands do. Rather, it is golden due to the aging process inside wooden barrels. The smell and the taste have a ‘natural’ tint to it. These wooden barrels are made of White Oak trees from North America and are at least 50 years or older. No other distillery on the island uses such a technique.
For any alcohol, especially Awamori, water is an important part in the production process. Helios literally gets its water from the mountain behind the distillery. This natural mountain water gives Helios brands their unique smooth flavoring taste.
Like most awamori distilleries, Helios offers tours to the public. There you can watch the entire production process in one showing. Guides also accompany the tours to give you added information. You can also watch a video with English subtitles of the production process and after the tour, you can try some of their beverage products. Of course, you must be of legal age to taste their alcohol brands and as always, bring a designated driver.
Uema Snack Factory (Suppaiman Factory)
Suppaiman is a name of a snack consisting of a dry pickled plum. It is very famous here in Okinawa, as well as in mainland Japan. You can say it’s an Okinawa original. The snack can be found in most supermarkets or convenience stores in Okinawa.
Additionally, Suppaiman also makes a variety of products using plums such as the Suppaiman Ice Candy, Suppaiman potato chips, and Suppaiman Candy. The Uema Snack Company, located at the Toyosaki district of Tomigusuku City offers company tours every day (except Sundays) from 9:00~11:30, and 13:00~16:30.
Less than 10 people, reservations are not required. Walk-ins are fine. If 10 people or more, please make a reservation by calling 098-840-6000. Address is 3-64 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku City.
Okinawa Morinaga Milk Industry Co. Ltd.
Okinawa Morinaga Milk Industry is located at the Agarizaki district of Nishihara Town. As the name suggest, Morinaga Milk Industry produces milk, but they are also known for making other beverages like Morinaga Yogo, a longtime favorite drink amongst Okinawans.
They also make a sweeten café called Morinaga CAFE and Rooibos Tea, a non-caffeine/non-calorie African original tea, popular especially among women. The factory offers a tour on weekdays from 9:00~15:00, but you must make reservation at least 1 week in advance. The tour is about 1 hour long and you can watch how they make their products. Call the Okinawa Morinaga Milk Industry Company Tour Information Center at 098-871-9000. Address is 4-15 Agarizaki, Nishihara Town.
Orion Happy Park
The Orion Beer Company invites you to their special public touring facility, the Orion Happy Park. Here the public can tour the facility and watch how Okinawa’s most beloved beer is specially crafted.
This is a great opportunity to learn about the process and the history behind Orion’s great tasting beer. Tours are available every day from 9:20 to 16:40 and starts every 20 minutes.
The entire tour takes about 60 minutes to complete. It is recommended you make reservations. Drop-in’s are fine too, but some waiting may be required. The best part of tour is when it is finish! Adults can receive a free glass of freshly brewed Orion Beer on location inside the factory’s restaurant.
Call for reservations at 0980-54-4103. Reservations made in English can be made on their website at https://www.orionbeer.co.jp/brewerytour_en/
Yonar’s is a Market Place located in Toyosaki of Tomigusuku City. Here you can find local produce such as jams, vegetable fried chips, dressings, juices etc. Shikwasa’s, an Okinawan citrus, are one of the main produces being sold at the market. Free taste tests are available on tap and it’s worth trying because of its unique flavor.
Though not a big factory, you can still observe their production assembly inside the building. A restaurant is also on location where you can try local Okinawan dishes. No need to make reservation, just drop in. Phone number is 098-850-8953. Address is 3-84 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku City.