Recommended: Ryukyu Confectionery Shops

I realize most foreigners are more interested in strange KitKat flavors than traditional confections, but for those who would like a true flavor of the Ryukyu Kingdom (you know, besides westernized beniimo tarts), here are some must-try places.

Ryukyu sweets are quite different from Japanese sweets, and are probably more similar to Chinese sweets since they were mostly developed to entertain the Chinese envoys when they visited the Ryukyu Royal Court. Most of these traditional confectionaries are centered around Shuri and Naha.

  1. Jahana Kippan: The Jahana family has been creating 2 types of traditional sweets for a long time; tougatsuke and kippan. These are exquisite and I cannot recommend them enough.
  2. Arakaki Kami, Arakaki Honpo and Arakaki Honke: these 3 shops are all descendants of the same ancestor, hence their similarities. But they are all 3 slightly different, so it is worth a look to check them out. They carry chiinsukou and chiirunkou, and I know Honke carries hanaborou, senjukou, and tauchiichau (described in a previous post here).
  3. Matsuhara Shop, located inside Makishi Market: You can try a lot of interesting things here at this shop, from sata andagi to muuchii, and even things like machikaji and kunpen. The sata andagi comes in many flavors, like brown sugar, beniimo, and more.
  4. Zaha Confection Shop: I have made several small purchases here. It is a bit of an odd mix of western style alongside some traditional Ryukyu items.

And of course, no trip to Okinawa would be complete without trying bukubuku-cha, tea of the Ryukyu royal court. Most places serve the tea with small traditional Ryukyu accompaniments, such as chinsukou, kunpen, kuzu mochi, etc.

Some of the more common confections such as chinsukou can be purchased in regular omiyage shops, airport stores, and grocery stores– but for something special (and possibly quite unique) I recommend you check out some of the places listed above.


  1. Jahana Kippan:
  2. Arakaki Honke:
  3. Arakaki Honpo (multiple locations, this is one is on Kokusai-dori):
  4. Arakaki Kami:
  5. Matsuhara:
  6. Zaha:

Kippan: きっぱん (橘餅)

きっぱん (橘餅)kippan is a traditional Ryukyu confection. It is made from kaabuchii カーブチー citrus (also called “kunenbo” 九年母) which grows in Yanbaru (northern Okinawa). The outside skin is peeled and the entire fruit is then used. It takes 4 days to make! It was one of the 16 different kinds of fine fruits, desserts and sweets served to the Royal Court, especially when entertaining envoys from China, but eventually became available to the common people as well.

There is only one shop in Okinawa that continues the laborious process of making this luxurious confection– Jahana Kippan-ten 謝花きっぱん店. They also make tougatsuke, preserved winter melon sweets.

Anyway, these are made with no preservatives or artificial flavors. Just simply a luxurious dessert to go with tea. The flavor is deep and rich, my husband said it was reminiscent of a fruitcake with the dried preserved fruit flavor. It is recommended to be paired with a fine tea or dessert wine. The kippan does not come cheap at ~420yen per piece, but considering the care and labor that goes into making each one by hand it is worth the luxury.

Address: Okinawa, Naha, Matsuo 1-5-14

Bukubuku-cha, at home

ぶくぶく茶 bukubuku-cha: “buku buku” tea, a type of Ryukyuan foamy tea using genmai-cha 玄米茶 (toasted rice tea) and sanpin-cha さんぴん茶 (jasmine tea). I wrote about bukubuku-cha and some of the cafes where you can experience this in Okinawa here.

Today, I decided to try to make it at home, using a little packet I purchased on Kokusai-dori. It actually turned out great! What a nice omiyage (souvenir) this would make for a tea lover.


Well, when I opened it up, there were several individual little packets (green tea, sanpin tea, roasted rice, and crushed peanuts) inside, as well as a list of instructions… so I got together the things I needed: 500 mL hard water (mineral water, purchased at SanA), a whisk (or 3 chopsticks works, too), and some bowls/teacups.

Step 1 & 2: take the 500 mL of hard water and boil, add in the roasted rice, and let simmer (~medium heat) for 10-15 minutes).


Step 3: Steep the sanpin tea and green tea in 500 mL of regular hot water (nearly boiling, we have a Japanese electric water kettle). As far as time, use the strength you prefer (probably ~ 3-5 minutes).


Step 4: In a bowl, add 200 mL of the sanpin tea/green tea mixture and 100 mL of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 5: Using your bamboo whisk (or chopsticks), whisk to make foamy bubbles. As you make more bubbles, you can scoop them up and set them aside in another bowl if you desire.


Step 6: In a teacup add some of just the sanpin tea/green tea mixture from Step 3. Add just a TINY amount of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 7: Add your foam on top of the tea in the teacups and top with the crushed peanuts. Now time to enjoy… I served it with the chiirunkou I purchased yesterday. Yum, a regular Ryukyuan tea party. This package is supposedly “individual” serving, but it was just enough for my husband and I to each enjoy a cup.

**The only thing in the packages were 1) green tea (sencha 煎茶), 2) jasmine tea, 3) roasted rice (煎り米 irigome, or sometimes known as genmai 玄米 and though this can also mean brown rice, here the meaning can also be roasted rice), and 4) crushed peanuts, so if you can get these plus mineral water you can make this yourself at home by following the above instructions.

Chiirunkou: ちいるんこう (鶏卵糕)

ちいるんこう(鶏卵糕) chiirunkou is another type of traditional Ryukyuan sweet. It is like a steamed sponge cake, similar to castella カステラ. It is moist, fluffy, and delicious with that perfect hint of candied orange flavor and nuttiness from island peanuts called jimami ジーマーミ (the reddish dots are island peanuts dyed red with an orange peel sugar syrup). Like most Ryukyu sweets, this sponge cake was only consumed by nobility and royals; since eggs are a main ingredient and were scarce during the Ryukyu Kingdom era this cake was especially valued as a luxurious high-class sweet.

My husband and I both preferred the “regular” flavor to the brown sugar flavor. The brown sugar flavor was a bit heavier with a strong molasses taste, which for me did not quite fit with the sponginess of the cake. We served it with some Chinese green tea, perfect for the rainy season in Okinawa. It would also go well with bukubuku-cha, or even just plain sanpin-cha!

This particular chiirunkou came from Arakaki Kashiten 新垣菓子店 in Shuri, where I have purchased some Ryukyu sweets previously. It was sold as a half-and-half set with both cakes inside. Of course, as always, I was given ample free chinsukou cookies with my purchase. This makes a nice omiyage, as well.



Kunpen: くんぺん

くんぺん kunpen (in hiragana) is also sometimes seen as クンペン in katakana or as コンペン konpen. The representative kanji (which you probably will rarely see is 薫餅). It is another type of Okinawa sweet, one of the representative sweets from the Ryukyu Kingdom era (more Ryukyu sweets). It was often served to visiting Chinese envoys or during feast days. It is also a popular grave or shrine offering during Shiimii シーミー.

Kunpen looks plain and rustic on the outside, just a round little brown bun, but inside is full of an island peanut taste! I think this is a food that westerners can appreciate, since it kind of reminds me of peanut butter. The outside bun is a little dry and the peanut paste is sweet and rich so make sure to have some tea to drink while you eat this tasty treat. Personally I would recommend an unsweetened drink as you will get plenty of sweetness in the kunpen itself. Many bukubuku-cha cafes will serve a small piece of kunpen with the tea set.

You can find kunpen in supermarkets and some Okinawa sweets shops; it is very easy to find if you are interested in trying one. I bought the one in the picture from Zaha Kashiten in Shuri 座波菓子店. Some kunpen have sesame added in (or even other flavors as well), but this one does not– I think I prefer it that way.