Kumejima’s long and rich history has developed into several key industries today. As it was in the past, Kume Island’s main industry is agriculture, supported by Kumejima’s natural abundance of water. Today the main crop is sugarcane, which is processed by the local sugar factory. Sugar cane grows throughout the year and is harvested around February. During that time, you’ll see large trucks moving the harvested stalks towards the factory. Due to Kumejima’s rugged geology, much of the harvesting is still done by hand, despite modern technologies such as harvesters.
There are also many food products made from the hard work of farmers and artisans througout the island, including specially made foods and souvenirs. Below are a few items made right here on Kumejima.
Deep Sea Water
Kume Island hosts the Okinawa Prefecture Deep Sea Water Institute. Here, researchers look into the benefits of water from deep in the ocean. Today many products are made on Kumejima from the Deep Sea Water. Point Pure is a local cosmetics company producing makeup and other products based on the special properties of the water. Bade Haus uses the water for their facilities. Numerous Kuruma Ebi (striped shrimp) farms and Umi Budo (sea grape) farms also produce quality food utilizing the mineral rich waters. More recently, Kume Island has begun work on an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powerplant in coordination with its sister city Hawaii County.
Kume Island is also the home of two awamori breweries. Awamori is a kind of rice wine alcohol, a cross in taste between the sweeter mainland Japanese sake and more mellow vodkas. Awamori is a popular Okinawan drink. Kumesen is perhaps the most popular brand in all of Okinawa. Its factory, high in Kumejima’s mountains, is open for tours. The other brewer, Kumeshima, also produces popular, but less well known, variations of awamori and is located in the Gushikawa area.
Kumejima has both sport and commercial fishing facilities, bringing in GT, yellow-tail tuna, and other local fish. Kumejima is also known for its ‘Kuruma Ebi’ a type of large striped shrimp which is farmed in various places around the island. Kuruma Ebi are a popular omiyage and can be eaten raw or grilled. If you visit an ebi farm you may be able to get a taste for yourself, but they are available at many of the local restaurants as well.
Kumejima locals produce other items from the ocean as well. Every year in late spring, a seaweed known as mozuku is harvested. It is a delicious inclusion in soups, served hot over rice, or cold with summer vegetables.
Art and other Shops
Kume Island is home to many talented craftsmen and artists. Some have galleries, and others simply provide local services. Yachimun is perhaps one of the most popular pottery workshops on the island. There is a tshirt shop in the Gushikawa neighborhood
There are also a photo studio in Gushikawa neighborhood as well as one in the Higa neighborhood. Akamine Pineapple Garden has interesting artwork and crafts on display.