We've all heard the term "Banana Republic" before. Most people associate it with the Central and South American countries of the early 20th century famous for sending all those Chiquita and Dole bananas to a super market near you. Still others associate it with a popular clothing line. So just what the hell is a "Goya Republic"?
Goya Republic, though lesser known than many of the others, is just one of the many nick names for Okinawa Japan. This little island paradise situated halfway in between Kyushu and Taiwan is also called the "Keystone of the Pacific" and "The Rock" as well as a few other less than flattering names bestowed on it by the many American Servicemen and women who've pulled a tour of duty here.
But this name needs just a little more explanation to the uninitiated. Goya is a popular product of Okinawa. In the west, it's known as "Bitter Mellon," a less than delectable, to some unpalatable, fruit that tastes just as bad if not worse than it sounds. If you've never seen one before, it looks very much like a cucumber covered with venereal warts.
But to the average Okinawan, add a little spam, "a totally unpalatable meat waste product from the U.S." and remnant from the many years the island fell under American Administration, a little tofu, some sliced onion and a few other veggies stir fried in a wok and it becomes a very tasty gourmet delight known as Goya Champuru. You might even describe the effect as being similar to the mathematical concept of two negatives making a positive.
More Goya is produced and consumed in Okinawa than all the other 46 Prefectures in Japan combined. Goya Champuru is what most Okinawan's swear by as the way to beat the summer heat here. Possessing a natural vasodilator, it helps the body to cool off from the inside out and keeps people from succumbing to a host of heat related illnesses. Goya is also loaded with vitamin C. A single Goya contains more vitamin C than what is found in six lemons.
Since Okinawans are known to live longer than people found at any other place on earth, many locals attribute their longevity to this rather foul tasting, ugly and by itself undesirable fruit. Once upon a time, only they knew of the medicinal properties of Goya. Today people across Asia are starting to look to it as a cure for a host of ailments. People have turned to the Goya for making juices, teas and a host of other medicinal products.
On Okinawa, Goya can be seen wherever you go. There is a Goya Theme Park in Nago city in the northern part of the main island. Park benches and signs resembling Goya are just about everywhere. There was even a "Goya Man" character made famous by a popular Japanese television show.
On tiny Okinawa, Goya is not only the secret to a long and healthy life, Goya is King!
Published on 7/22/08