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Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's almost 2011 the year of the Rabbit

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, which begins officially on February 3, 2011 and ends on January 22, 2012. The Rabbit is the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animals signs. The Rabbit is a lucky sign. Rabbits are private individuals and a bit introverted. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are reasonably friendly individuals who enjoy the company of a group of good friends. They are good teachers, counselors and communicators, but also need their own space.

According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. It is a time for negotiation. Don't try to force issues, because if you do you will ultimately fail. To gain the greatest benefits from this time, focus on home, family, security, diplomacy, and your relationships with women and children. Make it a goal to create a safe, peaceful lifestyle, so you will be able to calmly deal with any problem that may arise.

Okinawa of course has been greatly influenced by the Chinese culture and adopted the lunar calendar long ago. Here is a video I found on the Okinawa Times Youtube site about a couple, Miyagi Morio (32) Kyoko (35) his wife, who live in Okinawa and make traditional Bingata animals each year to symbolize the year of the Chinese zodiac. The video is actually from December 15, 2010. The couples bingata workshop is called the "Red Mamoru" and is located in Itoman. Every year the couple produces thirty palm-sized stuffed animals made from traditional bingata cloth which are filled with salt. The unique pattern of the Bingata's colorful design gives the amulets depth, texture and expresses the loveliness of the zodiac rabbit. This year the couple worked extra hard on their creations which sold out in just 40 minutes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kumiodori 組踊 "Child 敵討 two" Performed July 19th 2010

Kumiodori is a Japanese performing art found in the Okinawa islands. It is based upon traditional Okinawan music and dance, but also incorporates elements from mainland Japan, such as Nogaku or Kabuki, as well as from China. Kumiodori dramas recount local historical events or legends, accompanied by a traditional three-stringed instrument called the Sanshin. The phrases have a particular rhythm, based upon traditional poetry and the distinctive intonation of the Ryukyu scale, and are performed in the ancient language of Okinawa, Uchinaguchi. The physical movements of the performers evoke those of a pythoness at traditional rituals of ancient Okinawa. All parts were originally performed by male actors, but in modern times are also played by women. Techniques unique to Okinawa can be seen in the methods of hair-dressing, costumes and decorations used on stage. There is a need to strengthen transmission motivated Kumiodori performers to establish a Traditional Kumiodori Preservation Society, which trains performers, revives discontinued dramas, and carries out performances on a regular basis. In addition to classical works that emphasize themes of loyalty and filial duty, new dramas have been produced with modern themes and choreography that still retain the traditional Kumiodori style. Kumiodori plays a central role in preserving ancient Okinawan vocabulary as well as transmitting literature, performing arts, history and ethics.


組踊 "Child 敵討 two" was performed November 19th 2010 at the Okinawa National Theater. It has now been added as one of UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage performances relating to the Ryukyuan culture. I found this by accident and thought it was so wonderful that I had to add it to the blog. The first video is an introductory to the four parts of the play. The following four videos are of the performance itself. I believe this is a story of revenge by two sisters that leads to assassination. If anyone can comment as to the storyline please do so to help everyone better understand, myself included. Thanks for looking and I hope you enjoy them.

Michihiko's warm-up for us a Kakazu.

組踊「二童敵討」の前説です。沖縄の伝統芸能「組踊」は2010年11月16日、ユネ­スコの無形文化遺産に登録されました。舞台は3日後の19日に国立劇場おきなわで行わ­れたもので、嘉数道彦さんが前説をしてくれました。

The Kumiodori Nidou Tekiuchi Scene 1

2010年11月19日、国立劇場おきなわ。生徒のための組踊鑑賞教室。組踊「二童敵­討」①阿麻和利登場

The Kumiodori Nidou Tekiuchi Scene 2

2010年11月19日、国立劇場おきなわ。生徒のための組踊鑑賞教室。組踊「二童敵­討」②父の敵討ちを決意した鶴松、亀千代と、母親の別れのシーンです。


The Kumiodori Nidou Tekiuchi Scene 3

いよいよクライマックス! 組踊「二童敵討」③野遊びと敵討ちのシーンの前半です。

The Kumiodori Nidou Tekiuchi Scene 4

組踊「二童敵討」③野遊びと敵討ち後半です。

I would like to thank the Okinawa Times for posting this on You Tube!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ishiganto

While driving or walking through many of the tiny streets on Okinawa, you may notice a small, carved stone or placard set in walls outside many homes. Placed in discreet locations, these small objects -- called ishiganto -- are believed to ward off evil spirits. They are always positioned in the corner of a forked road or at the head of a T-shaped intersection due to the belief that if a spirit finds a house at an intersection, it is more inclined to enter the house than to make a turn. Because of the many winding roads on Okinawa, ishiganto turn up almost everywhere.


Ishiganto originated in eighth-century China and were brought to Okinawa sometime during the 15th century. Chinese legend has it that there was once a heroic man named Ishiganto who stood up to evil. Many people would often write his name in stone where their houses were located at intersections to ward off evil spirits. This tradition was carried on, and you can now find ishiganto on many streets on Okinawa.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grits & Sushi Blog Project

The Okinawa I imagined was scarred.  I imagined my mother as a child walking through a war torn place, over the dead bodies she saw during the bloody battle of Okinawa in WWII.  I recreated the nightmares she might have had.  (I never forget, those dead bodies. I never forget the sound of the planes flying above us, screaming, the Japanese soldiers pointing their guns at us, the doo doo smell in the caves where we hid from the Americans…)

These are powerful memories taken from a blog authored by one of my newest hafu Afro-Okinawan friends Mitzi Uehara Carter. She is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Dept at the University of California Berkeley. She is currently working on her dissertation which is on the the US military in Okinawa--mapping race, military diaspora/culture in Okinawa.

She is also working on a side project, helping her mother to form a network of Okinawan women now living in the US who are/were married or in long-term relationships with Black men. The goal is to unite these women who may, like her mother, feel socially stigmatized by other Okinawans or Japanese for being in relationships with black men. Many of these women, especially of my mother's generation do not attend Kenjinkai meetings because they feel somewhat like outcasts. For those who feel comfortable, we hope they will share their stories (anonymously or not) to be documented into a booklet to be distributed to the other women in the network.

Here are some movies she writes about on her blog. Please visit Grits & Sushi to see what she has to say about them.



Seven courageous women who live alongside US bases from South Korea to Puerto Rico challenge the assumption that military bases make them safe, and advance alternative ideas of peace and security.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Okinawan Family Ties

I have a friend named Kay who is in Okinawa studying at Ryukyu University. She is an awesome person and understands that her heritage is a very special thing. She recently posted to her blog a story about visiting her relatives on her mothers side. Here is the story.

Matsuda is my grandma's brothers and sisters, and they are absolutely AWESOME. My perception on senior citizens have morphed thanks to all my relatives. No longer will I look at a 70 year old and call them 'old' now, since my 70-year old relatives refer to the phrase, 'when I get old,' in their speech, and point to their 90-year old relatives and call them 'old.' haha.

My grandma was supposed to make it back to Okinawa for her oldest sister's (Oba) 88th birthday in 2009. However, grandma passed away a year before that day came around.

Today I went to Hokubu to meet Oba. She was involved in a car accident this April and has been in the hospital ever since. Next year, she will be 90 years old. Up until the car crash, she was apparently a typical, genki obasan; making friends with whoever was lucky to walk into her life.

However, since April, she has been hooked up to ivy lines, and has to be fed through her nose via a tube. She isn't able to speak; and sleep and lying in her bed pan has turned into her daily routine.

My other relatives hesitated to take me to visit her at first since her comprehensive abilities have slowly sunken as well. They were worried that even if I met her, she wouldn't understand that I am her sister's granddaughter. However, I persisted that I've made it this far to Okinawa, and she's family, so I should see her. They agreed.

We went during lunch time, so all the patients were gathered in the common area and performing exercises (including a modified version of kachashii) before their meals were served. My great aunt was in the corner, unable to move. She didn't look like she was in good condition at all, and I was nervous as to what I should say or if she indeed would not understand who I was.

I walked over with Sakai ねーねー (my mom's cousin), and Kenhachi ojisan and obasan. Sakai ねーねー kneeled down to oba's ear, and with a shout-like whisper told oba that I was Kazuko's (my grandma) granddaughter, Kay.

I looked into her eyes and no sign of apprehension was visible. But then, Sakai ねーねーgrabbed my hand and placed into Oba's hand. Oba kept looking in my eyes this whole time. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, something in the atmosphere triggered something in our consciousness, and we both started welling up with tears.

Oba wasn't able to speak because she was physically impaired. I wasn't able to speak because I was consumed by the moment and was helpless to do anything else but feel the spiritual connection with Oba, with my grandma, with myself, and with the soul essence of what it means to be human.

We stayed like that for a while. I showed Oba pictures of grandma and my mom. She was struggling against her limits to try and talk, and kept trying to unplug the tubes attached to her face. Sakai ねーねー had to stop her and place her hands in a mitten and tie it to the armrest precisely for that reason. Oba laughed with her eyes.

Apparently my grandma talked about me a lot and would bring pictures and news articles of me whenever she would visit Okinawa. She kept telling everyone that one day she'll come back to visit Okinawa with me.

I think that one day was yesterday.

After I showed Oba the pictures, she looked beyond to a point not existent in that room. She was not in that room, and that clock on the wall could not define where in time she was either. She was dreaming with her eyes open to a place and time which details I do not know. However, which feelings I was connected with.



I swear I almost cried when I read this story. I thought to myself, What a wonderful connection she was able to make. We should all try to live up to the standard she sets.

Please visit Kay's blog


Friday, November 5, 2010

Okinawan Uta - The Shaman Women of Okinawa

Women were at the pinnacle of spiritual life in the Ryukyu Kingdom, today's Okinawa. Kings once isolated noro priestesses. They were prized as top advisors because people believed they could communicate with the gods. That tradition lives on with the Yuta. These modern-day seers dole out personal advice to ordinary people - for a fee!


Local Okinawan religion is presided over by women and incorporates elements of shamanism and animism. Okinawa is the home of noseless yuta shaman. The defect is interpreted as a kind of stigmata. Shamanism is based on animistic folk religions. In the case of itako, they believe in a number of gods from various different beliefs, such as animism, Buddhism and Shinto. Rather than simply mixing these beliefs, they superimpose later religions on top of existing ones, enabling long-running beliefs and gods to maintain strong identities.

During an initiation ceremony, each itako will come into contact with the gods that will possess them. They will also learn which god is most powerful in a variety of different circumstances.

The difference between priests and shamans lies in the fact that shamans go into a trance while priests simply ask the gods for mercy. Priests often come from privileged backgrounds while shamans are generally lower-class people or social outcasts.

Before Buddhism and Confucianism entered Japan, various emperors made use of the services of shamans. But as doctrinal religions were introduced, animism became vilified as the superstition and heresy of primitive culture. A similar trend can be seen in most civilizations around the world, in which folk religions are eliminated by institutional religions such as Buddhism, Christianity or Islam.

Eventually, the religious rituals once performed by female shamans in Japan in ancient times were taken over by men of later, more sophisticated religions.

Shamanism can help make up for weaknesses of modern culture by providing relief for people in extreme suffering and pain, making fuller use of people's daily lives and keeping society and culture intact. Shamanism fills some of the spaces left open by modern rationalism and science.

This video above was originally shown on the Washington Post web video site. I have placed it here to inform others about Okinawa by means of internet mining videos pertaining to the people and culture of the island of Okinawa. I would like to thank the creators of this video and have included the name of the reporters at the end of the video.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Okinawan Karate Hidden in Dance

Did you know that Okinawan Classical Dance incorporates Karate movements into the dances? Well incorporated into the Classical Young Mens dances were often hidden Karate movements. Behind the movements lurk turbulent amorous passions; and young mens dances' called Nisai Odori, especially express a vigorous masculine quality to them by incorporating gestures from Okinawan Karate.

During the royal age of the Ryukyu kingdom dances were performed exclusively by male members of the nobility, following the first florescence of aristocratic culture during the sixteenth century. The Ryukyuan arts developed a more introspective side in the wake of the Satsuma invasion of 1609 and the subsequent domination of the Ryukyu islands by Satsuma. Satsuma would not allow the Ryukyu people to be armed so they hid their Karate movements into the dance.
The period of domination by Satsuma saw the Ryukyu Kingdom obligated to dispatch frequent ambassadorial parties to the Satsuma capital of Kagoshima and the Japanese capital of Edo on official and ceremonial business. These parties would contain envoys that would perform cultural dance to enhance the relationship with the Japanese. These envoys were also body guards trained in hand to hand martial arts with the movements they used hidden in the dance.

Today, I am presenting a film of the Traditional dance Hamachidori for you to see the actual presentation of this wonderful dance. The second film I have placed here will show a comparison of the hand movements contained within the dance and the Karate movements associated with the movement.


Hamachidori's theme is the desolation of travel and the image which runs through it is that of a bird known as the beach plover. The dancers wear costumes decorated with kasuri patterns on dark blue backgrounds and held firm without an obi in the Ryukyuan ushinchi style, whereby the kimono neckband is tucked into the belt of the undergarment. Long purple headbands trail from the dancers chignons. A feature of Hamachidori is its incorporation of flowing hand movements as used in the dances of Okinawan priestesses during religious ceremonies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Foreigners that are into Okinawan Culture

How do you feel about foreigners that are very much into Okinawan culture? Do you consider them talented or some sort of misfit trying to horn in on another countries culture? Recently, I have been thinking about how other people may view Americans who are neck deep into the culture of the Okinawan people. I imagine that there are quite a few people out there that think of us as nerds or geeks for becoming involved in a culture so different from own. This is why I believe they are wrong.

A close friend of mine recently stopped participating in our Kenjinkai's sanshin group after I wrote a blog entry about me learning to play sanshin. The title of the story was "Gaijin on a Sanshin." This friend of mine took offense to the title and I believe took it a little too personal, as if the story were written about him. It probably didn't help matters either that we both have the first name Tom.

Some people take offense to the word gaijin as if it were a derogatory term used to describe people in a less than conservative light. They believe the word can be construed as being bigoted much in the way coco-jin is. Literally translated the word coco-jin means a black foreigner in Japanese. Most Americans however can probably imagine a similar bigoted term which paints the person it is directed at in prejudiced manner. I don't believe the word gaijin was originally meant to be a derogatory word to the Okinawan people but through interpretation has become so to some in today's modern society.

I am saddened by the loss of our good friend to the sanshin group. He was of a superior level and could sing in Okinawan dialect using an uncanny ability to hit the right tones and inflections. I would consider him to be on a professional tier as sanshin players go. He had performed several times in Okinawa on both the stage and radio. He expressed his despair to me that he would never be accepted as a professional in the eyes of many and felt they only viewed him as a trained animal act capable of mimicking what he was taught.

I could understand his point of view because, I remember as a young airman serving in Okinawa in the early 1980's, we would go to clubs like the Cannon Live House on BC Street where we could hear Japanese rock bands belt out tunes by Led Zeppelin and other popular rock groups of our day. The bands sounded exactly like the albums we had sitting back in our rooms but when you went up to the musicians after the show many of them actually spoke very little English.

I believe my friend was mistaken about how people percieved him as a sanshin player though. He was very popular and everyone who knew him in his capacity as a sanshin player misses being able to hear him play. There are many Gaijins out there who have some talent in the Okinawan arts. Usually it is because we fell in love with the culture through being stationed there or through our wives connection to their native culture. There is no shame in doing your best at anything.

Here are some other friends I have who love Okinawan Culture as much or more than I do. Oh yeah they are talented too!



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Memories of Nights out in Okinawa

My blogger friend Kat posted a link the other day about the band Condition Green. That post brought back memories of a wonderful time as I experienced my 20's whilw living in Okinawa Japan. I remember going to see them on the corner of Gate two street and Moromi just outside Kadena Air Base. The band came up through the 1970's and some of them are still plaing today in a place on gate two street called Jack Nasty's. They put on a wonderful show and still attract young american GI's with their now classic Rock N Roll. Here are some videos and pictures for those of you who like myself were fortunate enough to have been in the right place at the right time.







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Yes that is Habu Sake he's Drinking


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Sugar" an Art Exhibition by Uchinanchu Artist Laura Kina

Laura Kina received her MFA Studio Art from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is an Associate Professor of Art, Media, and Design and distinguished Vincent de Paul Professor at DePaul University. Born in Riverside, California to an Okinawan father from Hawaii and a Spanish-Basque/Anglo mother, Kina was raised in a small Norwegian town in the Pacific Northwest. The artist currently lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. Her work has shown nationally and internationally, most recently in New Delhi and Mumbai, India, and is represented in Miami, FL by Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts.     

Laura Kina "Cane Fire" Oil on canvas 30 x 45 in. 2010
   About the Work

Set during the 1920’s-1940’s, Laura Kina’s SUGAR paintings recall obake ghost stories and feature Japanese and Okinawan picture brides turned machete carrying sugar cane plantation field laborers on the Big Island of Hawaii. Drawing on oral history and family photographs from Nisei (2nd generation) and Sansei (3rd generation) from Peepekeo, Pi’ihonua, and Hakalau plantation community members as well as historic images, Kina’s paintings take us into a beautiful yet grueling world of manual labor, cane field fires, and flumes.
Laura Kina "Oban" Oil on canvas 30 x 45 in. 2010

Kasuri (2010) oil on wood panel 30 x 45 inches
Laura Kina "Okinawan Tattoo #1" Oil on wood panel 12 x 12 in. 2010


The exhibition starts Friday at the Woman Made Gallery. Please remember this is a great opportunity to view Uchinanchu Art right here in our hometown. Online viewing does not equal the experience of visiting the Woman Made Gallery in-person so I urge each and every one of you to visit the display to view the actual artwork on display. However, If you can't attend Woman Made Gallery has posted some of the works on their website to share with supporters from all around the world these artistic expressions.

Woman Made Gallery

685 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chicago, IL 60642-8000

Phone: (312) 738-0400

Fax: (312) 738-0404



September 10 - October 28, 2010

Gallery Hours:

Wed., Thurs., Fri. noon to 7pm

Sat. & Sun. noon to 4pm

For more information visit www.laurakina.com


I hope to visit on Friday evening. Maybe I will see you there!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remember When?

I have seen many photos of Okinawa but have found that the older pictures of life in the Ryukyu islands are not so easy to come by. Recently I received a correspondence from a fellow who has apparently been working very hard gathering pictures from back in the day. His name is Donn Cuson and his web site is called Remembering Okinawa. If you go there you will find a wonderful collection of old pictures of a simplier time in Okinawa. His photo's cover the time between 1945 to 1972. He has some other things also like old post cards and a couple of movies. I believe its worth a few minutes of your time to check them out but be warned once you start looking you may be there for a while remembering Okinawa.




Monday, August 23, 2010

Okinawa Has Waterspouts?

Today I opened my Browser to find a story on the Yahoo mainpage about waterspouts that occurred on the 21st in Yomitan Okinawa. A photographer captured this picture of the spout.


Here is the story as taken from the Japan Update Web Site.

Waterspout Shows Power Off Yomitan Coast
A thunderstorm sweeping across Okinawa’s west-central coast Wednesday afternoon provided an impressive exhibition for those looking to the water near Yomitan. A waterspout wound its way down from the dark storm cells, dancing its way along the water and approaching within a few hundred meters of the coastline. Fair weather waterspouts formed over water due to warm temperatures and high humidity are generally not as dangerous as tornadic waterspouts that continue over land. Photo by Jeremy Goins.
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I looked online for references to waterspouts occurring in Okinawa and found that while rare they are not uncommon in the watm waters around Okinawa.
Here is a short video of one near Henoko.

 
A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water and is connected to a cumuliform cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water. While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur. Waterspouts do not suck up water, the water seen in the main funnel cloud is actually water droplets formed by condensation. While many waterspouts form in the tropics, locations at higher latitude within temperate zones also report waterspouts, such as Europe and the Great Lakes. Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snow precipitation bands. Waterspouts have a five-part life cycle: formation of a dark spot on the water surface, spiral pattern on the water surface, formation of a spray ring, development of the visible condensation funnel, and ultimately decay.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goya Recipes! Bitter Melon on Your Plate.

Okay as promised here are several Goya recipes for all cooking types out there. Goya Champuru is a staple food during the islands long hot summers. Grown as a fruit but used as a vegetable, the Bitter Melon is actually a member of the squash family. Resembling a long, bumpy cucumber, Bitter Melon can be found in Asian and East Indian cooking. From 5-12 inches in length, the grooved yellow-green to dark green skin of the Bitter Melon gives way to a fibrous, seed-filled core. Its slightly sour flavor becomes quite bitter upon ripening. This bitter or quinine flavor (a bitter alkaloid) is often combined with garlic or chile. Once thought to contain medicinal qualities, in some parts of China, Bitter Melon is still used to purify the blood and cool the digestive system. Bitter Melon can be stuffed, curried or pickled. Choose melons that are still green for optimal bitterness. They can be stored loose in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Goya Champuru - 1

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Goya Bitter Melon

  • Sea Salt

  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil

  • 1 block of firm or extra firm Tofu - Drained and cubed into 1/2" squares

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 lb cooked Pork or Spam thinly sliced

  • 1 Tbs. Soy sauce

  • 1 tsp. Hondashi or Konbudashi - Granulated Bonito Stock
Directions

Wash and cut Goya in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut Goya into thin slices so they look like small cresent moons. Sprinkle salt over the goya in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or more. The salt helps draw moisture from the fruit. Wash the fruit in a strainer under running water. Next squeeze the moisture out of the goya allowing the juice to be removed. This will remove some of the bitterness of the goya. Place the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan and bring the temprature up to high. Saute' the tufu until it browns and set it to the side. Add more oil to the same pan and saute' the goya. Once the goya reaches the desired degree of cooking (crisp or vell cooked) add the beaten eggs and stir fry for a few minutes. near the end add the tofu you prepared, meat, soy sauce, and hondashi. Mix well being careful not to break up the tofu too much. Serve warm and enjoy.
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Goya Champuru - 2

Ingredients




  • 1/2 block Organic Tofu (use Firm Tofu)

  • 1 whole Bitter Melon

  • 1/2 whole Onion

  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil

  • 1/3 can Tuna

  • 1/3 cup Bonito Flakes

  • Sea Salt to taste

  • Soy Sauce to taste

  • 1 whole Egg beaten
Directions

Drain tofu and pat dry, squeezing out some of moisture. Cut bitter melon lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into ¼-inch slices or thinner. Slice onion thinly.

Heat oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat. Break tofu into pieces by hand and add to frying pan. Fry until lightly browned. Add bitter melon and onion and toss with tofu. Add tuna and bonito flakes and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add beaten egg and soy sauce and stir. Cook until eggs are set.
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A Funny Video of Cooking Goya Champuru
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Tom & Nozomi's Goya Champuru Variations

The recipe above is a basic recipe for Goya champuru. The word champuru translated however means "Mix" and there are many variations to what can be combined in the dish. The important part is that you like the taste of what you end up with in the end.

Nozomi recommends adding sweet onions like vidalias. Cut the onion cut into cresents and sweet carrots cut into long julian cuts. The carrots and onion will add sweetness to the stirfry and weaken the bitterness of the goya.

Tom likes to add 2 Tbs. of awamori or saki instead of adding the Hondashi. This eliminates the MSG factor and increases the healthyness of the dish.

Prepared pork for stir fry - Use lean pork loin. Place loin slices into a quart size ziplock bag. Grate 2 tsp. of fresh Ginger into the bag. Add 2 Tbs. saki, 1 Tbs. Sugar, 2 Tbs. Soy Sauce, and 1 Tbs. Mirin (Optional) then seal the bag carefully removing as much of the air as possible before sealing. Mix throughly for 3 - 5 minutes and then let sit in the refridgerator for at least 30 minutes. Fry in a hot pan after marinade. Discard the excess marinade. Cut pork into strips and set aside to add to goya champuru.
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Beef & Bitter Melon Stir Fry

Ingredients




  • 1 pound Bitter Melon

  • 1 tablespoon Peanut Oil

  • 3 cloves Organic Garlic coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 pound Flank Steak cut into stir fry strips 

  • 2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

  • 1 teaspoon Salt

  • 1 teaspoon Sugar

  • 3 tablespoons Chicken Stock or Water

  • 2 tablespoons Dark Sesame Oil
Directions



Slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and finely chop the melon. Blanch the bitter melon in boiling water for 2 minutes and drain thoroughly. Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and the garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, bitter melon, and stock, and stir-fry for another 4 minutes, or until the beef is cooked. Stir in the sesame oil, turn onto a serving platter, and serve.
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Goya Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Goya (Bitter Melon)

  • 1 large Chicken Breast

  • 1/4 cup Sake

  • 2 oz thinly sliced Carrots

  • 1 stalk thinly sliced Celery

  • 1 tsp. Sea salt

  • Pinch of Black Pepper

  • 6 Tbs. Olive Oil

  • 4 Tbs. Vinegar

  • 1 Tbs. Grated Onion

  • 1 Tbs. Tomatoe Ketchup
Soak thin sliced goya in ice water for five minutes. Use younger smaller Goya if available to decrease the bitterness. drain well after soaking. Marinade Chicken with Sake & salt in a zip lock bag for 30 minutes. After marinade steam the chicken until thoroughly cooked. Set it aside and allow it to cool. When cool prepare for salad by shredding it by hand. Make the dressing by combining oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, onion, and ketchup in a bowl. The final step is to mix all of the remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl until throughly mixed. This should be done when all ingriedients are cool. Enjoy this refreshing salad.
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 Here are some links to recipes from around the world using Bitter Melon
 


Friday, August 13, 2010

Orion Draft Beer - It's from OKINAWA!

When exploring Okinawa, it's hard not to notice the word Orion, whether it's seen on an advertisement, outside a business or on a T-shirt. After spending any length of time on the island, it becomes apparent that Orion is Okinawa's beer of choice. I particularly like the stuff and think of it as the Miller High Life of the orient.


Orion Breweries Ltd. was founded in May 1957 in Nago City as beer's popularity grew in the region during the post-war economic boom and the construction of U.S. military bases. The boom led to more jobs and higher wages, making the drink affordable for most Okinawans.

Orion, pronounced or-ee-on, unlike the constellation, prides itself on the freshness of its beer. The beer, which is specifically designed to suit the island's hot and humid climate, is made from malt and hops imported from Germany and the Czech Republic and then ripened under a strictly controlled process. The brewery's location in Nago was selected for its proximity to a fresh water source.


Orion's beer production is divided into a six-stage process. The series of steps are as follows: ingredients stage, mashing, fermentation process, filtration, bottling and canning, and quality inspection. Beer enthusiasts can witness the entire process by taking a tour of the brewery.



Brewery tours are available to the public for free everyday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 12 to 4 p.m. The brewery is closed Sundays and national holidays. The brewery is also closed from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3rd for the New Year.

A guide escorts groups on a 30-minute tour where patrons can view the entire brewing process. On the tour, visitors can watch beer go through each step as the tour guide explains what is happening. There is also a short video on the assembly line process and a beer tasting. Soft drinks are available to those who don't drink or are driving. There is also an Orion gift shop in the guest hall.

We visited in December so we had our jackets. Here we
are sampling a free beer at the end of the tour.
To schedule an English tour, call the brewery at 098-052-2136.



Here is a Video Review that My friend James Knott put together. He does beer reviews from all over but I found this on especially interesting.


 
Orion is Okinawa's top selling beer, and one of the top five in all Japan. Orion also has international distributors in Taiwan, Hawaii, California and New York. Orion is fondly known among Okinawans as the "beer of beers." Additional information about the factory is available at: The Orion Beer Website
Orion is a pilsner-style lager, which is distinct because of its use of Saaz. Saaz is a variety of hop found in the Czech Republic and the Hallertau region of Bavaria, Germany, which gives pilsners a stronger hop flavor than most lagers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bitter Melon / Gourd (also known as Momordica Charantia)

What is Goya? (Bitter Melon)
Goya is one of the most famous vegetables used in Okinawan cuisine. It is the key ingredient in goya champuru a signature dish in Okinawa which embodies the very essence of the Okinawan diet. Normally composed of stir fried goya, tofu and eggs, Goya champuru can include a variety of other vegetables and even meat. The dish is well known for its health aspects due to its high vitamin and anti-oxidant content. However, It is also known for its bitter taste so proper preparation is a must when using this vegetable for cooking. 
Goya Fruit
My wife and I have been growing goya bitter melon in our backyard garden for several years now here in Wisconsin with varying success. The vegetable requires at least 90 days of hot weather to produce a quality gourd. So with our northern climate having both hot and cool summers we have had mixed results from year to year.

The English names for the plant and its fruit include bitter melon or bitter gourd. In China it is known as pinyin or kugua. The Philippines calls it Ampalaya and in Japan it is called Goya and in India it is known as Karela. It can also be found in South America and the Caribbean where its also known as Balsamino or Saraseed.


The varieties will vary between locations due to different growing conditions and mutations of the plant. Colors range from very light almost pastel green to the richest deep green you can imagine. Our plants were looking a bit on the yellow side until I discovered that the soil here in Wisconsin is iron deficient in many areas. I added an iron supplement from our local gardening center and now our plants are a deep rich green.

The plant itself is a tropical climbing vine with delicate yellow flowers and tender, deeply lobed leaves. They love all the sun and humidity they can get and require regular watering. We grow them using a trellis that is built into our fence and it works well. I built it so once the vine reaches the point it wants to go over the top of the fence we can move it to an angled trellis where the fruit can hang beneath the large green foliage.

Its oval and long, textured green fruits are as crunchy as a cucumber  but extremely bitter to the taste buds. They are known for their medicinal properties, the bitter melon is easy to grow and cultivate, even in the backyard.






Step 1
Prepare a garden site that has good rich soil with lots of compost worked into it. Bitter melons can be a host to fungal diseases, so it helps to keep the ground surface dry. Place a strong trellis or support system into the ground that will allow the bitter melon to grow about 6 feet high. Augment the garden soil with compost or dried manure. Add iron suplement to sweeten the soil if you live in an area like us with moderate iron levels in the soil. This will promote that bright green tone in the fruit and leaves of the plants. Bitter melon prefers soil that is rich but drains well. Make sure the location receives six to eight hours of sunlight every day.
Step 2
Purchase your seeds from a reputable seller. They have been distributed in other countries for centuries but have not been as available in the United States. Thanks to the Internet, bitter melon seeds can now be easily ordered online. I would recommend someone like Kitazawa Seed company which deals in Oriental vegetable seeds.
 Harvest the fruits within two weeks after the flowers open. Young fruits ready for harvest are bright green, firm, juicy and crunchy. Fruits become more bitter and spongy as they mature.
Single Climbing Vine
Step 3
Germinate the seeds by soaking them in water for 24 to 48 hours or until they swell up. Peel off the outer coating with a sharp paring knife and plant the seed about 3/4 of an inch deep into moist potting soil. Keep the soil most until a green shoot or cotelydon pops through the soil, which should take about five to seven days.

Young Plant After Transplanting
Step 4
Transplant the plant once it has grown at least two real leaves and when the temperature outside has reached an average of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In our area we plant between mothers day and memorial day when the threat of frost has diminished. Do not disturb the soil around the roots when transplanting it, if at all possible. Place the plant into a hole the same size as the dirt ball. Gently pat the plant into the soil. Ideal spacing between plants is around 2 feet apart along a row to allow sunlight to reach the lower branches.

Our Plants Between Spring Peas
Step 5
Water the bitter melon vine in the mornings until the vines are well established. This will allow the heat of the day to dry the soil after watering. Another technique used in growing gourds and cucumbers is to place straw or hay around the base of the plant. This will help retain moisture in the soil without the vine resting in damp conditions.



Fruit hanging from Trellis
Step 6
Train the vine to grow up your support system, using cotton string or plant ties if necessary. The vines will have small grabber shoots that will come out of the vine and grab on so if you mind the plants as they grow training your plants should be easy. Just move your vines without breaking off the grabbers and they will grab on by the end of the day to where you put them. The fruits will grow straight if they are hanging as opposed to laying on the ground. You can prune overreaching or wayward growths on the vines to control the shape of the plant and encourage development of new stems, which will bear more fruits. Typically the growing time for melons is 80 to 90 days, but it may vary for your area and growing conditions.
Trained Vines on the Trellis
Step 7
Allow some fruits to over ripen. Once they have turned yellow harvest their seeds for the next crop. This should save you some money the following year.






This One Got A Bit Too Ripe

Here is a little bit about the Health benefits of eating bitter melon.

Bitter Melon helps support healthy blood sugar levels with compounds called charantin and momordicin.
Bitter Melon helps achieve positive sugar regulating effect by suppressing the neural response to sweet taste stimuli.

Compounds present in Bitter Melon, such as vicine, peptides, and polypeptide-p (plant insulin), work together to give Bitter Melon its potency.

Bitter Melon helps maintain a normal level of triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver and blood.

Several clinical trials have shown that bitter melon extract and juice lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It contains several phytochemicals that appear to act in ways similar to sulfonyurea drugs, without the side effects. If you are taking medication for your blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor before trying the fruit, and keep a close eye on your blood sugar. The easiest place to find bitter melon is an Asian food market. Bitter melon can be taken in whole fruit form or as a momordica extract, tincture, or juice. 



Well that is it for today. I will follow up tomorrow with some receipes for cooking Goya Bitter Melon. I hope this has inspired some of you to try it.