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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Practicing Hayashi - The Joyous calls of Okinawan Music

Only one more week until the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's 44th Annual New Years Celebration. Yesterday, I went to Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights and watched everyone practicing. Everyone was trying so hard that I believe it will be a wonderful show on Saturday.

One of the things I saw was Cyrielle and Mayumi practicing "Hayashi." Hayashi is the joyous calls performed along with the music to amp up the atmosphere during an Okinawan song. The Okinawan word for Hayashi is "Heeshi." Please Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Okinawa - Part of the Pacific Rim of Fire

Early Saturday a powerful earthquake with a believed magnitude of 6.9 rattled Okinawa and the southern islands of the Ryukyu island chain, injuring two and initially prompting fears of a tsunami.

There were no reports of serious damage however. The quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Okinawa since 1909. The Okinawan people were understandably shaken. (Pardon the Pun) A Japanese news agencies reported that two people were hurt, but that there were no reports of any deaths. The only major damage reported hours after the quake was some ruptured water pipes in two locations, according to an Okinawan police official.

The quake was centered off the coast of Okinawa at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) and occurred at 5:31 a.m. Saturday morning. (Okinawa Time)  A Meteorological Agency had initially predicted a tsunami up to 6 feet (2 meters) near the Okinawan coast and warned residents to stay away from the coastline but the agency lifted the warning within two hours after observing only a small swelling of the tide.

Here are a few comments I found from people who experienced the quake first hand.

"I was fast asleep when the quake hit, and I jumped out of bed. It felt like the shaking lasted forever," Ryota Ueno, a town official in the Nishihara district of Okinawa, told public broadcaster NHK.

Masaaki Nakasone, an official in Nanjo town, said his house shook violently but all furniture and other objects stayed intact. "First there was a vertical shaking, then the house swayed sideways."

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. As part of the Pacific Rim it has numerous Volcanoes and techtonic plates. See the graphic below. The diagram shows a remarkable fact about the surface of the Earth. Around the rim of the Pacific Ocean are many volcanoes. The rim of the Pacific Ocean also is the scene of much earthquake activity.
These volcanoes are most typically found in the regions where subduction is taking place.

The ring of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean is called the "Pacific Rim of Fire".

The diagram shown here also shows (in yellow) the boundaries of many of the Earth's surface plates.

It is these plates shifting that cause many of the earthquakes Okinawa experiences. When these plates move it can also raise or drop the floor of the ocean causing tsunamis or huge ocean waves where the entire ocean raises and spreads outward from the center of the earthquake area.

While living in Okinawa, I remember several smaller earthquakes occurring. One of them waking my wife and I by moving the bed we were sleeping in across the smooth floor of our apartment bedroom. I remember waking up and not realizing what was happening at first but the it hit me and my idea of living on a cliff with a view of  the ocean immeadiately came into question. As it turned out there was no damage and we soon calmed down.

On another occassion there was a report of an off shore quake and a tsumami warning was issued. I remember the Far East Network TV station indicating that a tsunami would be arriving within the next 45 minutes. Being the naive 25 year old that I was at the time we rushed down to the Sunabe seawall to see this wave come into the shore. Duh! We were so stupid back then. Luckily though there really wasn't much of a wave hit the island, just a long continuous wave about four feet high with not much impact once it made the shoreline. Good thing or you may not have been able to read my blog today.

That's it for today see you all tomorrow! Stay Safe.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Fabric of Their Lives

Today I was contacted by a young lady that is totally onboard with what I am trying to accomplish through this blog. Her name is Elisa Rocket. She is a Filipino American and in Okinawa researching music and teaching English with her cousin. They have provided me a break today by providing one of their stories about Bashofu textiles. My week has been a little bit to busy to keep up with everything as I had to attend training this week and it threw off my normal routine. Anyway here is their article. They did a very good job of reporting about an ancient Ryukyu folkcraft.
Today we went to the small northern town of Kijoka, which is renowned for the production of bashofu textiles. This 8-century-old art form is now preserved by some badass octogenarian women who still create this unique cloth without mechanical aide (minus a simple loom). It’s a collaborative process between a whole community of women, and it starts with these banana (basho) trees. The fibers from the trunks are stripped and separated into coarse threads.

The fibers get boiled down in special solutions of wood ash, rice gruel and awamori (Okinawan sake). Below they are dyed with Okinawan indigo grass, but most are kept the natural brown.

Weaving into designs like this is a very tedious task. In one year, a single woman could produce only enough cloth for three kimonos. It’s no wonder the Japanese government deemed bashofu an “Important Intangible Cultural Property.” I did wonder, though, how so many people are motivated to put so much time and manual labor into such a small (albeit beautiful) end product.

But this celebrated folk art, just like Okinawa’s folk music, reflects a sense of communal functionality and cooperation. I figure as long as you’ve got good company, you could dedicate yourself to anything — especially if it’s preserving a cultural tradition.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sabani in Okinawa. Clues to Okinawa's past?

One way of identifying where the original people of Okinawa came from is by identifying ancient Sabani boats that have been found in the Ryukyu Island chain. The boats can be identified by design and materials as to where they originated in most cases providing us with clues as to where the first indigenous people of the Ryukyus came from. Pictured here are some Sabani that are on display on Ishigaki island. The two boats to the right have been identified as coming from the Philippine islands and the second one from the left on top from is from Indonesia. The one to the far left on top has yet to be identified.

Whether the sabani is a "canoe" or not is debatable. On the pro side of the argument, it clearly evolved from a dugout canoe. The bottom is a massive cedar dugout, to which one side strake is added on each side (plus small partial strakes to raise the freeboard at the bow and stern. Note the sabani on the right really resemble a canoe where as the ones on the bottom are much more complex in design an much larger than a canoe in many instances. If you search the marinas of Okinawa you will come across sabani still being used as fishing vessels as in this picture taken in Naha.

The theory is that the original indigenous people of the Ryukyus were carried there by the ocean currents in this type of sabani canoe. In 2007 my wife and I visited Hawaii and as part of our trip stopped off at the Plantation Village in Waipahu. They have many artifacts there regarding immigrants to the Hawaiian islands. Our guide just happened to be a Japanese Hawaiian and he gave his interpretation of where the indigenous people of Okinawa came from in the following video.

I'm not really sure if his version is correct or not but it does seem like there is some scientific thought that went into it. Maybe you can comment or add your thoughts to where the original Okinawan people came from. This is meant to provoke a discussion. Let us hear you opinion.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Okinawans innocents caught between Japanese and American Forces

This is a short film I made about the WWII battle on Okinawa and the innocents that were trapped with no where to go. War, destruction, the loss of family, famine, and racism were just a few of the hardships the Okinawans had to endure. Okinawa was originally part of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, a peaceful, independent monarchy with its own language and customs – a bustling center of trade situated between Japan, Taiwan and Korea. After being forcibly assimilated by Japan, it was dismissed by the Japanese for decades as a backwater colony. 

During World War II, the Japanese army took up defensive positions on the island chain, and many civilians were forced to endure the unimaginable battle that took place there. The US Army estimates that 142,000 civilians, more than 1/3rd of the population, were killed, including tens of thousands of women and children. I recently spoke with an older member of our Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai who told me she was eleven when the battle occurred. She told me of her family’s plight, and having to stay in the jungle on the mountain side with no shelter even though it poured down rain much of the time. She told me of American soldiers who came and gave them chocolate bars. She said they were so terrified that she just stood there with her eyes down afraid to look into their eyes. When the men realized that they were afraid that the chocolate might be poisoned they opened the candy and bit it to show them it was safe to eat. She said that one day a friend of the family came to where they were in the jungle and tried to convince them it was safe to go to the camps the Americans had set up for the civilians. Two of the people she was with decided to go. Later they saw them on the trail in the forest. They had been killed by Japanese soldiers that had overheard their conversation. War is a terrible situation for an innocent population. Let's "Practice Peace" people!

44th Annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai New Year Celebration

Yesterday was an extremely busy day for me. Even though it was the weekend I had to get certain things accomplished. I work a rotating schedule at my government job and it only allows me actual weekend days off about every month and a half. I hate to waste these days off but sometimes you need to prioritize tasks you must get done. Yesterday my list of priorities caused me to sit in front of my computer for several hours in order to do some updates on the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's web site and Get this Newsletter I write into draft form. I will be here once again today so that everything is in order and ready before the March 6th New Years party at the Chicago Midwest Buddhist Temple.

The plan is to hand out as many of the newsletters at the party as possible since flyers have already been mailed to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai membership. Anyone who is interested in Okinawan culture is invited however. The cost is $10 for non-members. The Party features a pot-luck style buffet meal and a performance of many different facets if Okinawan culture. More info on the party as well as pictures and directions are available on our web site at  Look for the link on our main page to the New Years Party.

I hope to see many of you there at the party including those friends I have made through my position as the Public Relations officers with the Kenjinkai. There will be representation from some of the surrounding states Kenjinkais' in attendance also. Here is a picture of a prior years attendance. You really should consider coming if you haven't seen everyone for a while or your're new. After all we are all brothers and sisters and we welcome you.

Okay, Got to go now, there's lots of work to get accomplished in a short amount of time! Thanks for visiting the blog today.

Here is a book previously recommended
to our membership by Sally Nelson. I've
heard it is a good read.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Every week member of the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai meet at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights Illinois to practice Okinawan cultural arts. Click on the add below to view our schedule for practice sessions. Karate class starts at noon.

Here is a short video clip of something you may see there.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Going on Vacation in Okinawa?

The other day I received a request on facebook from Mr. Bill Greear who is planning to visit Okinawa this year and asked me to comment on his Itinerary he has planned for his trip. He has posted it in Facebook groups as Okinawa 2010. I gave him some advice to stay longer or see less sites because it appears he hads too much to do in to little time. If your going to see the sites in Okinawa I would recommend to everyone that they take the time to really enjoy each and every one of them. Okinawa is all about a relaxed lifestyle and after all aren't vacations for relaxing?

I would now like to borrow some words from a book that my daughter obtained while participating in the Junior Study Tour in 2004. They were written by a man neamed Tatsuhiro Oshiro.

Anyone on a brief visit to Okinawa wishing to gain an understanding of Ryukyu history and Culture could scarcely do better than to pay a visit to Shuri Castle.
Having passed through the Shureimon outer gate, one espies the State Hall looming up over the castle walls. Only the top of the building is visible from this vantage point, but the beautiful contours of the walls which block the view of the lower part of the state hall surely offer an epitomization of Okinawan Culture. Curvature is the main stylistic feature of these contours. The surfaces and lines and the angles at which they intersect are all curved. In appearance the walls seem to represent a denial of the concept of the castle as a building intended for waging war. There was certianly a fair measure of civil strife on the island up to the beggining of the sisteenth century; the castle walls may well have come in useful in this connection. Nevertheless, Shuri Castle should surely be thought of primarily as a palace rather than a castle.

Okay, see  how when Mr. oshiro describes the Castle? He takes a wide open perspective on what he is actually looking at? Sure he has a vested interest in conveying the history and culture of the place but the way he approaches the subject should be how anyone should approach their vacation in the Ryukyu Island chain. Take a step back, don't hurry from site to site just to be able to say you've been there. Take in all that the history and culture has to offer. Sure you may not be able to take in as much if your time in the islands is limited, but you will come away with a greater appreciation and understanding for the places you have been in the end.

Here is a short video produced by the Okinawa department of tourism. Think about what you really want to do during your stay and plan your trip wisely. You will reap the benefits of a more relaxing vacation as a result.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scuba Diving Okinawa and the Disappearing Coral Reef

During the ten years I lived in Okinawa I became involved in the sport of scuba diving. It all began with a certification class at Ed's Pro Dive Shop which was located between Camp Kuwue and Camp Butler on Highway 58. The place is long gone now but in the day it was the happening place to learn how to dive. It was there that I met Mo Braren an Air Force Master Sergeant and Naui Master Scuba Instructor. He taught me and others to safely dive the waters around Okinawa. Our basic class took place in one of the many cuts in the reef off the Sunabe Seawall.

At that time there was no America Town there and the south end of the seawall towards Naha was actually a small boat harbor. There was no sunset beach only what use to be called Hamby field, a large fenced in open area that was once a heliport, I believe, for military helicopters. Today it has been filled in with dark red Okinawan soil and rock taken from the mountains near the Motobu area of Okinawa. The soil trucked in by elaborately decorated Japanese dump trucks, to fill in the reef and create additional land for housing, stores, movie plexes, and places like America town with its ferris wheel and bright lights. Yes in those days not so long ago the area was natural.

My instructor Mo took a liking to me and I began taking certification classes to attain a higher level of diving certification. Advanced diver, rescue diver, and dive master were all accomplished in a relatively condensed amount of time. I was confident in my diving ability and was soon helping out as a divemaster with many of Mo's classes. I met many fellow divers this way and began going on boat dives as an invited diver. We dove quite a bit out of Yakina Harbor near White Beach. I also met a neighbor down my street on Kadena, who's brother-in-law had a 42 foot cabin criuser diving boat that he did diving tours of the Keramas for JAL Tours. When there were times that he didn't have tours he would take us and we would dive the Kerama Islands.

The Keramas are basically a small group of islands due west of Naha. I visited them many times during my stay in Okinawa, both with Aki the Boat operator and by taking the ferry across from Tomori port. I remember diving with a friend, Dave Lynch and camping on Tokoshiki island. Spending our days diving and our nights drinking beer and awamori with the owners of the diving shop. I remember thinking that we were diving basically for free with all of the food and drink our gracious Okinawan hosts were providing us with during those stays. Here is a video of diving in the Keramas. That's me in the snapshots.

Once when I was on a boat dive and was paired up with a stars and stripes reporter. He was a US Marine Journalist and we got into quite a situation on the dive off Ieshima island and he ended up writing about me in the Pacific Stars and Stripes. Here is the article.

The sad thing about diving Okinawa is that I have seen how beautiful it was in the ocean and that is gradually dying off. Okinawa is a small beautiful island nation and with more and more people that want to live and play there. With the expansion of the land through landfills and increases in human waste the outlook for Okinawas reefs is bleak. Many corals around the islands are dying off. Including the rare blue coral at Shiraho reef, off the coast of Ishigaki Island, a reef that has been officially declared as one of the World Heritage Sites in Okinawa.  Investigative reports claim that the main cause of the damage is the flow of red soil from near-by construction and agricultural sites. This is not hard to understand as the silt from filling in the reef blocks sunlight from reaching the living coral.

The University of Georgia also conducted a study of coral reefs in the Caribbean which concluded the main reason for the death of live coral is many times untreated sewage from countries surrounding the ocean. Researchers in Okinawa say the same is likely to be true for the dying of coral reefs surrounding Okinawa. Professor James Porter who headed the study, said “We concluded without doubt that the main reason for the coral dying was bacteria in sewage water. We also found that the same bacteria are killing corals off Okinawa and Kagoshima corals” 
Professor of Coral Biology at the University of the Ryukyus Michio Hidaka was impressed with the study. Stating, “We thought that the main reason for the dying of coral reefs was the rising temperature of the ocean water, and that’s why there was nothing we could do about it. He has called for an extensive study of Okinawan reefs in light of the new knowledge. Hidaka concluded, “If further study proves that human waste is definitely the reason for the dying of coral reefs here, then we can do something about it.”

Some cultural aspects of Okinawan society will die forever if people do not start thinking more enviromentally about how their daily lives impact the environment around them. As individuals I would recommend that if you visit Okinawa maybe you should take a small amount of your time and visit a beach or other natural area and clean it up.

I would recommend visiting . The site
for The Okinawa Ocean Culture & Environment Action Network (Okinawa O.C.E.A.N.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Okinawa's marine environment. Their mission is accomplished through education, direct action, public awareness campaigns, and by cooperating with other organizations with similar goals. They will be able to tell you how you can help clean up Okinawa's oceans.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beni Imo an Okinawan Superfood

Beni Imo or Okinawan purple sweet potato is one of those foods that could be classified as a true superfood. This is because one medium sized purple sweet potato contains over 20000 international units of beta carotine vitamin A, which is four times your recommended daily requirement. It also contains 1/2 of your daily requirement of vitamin C in just one spud. This is in addition to being loaded with fiber, something that many people are lacking in their modern day fast food diets. There are a couple different varieties of these purple yams that range from a color of white/light purple all the way to the most beautiful shade of royal purple you have ever seen. I was lucky and was able to get some of the Darkest variety recently while visiting Mistuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights. Here is a couple pictures of them. I placed the "Baked" potato I cooked on a green plate to show the truely deep hue of the purple once it is cooked.

I can remember being at my in-laws house in the village of Yoza, a small hamlet of Itoman, and hearing the beni imo man walking down the narrow side streets crying out the words "Yaaaaaa-Kiiiii-Mooooo" in an acient means of product marketing. The cart he was pushing had a charcoal fired roaster that would have fresh hot Beni Imo ready to eat. The tasty potatoes were probably about 200 to 300 yen apiece at that time. Not bad for all the work that guy was doing pushing that cart around everywhere.

Recently, I have noticed them showing up in more and more Asian food stores around the Chicagoland area. This is unusual because many times they can only be found closer to the westcoast. I believe the reason for their scarcity in the midwest is because when they are grown outside of the US they must be irradiated to prevent insect introduction into the states. This process of treatment with heat and ultraviolet rays does not harm the potato just the bugs that may be hiding. The process however is not cheap and as a result it becomes non-cost effective to ship them.

I hear they are also extremely popular in high end Japanese and asian restaurants. And have heard them mentioned several times while watching the food network on television. Now that you know they're out their please don't buy every last one of them I need them for my diet. Try looking at places like Mitsuwa or H Mart for these purple yams. Maybe they will get more in if the demand increases. Expect to pay around $2.99 a pound for these tasty spuds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Traditional Culture Being Preserved Through Modern Perspectives of Okinawan Heritage.

I just love the Children's Group Hanayakara from Okinawa. This multi-talented group is comprised of young girls ranging in age from 6 to 18. Based in Okinawa, their energy and skill level is simply amazing. I am always inspired after watching them perform. This video is but a small glimpse of their great repertoire of traditional performances. In this perticular video they are performing Kunjansabakui.

The girls of Hanayakara are so cute and talented that they could be thought of as the Okinawan version of the popular Japanese group Morning Musume. My wife and I were able to see them perform Live at the 25th Okinawa Festival in Honolulu in 2007. I felt a very strong connection to what they were accomplishing through their performance. Through their efforts they are able to interest old and young people alike and promote the preservation of Okinawan culture through a more modern performance. My hope for the future is that they would someday perform in the Chicago area and inspire others around us to participate in preserving the Okinawan culture. Young blood is what is need to keep Okinawan heritage alive in the hearts of the future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Volunteers Needed to Help Save Okinawan Culture

Today I am posting a clip that I found some time ago about the people of Okinawa's  Ogimi Island. It is about living in a place where you can grow to be very old and observing all the ways that the world has changed over a single extended life time. Near the end It speaks of how the world has been turned upside down and how many Okinawans are moving away and the culture is being lost.

There are many reasons why people choose to give their time and efforts and I believe preserving a culture for future generations is a damn good one. Please if you are of Okinawan descent or are just someone with a special connection to Okinawa, think about giving a small amount of your time in the effort to keep Okinawan traditions alive.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Intercultural Marriage

Today is our anniversary so I decided to post about being in an intercultural marriage.

    It seems like the majority of American males that married to Okinawans met them while serving in the United States military. This was true in my case too. I was a young American male who had been sent to a foreign country, who was obviously lonely, being his first time away from home, and I went out on the town with love on my mind. If I had been sent somewhere where there were more girls of my own culture then I'm sure my life would be much different now an I would probably have married within my own culture. Don't take me wrong though, I'm not saying that I'm not happy with the way my life has turned out because I couldn't be happier with the way things are now. I'm just explaining my perspective of how me and a lot of other American males ended up in a relationship with an Okinawan.

    I met my wife through introduction. A good buddy (who I can't even remember his name now) came up to me one day while I was watching AFRTS on the dormitories community television. He said, "Tom I've got a problem. My girlfriends at the gate and my cars broke down." At that moment I was thinking, "Yeah, well I'm about to watch another episode of MASH on TV," that is until he said "She brought her girlfriend with her." Of course that perked me up immeadiately, especially when he said "she doesn't have a boyfriend and I hear she's really cute." Then his primary hook, "If you give us a ride around I'll hook you up with her friend." Man that was it. I couldn't believe my luck.

    If I would have been a little more clear headed I would have realized that he picked me because I had the only American built car that could hold all of the passengers because when we got outside there was another guy waiting whose girlfriend was also at the gate waiting. You see when I first arrived in Okinawa my shop chief offered to sell me his 1969 Chevy Impala. He was leaving back to the states in a few weeks and just wanted to get rid of the car cheap so I bought it. Well the guys in the dorm fixed it up real good by spray painting grafitti all over it so it was pretty outrageous looking. I'm sure the locals looked at us thinking "What the heck is that!" To us it didn't matter though and we all got in and it was off to gate two.

    When we arrived at the gate my friend pointed out his girlfriend and her friends standing near the gate. I was in the wrong lane to stop but cut across all of the lanes coming to an abrupt stop in front of the girls. My friend called out to his girl and quickly got out of the car. I believe the girls were shocked by this huge car with grafitti all over it coming to stop just feet from them. After all they were not expecting to be the center of attention as I had just cut off several other small Japanese imports to be able to stop and now everyone was looking at the comotion.

    Those poor girls didn't know what to think. I got out of the car and my friend introduced me to his girlfriend Kiyomi. The other guy who was in the car also got out and met his girl and they left heading towards Moromi Street. Kiyomi then introduced me to her friend who I could tell wasn't very impressed by our spectacular entrance. Her name was Nozomi the japanese word for "Hope." Little did I know at that time but this was to be the girl that would change my life and give me happiness. That's because while she seemed to like me as a person she wanted nothing to do with my choice in automobiles. She wouldn't even get in at first and had to be coaxed for some time by our friends. Eventually though she got in and we went on a White Beach Picnic and then bowling later in the evening.

    The rest is history...Nozomi came to meet me weekly by bus and I tried my damnedest not to make such a grand entrance when she arrived. We genuinely enjoyed each others company and going out to the clubs and restaurants off base. Places like Applehouse, the Downtown club, and Whiskey-a-go-go. We were married in 1982 which means we have been married now for 28 years. I never forget our anniversary because it's just two days before Valentines day. It's a perfect time for an anniversary because the stores all have roses and are usually running specials. This year was no exception as you can see below.

    It was not easy getting married in Okinawa as Nozomi's parents were not very keen on the idea. It took a lot of help from one of Nozomi's aunts to convince them and she didn't help us until after she gave me the third degree at her house and discovered that we truly did love each other and I would be able to properly care for her neice once everything got worked out. Once Her parents got to know me a little bit better it seemed like my wifes mother took a liking to me and would always feed me new and interesting things. Like pig ears and an okinawan form of chittlings soup. For you who don't know that's pig intestine. I'm not sure but I believe she may have even snuck in some goat meat along the way. Her father was a little harder to win over but eventually he gave us his permission and once he did we became really good friends.

    As most marriages go, there were ups and downs. It's normal even with same culture marriages but with intercultural marriages it is especially true. Western and Eastern thinking can be extremely different at times and the communications gap takes a long time to narrow. Many people I know today were unable to overcome the adversities faced in their intercultural marriage and as a result are now divorced. We were fortunate though and were able to work through our cultural differences by giving each other mutual respect and love.

    I have had my life greatly enhanced by being married to an Okinawan. She has taught me many things and through her I have met some of the most wonderful people you could ever have for friends. Uchinanchu people believe that once we meet we all become brothers and sisters. This has been very true in my case and I have been accepted as one of them. It's called Uchina Muku in Okinawan Dialect.

    If there was any advice I could give to young people entering into an intercultural marriage it would be to give mutual respect to each other. Honor the traditions of both cultures not just the perticular culture you have been brought up in. Okinawans have very strong family values. So, embrace the family lifestyle and enjoy all of the brothers and sisters you meet along lifes path.

To my wife I say "I Love You!" and look forward to many more years together.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Study of Centenarians in Okinawa

Okinawa is a small Japanese island that is increasingly talked about. And for good reason, it holds the world record for longevity, with nearly 3 times more centenarians in Okinawa than anywhere else in the world based on population comparison.

Obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease. All of these diseases are decimating our western populations but the effect has been much less frequent on the tiny island nation of 1.27 million inhabitants. 

The factsleading to this dramatic difference have, of course, tickled the curiosity of many scientists, who have a close vested interest in the "Okinawa case. Including part of the extensive (Okinawa Centenarian Study) initiated in 1976 and funded by the Ministry of Health of Japan. In the study hundreds of residents of Okinawa were examined at age 70, 80, 90 and 100 years.

The Conclusion was that good health and longevity is not derived from a specific gene pool, but rather from a healthy lifestyle - including a healthy diet and maintaining and active lifestyle. Living in a low stress environment also had much to do with the results.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yoneko "June" Cabel Sanshin Sensei

I thought I would share a video I took a couple of weeks ago while at Mitsuwa Market place attending sanshin practice. June Cable is our Sensei and the video shows her in control of the sanshin players at practice. She truly is a good sensei and the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai benefits from her teaching immensely. Thank You Yoneko!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Secret to Losing Weight Getting Healthy and Living a Long Life

Food and exercise is the way to lose weight and be healthy. This morning I went to the Gym and got my walk on! Four miles in an hour. It doesn't take any more than being active and eating right to lose weight. Okinawans during the 20th century had some of the longest life spans throughout the world. Their secret was eating things that the land provided for them. The main staple being vegetables such as Daikon Radish, Goya Bitter Melon, Purple Okinawan Yams, as well as many green leafy vegetables. Fish was a primary staple in villages skirting the ocean and some pork was available and used as the primary source of meat protein. Don't forget there was rice as a grain and Tofu made from soy beans. Balancing your diet is important. Since January 4th I have been on a low calorie low fat diet on top of going to the gym on most week days before I have to go to work. I have fashioned my diet around the healthy staples the Okinawans used to give them a higher percentage of centenarians than anywhere else in the world. The secret is you can eat a heck of alot of veggies and not take in all that many calories. Vegetables digest easier than proteins and your metabolism speeds up. Oh Yes and if you fry use smaller amounts of olive oil to make your food. Today when I weighed myself I was seventeen pounds lighter than just last month.!

Here are a few pictures of dishes I have been making to lose weight.
Nabe' Pot
Cabbage and Red Pepper Stir Fry

Red Cabbage & Fresh Veggie Stir Fry

Man I feel better and I just know I'm going to look good when I visit Okinawa in 2011

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bad Habits Are Hard to Break When it Comes to Playing Sanshin

Not long ago I began teaching myself how to play the Sanshin a traditional folk instrament of Okinawa. It's sort of a three string banjo. Well not figuring out the basics to start with has been a problem for me because I developed a habit of trying to hit notes with my left ring finger which is a definite no-no if you want to play the note correctly. Just being off by the slightest bit will change the sound coming from the string. Today I had an epiphany of an idea when I saw a clerk counting money with a finger sleve and I realized it would be the perfect thing to help me realize I was using the wrong finger when reaching for a note. So far it is working Maybe now my playing will start to improve. That is when I memorize where all these notes are. Here is a chart showing the notes played on a sanshin. Okinawan sheet music for the sanshin is called Kunkunshi and the notes are all in Japanese characters.

These top notes are played open string.

These notes are played with the index finger.

These notes are played with the middle finger.

These last four notes are all with the pinkie.

Names of the notes

On the low string:    合 = “ai” 乙 = “otsu” 老 = “rou”
On the middle string:  四 = “shi” 上 = “jou” 中 = “chuu” 尺 = “shaku”
On the high string:  工 = “kou” 五 = “go” 六 = “roku” 七 = “shichi”

Some day I hope this all clicks in my head.

Must Keep Moving!

Well it's 8am after being up til midnight last night. I've been working on the next edition of the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's newsletter. My internet buddy Chucks story specifically. In November he paddled his sea kayak through the Yaeyama islands which is part of the Ryukyu Island chain. The story of the adventure is long as he spent several weeks moving between islands on his journey. I believe the newsletter will need to be the condensed version of his story and I will have to post the complete log on the Kenjinkai's website. I am including a picture with this post of one of the sea creatures he happend across on one of his adventures. Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of the newsletter which should publish near the end of February. Also visit our website at .

If you would like to receive a free internet copy of our newsletter via email just let me know and I would be happy to send you one. Gotta go now it's Monday and I have to be at the Gym at 9am. Take Care!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Okay time to get more serious about this Blog

Okay Its been quite a while since I put this blog together so I guess it's time to bring it back to life. There have been many things happen since it was created and to tell the truth I just hadn't had time to maintain it. However I have now decided to change my perspective on life and have started trying new things such as facebook and now maintaing a blog.

For those of you who don't know me my name is Tom Corrao and I am the public relations officer for the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. I maintain their web site at and also act as the publisher and editor of their quarterly newsletter.

This year I plan to do more activities and have started a weight loss regiment that will be more like a life change than a diet. I have been going to the Gym for the last month and power walking about 4.5 miles a day. Not every single day but at least four times a week. I have also started to eat healthy no processed foods for me...Thank You. I love to cook so why not. The results so far have been a loss of 16 pounds since the 4th of January. I am feeling much better and my stamina is up from where I feel it was a month ago. For a smile look at the belt picture I've attached. Still a long way to go but a new belt and pants should be on my shopping list soon.

Originally I started this blog to disseminate news to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai members. It was an idea that may not have been as well thought out as it should have been because it seems we have only about half of the organization that uses a computer. However I have noticed that there are now increasing numbers of young people getting involved and the plan may begin to work after all. Anyway I will put a link to the blog on the web site soon so that casual users or browsers may visit. I plan to include many things about myself and Okinawa. For instance I recently started to learn the Sanshin a musical instrament from Okinawa. Sort of a three string Banjo. In China I believe they call it a Lute.

Well thats it for today but I will begin adding content regularly and hope you who read this will feel compelled to comment. Have a wonderful day.