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.

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.


  1. Cool story Tom, and a really cool car. 3rd time was a charm for me.. I tell you some stories over a beer. What I never understood was why a lot of the young enlisted men would blow their paychecks messing with the Filipina bar girls on Gate 2 instead of actually developping a relationship with an Okinawan.
    Happy anniversary. Looking forward to meeting you and Nozomi inperson.

  2. Dad,

    I loved reading this. You two are most certainly blessed.

    I wish you both happiness, peace, and good health. Happy anniversary!


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