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, 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.


  1. Not an anthropologist but I would wager there was not a mass migration in Sabani. Its design makes it prone to taking on water in rough seas and becoming a rather unstable craft. If you look at the outrigger sailing canoes used by Polynesians, they can be righted and have flat decks that do not retain water. Given the calm conditions and prevailing southerly winds in summer, a sabani could make the trip. However, the design of the boat makes it bettr suited for near shore fishing than open ocean travel.
    The sabani is a form of a canoe. Polynesian outriggers are also canoes as are 99% of what people call kayaks are actually canoes.

  2. This is highly debatable. Offensive, too

  3. I had the same thoughts when I heard it but bit my tongue. It's funny because I'm a white guy. I believe our guide is giving the Japanese belief and truly in his mind believes his conclusions are based in fact. Please do not be offended. Rather, come to the realization that inadvertent rasism is ingrained in peoples brains by the people who raised them. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but it doesn't mean that the opinion will necessarity be correct. My intention to placing the video was to spark an interest in discussing where did the indigenous man from the Ryukyus come from. Peace!

  4. Did not mean to offend, just offered some comments on sabani and other canoes

  5. Chuck I think he is refering to the comments of the speaker in the video not your comment on the sabani.

  6. Hello, just stumbled upon your blog.

    I'm currently in Okinawa, researching music and teaching English with my cousin. We are Filipino Americans, but our grandpa was in the U.S. military, so our mothers grew up here.

    We're keeping a blog while we're here, mostly like a travelog, but also with music recordings, videos, etc. It would be great to get some exposure on your website, and we'll definitely return the favor.



  7. Hi there, I Found Your blog, and i am not japanese, either american, But My Grandparentes (Mother side) are from Okinawa, and they came to Brazil in 1915(i am not shure). What You can Say about the Okinawan Imigration to South america? Congratulations for your great research about Okinawa. I am proud to be a little Okinawan, and have an utinachu middle name and also i am very interested about this culture. Thanks.

    1. There are a huge number of publications concerning Japanese and Okinawan Diaspora on the market.
      An even larger number has been published by small organizations in Okinawa, with photos etc.
      Try to find out where your ancestors came from exactly and contact someone from the city administration. They should help you.
      南風原市 has a beautiful publication called ふるさとをはなれて.