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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.

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 http://www.okinawaocean.org/index.html . 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.

5 comments:

  1. Hello... back around '84 myself and my son were cert'd at Ed's. I went on thru the PADI Divemaster cert. I was working in off duty time for Ed. Was there when Ed and PADI Japan had a falling out and we all had to do the cross over courses to NAUI.

    Have you any idea what happened to Ed and his wife (can't remember her name)?

    My time on the island was '84 to late '87. Absolutely beautiful place.

    Kind Regards,
    -Roger

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  2. No my knowledge of Ed was only during my basic dive course. I was in Okinawa this past October and the building now houses a speed shop for cars.

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  3. I had the pleasure of being stationed at Kadena Air Base from Aug 1986 - Aug 1990. While their I also took up diving. I was NAUI certified in Open Water, Advanced & Rescue by Ed Cooper (I believe that was his last name) who owned and operated Ed's Pro Dive. I had the pleasure of meet and knowing Ed sometime around 1987 or 1988, at the time we met, he was in the process of getting a divorce from his Okinawan wife who, if memory serves me correct also owned a fish restaurant. I to would love to know what ever happened to Ed. I (Don Robbins) can be reached at: dthem_2000@yahoo.com

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  4. I had the pleasure of being stationed at Kadena Air Base from Aug 1986 - Aug 1990. While their I also took up diving. I was NAUI certified in Open Water, Advanced & Rescue by Ed Cooper (I believe that was his last name) who owned and operated Ed's Pro Dive. I had the pleasure of meet and knowing Ed sometime around 1987 or 1988, at the time we met, he was in the process of getting a divorce from his Okinawan wife who, if memory serves me correct also owned a fish restaurant. I to would love to know what ever happened to Ed. I (Don Robbins) can be reached at: dthem_2000@yahoo.com

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  5. I was stationed at Kadena from Dec 86 - Dec 89. I took my Open Water dive training at Ed's Pro Dive on 7 Aug 87, then my Advanced, and eventually progressed upward during my 3 years there. Still have a shop bumper sticker. His shop was in business up until I departed. He had mentioned a few times about wanting to sell out and go back to the states. To me it seemed that his shop started catering more to the Japanese tourists and less to the Marines and airmen probably due to the on base instructors competing with him. Might have been his wife as well. I can't remember Ed's wife's name either. I do a remember a Chip and a Manta who worked there. Dave Leu stared helping Ed with classes in 89. Scott Wentworth was another diver who helped out. If anyone knows what happened to Dave Leu or Ed Cooper please drop me a line at DDRummond@hargray.com

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