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, March 11, 2010

Okinawa’s Salt Customs ~ Interesting Aspects of Salt Use in the Ryukyu Islands

In Japan salt is called "Shio" But in Okinawa it is called "Masu," with a long 'a.' The salt used in Okinawa though is called "Shima Masu" (Translated as "island salt"). Shima Masu's particles are coarser than the table salt marketed elsewhere in Japan and it has a slightly moist flavor. This salt is more concentrated and is an established favorite among Okinawans.

Masu is also used in Okinawa for protection from and to ward off evil spirits. Returning home after a funeral or other Buddhist ceremony, Okinawan people will lick a little salt and sprinkle salt on their heads and shoulders before entering the house. When buying a new car, the owner will sprinkle a little awamori and salt on the vehicle to assure their safety when driving and will almost always have some salt in their car somewhere hidden for this purpose.

 In the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, the American military bases instituted heightened security procedures and subjected Okinawan workers entering and leaving the bases to stricter checks. In this atmosphere, some gate guards entertained the suspicion that the tiny bags of salt carried in vehicles for protection might contain a dangerous substance and gave some workers a hard time. This produced bad feelings among many Okinawans who retorted, "But this is an Okinawan custom!"

In Buddhist tradition, salt repels evil spirits. That's why it's customary to throw salt over your shoulder before entering your house after a funeral: it scares off any evil spirits that may be clinging to your back.

Shinto religion also uses salt to purify an area. Before sumo wrestlers enter the ring for a match - which is actually an elaborate Shinto rite - a handful of salt is thrown into the center to drive off malevolent spirits.

If anyone knows any other salt customs that take place in Okinawa please comment with them.


  1. Interesting stuff. I've never heard of oshio being called ma-su... I wonder if it comes from a brandname. Maybe at some point Japan had Mars brand salt or Mirth brand salt, and so it came to be called マース just the same as we use words like Band-Aid, Kleenex, and Jell-o. It's especially interesting since, unlike in Okinawan, Japanese doesn't tend to have long 'a' sounds...

  2. along with throwing it over the shoulders, we also often put it in a small diah and place it on the front porch of a residence to help "keep out" evil spirits.

    And thanks
    great Blog!