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, May 21, 2010

HBO Mini Series - The Pacific Falls Short

Recently I watched the HBO Mini series The Pacific which followed the story of the first marine division through the Pacific during World War II. The series while very captivating really disappointed me when they portrayed the marines in Okinawa Japan.

Don't get me wrong, what they had was definitely interesting but in my opinion it lacked more of the history of the battle and the people on the island. They had nothing portraying Shuri and I totally expected there to be footage of the Himeyuri school girls and the mass suicides that took place at the end of the battle.

On the plus side it did show the atrocities of war and how men can lose their minds when placed under tremendous stress. The did show the civilians what were used by Japanese soldiers to trick the American forces and the madness of the whole situation of throwing soldiers into an environment they were unfamiliar with. Overall I would grade the film a B- because it skipped many important factors that should have been covered. Here is a clip I found called Inside the battle - Okinawa.

I would recommend the film but wish it would have been more thorough.

If you go to Okinawa I would also recommend visiting the Himeyuri Peace Museum. The Himeyuri Peace Museum offers a window into the struggle of a group of high school girls, 14 to 19 years old, recruited as nurses during the Battle of Okinawa. The museum chronicles the lives, studies, and trials faced by these girls. Caught in the crossfire of raging battles and rampant disease, approximately 200 students died in the Battle of Okinawa. They are the face of the innocent victims that lost their lives fighting someone else’s war.

Picture taken from the movie Himeyuri no to
The Japanese military mobilized a number of Okinawan schools to compensate for their falling ranks. They used Okinawa’s children and elderly for unarmed menial labor positions, which were very often fatal despite their noncombatant nature. They served the Japanese military despite the colonization and discrimination that Okinawa had been subjected to by Japan. Okinawa was a part of Japan only in technicality, its people were treated as outsiders and its needs were deemed insignificant. Many Okinawans assisted the Japanese military enthusiastically in the hopes that they would be recognized and treated as Japanese.
The Himeyuri students, also called the “Lily Corps,” were students and teachers from the Okinawa Daiichi Women’s High School and the Okinawa Shihan Women’s School. They served exclusively as nurses for Japanese personnel, which entailed caring the needs of the wounded, surgery, burial of dead bodies, and general maintenance of the working conditions.
Despite the image of the pristine Red Cross hospital conditions that they had been promised by Japanese military propaganda, these young girls were instead faced with the horror and filth of the trenches. They were driven into caves to care for Japanese wounded, often operating in darkness, surrounded by disease and dead bodies. Many students suffered mental breakdowns and approximately nineteen students died during the three-month battle from disease or in crossfire.

The Himeyuri students were given their discharge orders on June 18, 1945. These teenage girls had been taken from their lives, lost their families, witnessed unimaginable human suffering, and were simply told to go home. However, their release from service did not coincide with a ceasefire. The battle raged on, resulting in the deaths of 80% of the students and teachers. Some students were killed in crossfire when they left the shelter of the caves and a number of them committed suicide. Suicide was rampant among them for a variety of reasons, one of which was the fear of being raped by the American military forces, as the Japanese military had widely propagandized. Others were unable to find their families or were simply too traumatized by their experiences to continue.
Thousands of people died in the Battle of Okinawa, but it is the deaths of around 200 teenage girls that continue to touch hearts. The Himeyuri students are the faces of daughters, sisters, and friends that were treated and killed as if they were inconsequential. People expect soldiers to go to battle and are in turn unsurprised when they lose their lives. Collateral damage, the military term under which civilian deaths are categorized, falls short of expressing the impact of human loss. It is easy to accept death tolls but this museum accepts the responsibility of humanizing the numbers. Let's all pray for peace.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spring is finally in the Air

One of the things I love when the weather starts to get nice is gardening. In Okinawa the weather is much more condusive to tilling the earth and growing fresh vegetables for ones diet. The Okinawan people have been doing it for centuries and the fertile red coral enriched soil grows the deepest green vegetable and provides essential nutrients and minerals for a healthy body. Many Okinawans have gardens inside the fenced area of their yard where they grow everything from sweet potatoes to Goya. I can remember going to my inlaws house and always having fresh veggies strait from the garden in their yard. My father in law didn't believe in having grass in his yard and used every spot available to grow something that would supplement the families diet. I have fond memories of those days and was amazed at how much food he could produce on such a small parcel of land.

Me & My Mother-in-law in 2002
Note the garden surrounding the House
Even after his first stroke Otosan worked the garden
Today, I ventured out into my yard with the camera and took some pictures of the beginning of this years gardens. I believe in grass but that's Okay because we have enough land here to grow both grass and vegetables as well as flowers and shade plants. Here are some of the pictures I took.
These are always one of the first to bloom here in Wisconsin
There is about 110 feet of terraced garden beds
We do plant seeds and the sprouts have just begun to pop up.
Because of the shorter northern season though we do plant some greenhouse plants too.
There is also shade gardens in the back where our property meets the woods
The Japanese Maple always does well here
And the Iris' are beautiful
You really know it's spring though when you start to see the humming birds return like this one I saw today.

Hope everyone has a great day! Write you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Okinawa Amicus International Preschool is Now Open!

Last week the Okinawa Amicus International Preschool had it's opening ceremony. This is a special project of my fellow Minkan Taishi G.P. Yeh. Here is an article he sent me some time ago about the project which encompasses opening a university of science and technology as well as an international preschool. Last week the first part of the project came into being with the opening of the Okinawa Amicus International Preschool. Here is the story:

The people, leaders, and friends of Okinawa in Japan, together with the United States and other worldwide participants have been working together towards a great, wonderful future for Okinawa. In the year 2000, Okinawa Governor Inamine enabled five graduate students to study at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

In 2001 Japan’s Finance Minister Omi announced a mission to create a new graduate university in Okinawa. Since then Governor Inamine and Governor Nakaima, along with Commanding General of Marine Corps forces Japan, General and Mrs. Gregson, and other leaders as well as the people of Okinawa, have been creating a new International School and improving the teaching of English in Okinawa’s schools. Because of their efforts, Okinawa is becoming a great and beautiful centerpiece to Asia.

The Japanese Governments, Finance Minister Omi, Former Governor Inamine, Governor Nakaima, the people of Okinawa, and other leaders of Japan, as well as many worldwide leaders of science including 15 Nobel Laureates, have been creating Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) to be a world class graduate university. The objectives of OIST are to contribute to the worldwide advancement of science and technology and create a leading intellectual hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

The key concepts of OIST are the best in the world, Flexible, International, Global networking, and Industry collaboration. The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology School Corporation Act stipulates the establishment of the Graduate University as an independent special school corporation, and enables OIST to open in 2012.

Many of the alumni of Christ King School in Okinawa have been very successful in arts, sciences, medicine, business, education, and family lives in the US, Canada, Philippines, Guam, Japan, Okinawa, and other parts of the world. Okinawa has enriched our lives in many ways. Thanks to Okinawa, Christ the King School was very special and provided the students with an excellent international education.

For example, In 1967 I personally came from Taiwan to Okinawa entering Christ King School without knowing the English or Japanese languages. Thanks to the great principals, teachers and classmates at Christ King School I made it through. In 1971, I was accepted to MIT and then started a wonderful journey in physics, science, technology, and education. I now enjoy the Universe and life on Earth.

Okinawa Amicus International School

In support of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Governor Nakaima is establishing Okinawa Amicus InternationalSchool  (OAIS) for children both in Okinawa and from abroad. Students graduating from the Okinawa Amicus International School should have the ability and skills to enter the best universities in US or Japan.  OIST and graduates of OAIS will help to improve science and technology, advance important progress in sustainable, safe, clean energy, food and water, climate and environment, disease control and medical treatment, education, and world collaboration. The people of Okinawa are already enjoying the world's highest longevity, and plan to have the best healthcare and best life. Okinawa Amicus International School and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology will provide Okinawa with a great and wondrous future.
Article from the Ryukyu Shimpo
Double click for larger image.

Last week the Okinawa Amicus International Preschool had it's opening ceremony. This is a link to the schools site followed by pictures of the opening day.

Congradulations to everyone involved in making this project a big success!

Okinawa Times Article

As some of you may know I am a Okinawa Minkan Taishi (Okinawa Goodwill Ambassador). In this role I try to share all things Okinawa with anyone I meet. Recently I was contacted by a friend of mine named Teiko Tursi. She is the president of the New York Okinawa Kenjinkai and an active reporter for the Okinawa Times newspaper in Okinawa. She interviewed me as to my mission as a minkan Taishi and this past Monday an article appeared in the Okinawa Times about me. Here is the article she wrote.

The Okinawa Times 沖縄タイムス・ワールド通信ネット

2010年5月17日 (月)

自他ともに認める ウチナームーク のトーマス・コラオさん = アメリカ・シカゴ


 トーマスさんはウィスコンシン州、ケノーシャ市出身。米空軍に勤務していたとき、夫人の  のぞみさん(旧姓伊敷、糸満市出身)と出会い、1982年に沖縄で結婚した。沖縄に10年間滞在し、3人の子どもたちに恵まれた。


 トーマスさん一家は 1998年から県人会に家族メンバーとして新年会などに参加。2002年に のぞみ夫人がパーランクーを始め、トーマスさんも本格的に沖縄の伝統文化を研究するようになった。


 沖縄を心から愛するトーマスさんは、沖縄をアピールすることについて「それが自分の使命。 自分はオープンなので(広報やサイトを)読む人たちから自由な意見が届くよう願っている」と 

My Wife's family was surprized to see the article and they said that It is special that a person outside of the mainstream can become so involved in the culture of Okinawa. The perspective they say is an inspiration to those who live in Okinawa who sometimes loose their focus on the things around them because they live it on a daily basis. I am happy to have friends and family that appreciate my efforts and will continue to promote Okinawa in any way I can. I would also like to thank Teiko for her efforts and taking the time to write about me in the paper. I truly appreciate her efforts as an Uchinanchu reporter. I am humbled by your interest in my efforts. Thank You all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rafute (Okinawan Glazed Pork)

As many of you are aware I have been on a diet this year and have been having great sucess so far following the Okinawa Diet food pyramid. The food pyramid concept is a visual tool for helping us see clearly the food choices that we should be making. The Okinawa Diet™ food pyramid is based on 25 years of research and reflects the eating habits and patterns of the longest lived healthiest group of people in the world, Okinawans. 

The Okinawa diet food pyramid does not exclude one from being able to eat foods that may not necessarily be health conscious foods. One example is a traditional Okinawan food that I love called Rafute. This is a food that my mother in law introduced me to while I was living in Okinawa. My wife believes it is labor intensive to make so as a result I rarely get it. Rafute is a food that the Pyramid only allows you to eat in moderation. It is made with the fatty portion of a pig called Pork Belly which is included in the weekly section at the top of the food pyramid along with meat, poultry, eggs and sweets. Of these foods you can only intake 0-7 servings per week if you are following the diet. Of course these are indulgence foods and should always be taken in moderation. Well my diet has been successful so far and combined with exercise I have now lost a total of 27 pounds since January. I decided to let myself indulge this past week and I made Rafute for myself. Being an American cook I thought about the way Okinawans make Rafute by boiling the meat and simmering it for many hours to remove much of the fat. This process takes a long time so I thought maybe I could simplify the process so I decided to use a crock pot and modify the process a bit. Here is my recipe for Simplified Rafute.

3 lbs of quality pork belly w/rib-bones if you can find the cut
1 cup Awamori (Okinawan Style Sake)
1 cup Soy Sauce
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1/2 Cup Splenda Brand Brown Sugar Blend (to replace Okinawan Raw Brown Sugar)
1/2 cup Mirin

To begin you have to do it like the Okinawans of old. So, place the whole pork belly skin side up on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil it until the skin is browned then rinse the pork under warm running water scrapping off any charred spots with a knife. Once it is cleaned place it into a large boiler pot and bring the pot to a boil. Once the pot has reached a rolling boil reduce the heat down to a simmer and leave the pork on simmer for 40 minutes. This will boil up much of the fat that can be skimmed off with a spoon as the process progresses. After the simmer is complete remove the pork and place it skin side up on a large cutting surface. Allow the meat to cool to a point that it can be handled without burning your fingers.

Next prepare your crock pot for the meat by placing the ingredients above into the crock pot. I use 1 cup Awamori (Okinawan Style Sake) but if you don't have it you could use your favorite brand of Japanese Sake. Also notice that this is the dietetic version of the recipe because we are using Splenda blended brown sugar. I didn't have Okinawan brown cane sugar so it made a good substitute. Once the ingredients have been added turn your crock pot on high for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes stir the ingredients to blend them throughly before adding the portion sized chunks of pork to the marinade.

Cut the pork into serving size chunks and place them skin side up in your crock pot marinade. Now comes the hard part put the cover on the pot, place it on low, and wait for four hours. That's all there is to it and your Rafute should be fall off the bone tender. Here is a picture of my Rafute to see what it should look like.

If you try this recipe please let me know what you think. I was only kidding when I said it was the dietetic version but the flavor is worth the occassional indulgence. Bon Appétit!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Book Recommendation - Sea Vegetables - Okinawan Home Cooking

Katsuko Kobashigawa Grigsby & Dr. Yurimi Michael Grigsby are members of the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai and have written me asking me to let everyone know about the book they have just completed together. It is a culinary book about using the traditional sea vegetables of Okinawa. The book is titled simply Sea Vegetables - Okinawan Home Cooking.

Katsuko Kobashigawa Grigsby was born and grew up in the northern part of Okinawa. She moved to the US forty years ago, got married, and has two children. She is a 1996 graduate of East Tennessee State University. She has also studied culinary art and paralegal fields from Walters State Community College. She is a sushi chef specializing in Okinawan home cooking.

Dr. Yurimi Michael Grigsby, Ph.D. has a diverse heritage with parents from the island of Okinawa and the Appalachian mountains. She grewup in East Tennessee and received her Ph.D. in ESL Education from the University of Tennessee. She is currently a professor at Concordia University Chicago.

The book can be found at the following link for those of you that would like a copy.

i ta da ki masu!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hatoyama to visit Okinawa over U.S. base issue Tues., 1st trip as PM

Today's Post is simply an article taken from the (Mainichi Japan) May 1, 2010. It sounds like politics as usual for the Japanese government where Okinawa is concerned.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will visit Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday to hold talks with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on the issue of where to relocate a U.S. Marine base in the southernmost prefecture, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Friday.
In his first visit to Okinawa since taking power last September, Hatoyama, who is aiming to end this row by May 31, is expected to explain to the governor that he plans to build a pile-supported facility on the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in Nago to relocate the Marines' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan there, instead of reclaiming land from the sea on the coast in line with an existing accord.
"What's important is the opinion of the people, especially that of people on Okinawa," Hatoyama told reporters in the evening. "I've been working based on that belief. That's why I would like to visit there."
"I want to explain to them how the government is thinking about the relocation at this point," he said.
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government is also planning to transfer up to 1,000 Marines or some of the drills at Futenma to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 200 kilometers northeast of Okinawa.
Hirano said a detailed schedule for the premier's visit has yet to be fixed, but according to government sources Hatoyama will likely meet with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and residents on Okinawa, and visit Futenma, Camp Schwab and other locations concerned.
But it is unlikely that his plan will win the go-ahead from local residents, as people on Okinawa are still hoping Hatoyama will move Futenma outside the prefecture to keep the pledge he made during last year's election campaign and people on Tokunoshima are dead set against hosting any U.S. military facility.
In the Okinawan capital of Naha, Nakaima on Friday displayed displeasure about the government's reported plan of transferring Futenma within Okinawa.
"I wonder by what process the government has ended up with a plan to move it within the prefecture against (Hatoyama's) campaign pledge," he said. "I wonder how seriously the government has examined relocation sites outside Okinawa."
Nakaima said he will demand again that Futenma be relocated outside the prefecture as Hatoyama pledged.
The premier has also met with fierce opposition from the Social Democratic Party, one of the DPJ's two coalition partners.
SDP chief Mizuho Fukushima, who is also minister in charge of declining birthrate issues and consumer affairs, said in a press conference Friday she told Hatoyama over the phone earlier in the day that she doubts his plan is something people in Okinawa have hoped for even if it does not involve land reclamation.
Fukushima hinted late last year at breaking with the tripartite coalition if Futenma remains in Okinawa.
But Hatoyama said, "We will continue coordinating (with the partners) and put together a government plan."
Asked by reporters what he means by saying he will "solve the issue by the end of May," Hatoyama said he would view it a "settlement" if the government agrees on a general direction for a solution with Washington officials, people in Okinawa and those in the areas that may become the new host.
Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2006 to reclaim land from the sea off Camp Schwab and to transfer Futenma there, but Hatoyama has been seeking an alternative plan to ease the burden on Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces stationed in Japan, and reduce the impact on the local marine environment.
On a possible relocation of Marines or drills to Tokunoshima, which is home to about 27,000 people, Hatoyama visited Torao Tokuda, a key figure on the island, at his home in Tokyo on Wednesday in a failed attempt to gain support from the retired politician.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano said Friday that he is still looking to meet with mayors of the three towns on the island to explain to them what the government is planning for the relocation and offer apologies for causing them concern.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It Looks Like Change is on the Horizon

This is a collection of very recent news about the support for relocating MCAS Futenma off the island of Okinawa. 90,000 showed up recently to protest the base being relocated on Okinawa. The newly elected Prime Minister promised the people that this would not happen and it has been reported that 90% of Okinawans object to the base being relocated within the prefecture. These are interesting clips I found on the subject.

It's good to see that someone is finally paying attention to what the Okinawan people want. We will see now what happens this month. Happy May Day!