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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Louis Okinawa Kenjinkai Arrives for Picnic

Last night we met up with members of the St. Louis Kenjinkai who had just arrived in Arlington Heights about an hour before we met them. They were pretty tired from the long trip but we all went out to dinner at Yu's Mandarin Resturaunt. I believe there was 14 or 15 members who made the journey. Here are a few pictures I snapped.
The dinner was good but we cut the evening short as everyone was tired and wanted to rest before the big day tomorrow. It was nice meeting in the spirit of Ichariba choodee. Even though we did not know them we felt the connection once we met.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Day Before the Kenjinkai Picnic

Today is a most busy day for the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai officers who have been working diligently on preparing for the annual Okinawan potluck picnic. The event occurs tomorrow at the Cook County's Robinson Woods South Groves. Many things needed to be done to prepare for this annual event.

Dennis, our Sergeant at Arms, has been gathering the needed items to accomplish a successful picnic. He organizes our set-up and clean-up crews to ensure everything is just right when picnic time arrives. There are things that every good picnic needs such as paper plates, napkins, and tableware but Dennis also accomplishes the things that often go unnoticed by the general picnic goer. Things like making sure there is nothing foul or nasty in the picnic area. Lets not forget that there are many de3er and other animals wandering the forest preserves and they often do what comes natural to them even in the picnic grounds. He also sets up the tents, moves picnic tables into the area and sets them up in a way that is most convenient to our needs. This year he has purchased new coolers for our beverages and soft drinks that are much larger than we have had in the past. This should help us by not requiring as much ice throughout the event. Dennis' crew normally arrives at the grounds around 6am to begin their prep work. They always do a wonderful job preparing everything.

Mieko, The Kenjinkai's President probably works the hardest of us all because she has to keep track of everything thats going on and keep us all going in the proper direction. This is only her second picnic since becoming President of the Okinawa Kenjinkai and it appears she learned a lot from her initial exposure because things have been going very smoothly this year.

My part in this affair has been fun to this point. I was the one assigned to do the shopping for the prizes for our raffle and games. This year our prizes consist of a Sony 32 inch 1080p high definition television, a Pioneer all region DVD Player/Kareoke machine, four portable MP4 players that play multimedia music and videos, and for the kids two Ironman super-soaker water blasters. We will also have smaller prizes for games like large bags of rice for the winners of the water balloon toss and numerous toys for the kiddies. Tickets as always will be $1 each or 6 for $5.

I was also in charge of filling water balloons for the games. Maybe I wasn't actually in charge of it since I was the only one doing it but I was able to get it done. Mission accomplished.

Tonight we will be hosting a welcome dinner for members of the St. Louis Kenjinkai who have come here to participate in our picnic this year. They are a fledgling Kenjinkai and we hope to build strong ties with them for future endevors. We will be eating at Yu's Mandarin which is located at 200 East Golf Road. Schaumburg, IL. I believe it is at 6:30 that everyone will meet and greet. It's pay as you go so stop by if your in the area tonight.

Hope to see you all there! See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Uza Sensei shares the Techniques of Beikoku Shido-kan Karate

Yujiro Uza,  4th Dan, Beikoku Shido-kan Karate

Uza Sensei is now an active member of the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai and holds classes on Saturdays in the practice room of Mitsuwa Market Place in Arlington Heights.

History of Okinawa Karate & Kobudo

Okinawa is composed of many small islands, each having a beautiful landscape and unique culture and history. In the 12th century, Okinawa was divided into many regions, each with its own ruler who built a gusuku (castle) and controlled the neighboring villages. Later, these regions unified into three main kingdoms. In 1429, King Sho Hashi united these three forces, creating the Ryukyu Kingdom. During the 15th and 16th centuries, known as the golden trading era, the Ryukyus developed into a major trading center between China and other neighboring countries. However, during this period there was the threat from Japanese pirates and, for purposes of securing one's own safety abroad, bujutsu (martial arts) was of vital importance. From this historical background, Okinawa's unique karate (formerly referred to as "ti") and kobudo were originated and perfected. Today's karate and kobudo came to be as a result of combining the good qualities of the martial arts of China and the other Southeastern Asian countries with the Okinawa "ti" through interchanges.

During the Ryukyu Kingdom period, the Shuri "ti" was developed with the Shuri Castle as its origin. The Naha "ti" flourished in the commercial city of Naha, and the Tomari "ti" was developed in the Tomari village area which was located between the previous two regions. Famous bujins (martial arts experts) originated from each region and their tradition has been passed on to today. As karate and kobudo were forbidden by the lords, their techniques were kept secret and very little literature regarding these techniques was written. Their traditions were conveyed either verbally or by individual instruction.

After Okinawa was officially incorporated as a prefecture of Japan, new laws reduced the need for secrecy, and the education system of the Meiji era (1896-1912) adopted karate and kobudo as part of its physical education program. Since then, karate and kobudo have been performed in public. In the Taisho period (1912-1926) they were introduced to mainland Japan, and in the early Showa period (1926-1988) they spread overseas.

After World War II (1945), Okinawan karate was divided into four ryuhas - Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu, Uechi-ryu, and Matsubayashi-ryu. Currently, there are many ryuha and kaiha changing their styles and techniques, but the karate and kobudo of each ryuha and kaiha have their own kihon kata (basic kata) from which the attack and defense techniques are logically derived.

The rigorous training cultivates physical power and a keen mind, thus contributing to the well-being of the society. Karate and kobudo have greatly influenced education. They can be enjoyed as sports or used as self-defense arts. The diverse elements and characteristics that made karate and kobudo popular throughout the world have instilled inspiration in the hearts of millions of people.

Chicago Okinawa Performing Group at Yin Yang Do Founders Day

These are some videos of the Chicago Okinawa Performing Group at the annual Yin Yang Do Founders Day Event. This event was held in Kenosha Wisconsin of July 10th 2010.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 Yin Yang Do Founders Day, Kenosha WI

Here is a video I put together from the 2010 Yin Yang Do Karate Dojo's 2010 Founders Day event. I was invited by Edwin Santiago and Pat Weyand to the event which featured various forms of Karate being exchanged between Dojos. Here is the video.

Contact the Dojo at: Yin Yang Do Karate

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kay Makishi in Okinawa

Today I just wanted to let everyone know about a friend of mine that is currently attending Ryukyu University in Okinawa. Her name is Kay Makishi and she has a blog about her experiences.

This blog is a record of my journeys. This is what she writes about herself - I hold two decades + of life experience as a second generation Okinawan. I was born and raised in Hershey, PA (yes, like the chocolate) and finished my undergrad at Penn State. I am passionate about service to humanity with numerous goals and am developing the necessary experience to accomplish those goals day-by-day. I welcome adversity with open arms; because to me, anything worth achieving is never easy.

This girl is a truely amazing person and I would like everyone to take a little bit of time to check out her blog. She is reconnecting with her Okinawan heritage and is growing in a way that everyone should see.

This is a video she posted followed by the link to her site...Enjoy!

Kay's Blog

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Strange Motivations Lead to Healthy Eating

Have you ever had a feeling that there are things on this earth that are beyond our control? For instance, I frequently wake up in the middle of the night and glance at my large, red, illuminated, digital alarm clock and find all of the numbers to be the same. (For instance 1:11 am or 3:33 am) This doesn't just happen to me in the night time either it happens to me in the day time when I am not even thinking about it. They frequency of it occurring makes me think there must be something to it.

Now, as many of you are aware, I started off the year following the Okinawa diet pyramid and lost 24 pounds. Well for the last month or so I have been not following it so closely and while I have not put the weight back on I was thinking about getting more strict with myself once again in regards to the diet. Now one of those strange occurrences in life has happened to me once again. This time I went out for tacos with my daughter at a local establishment here in my home town. We ordered our food and a drink to go along with it and went to our table to wait. I bought a diet Snapple tea and was thinking about getting back on track with the diet in my head as I looked at the label on the bottle checking the nutritional stats on the label. It was at this time that I noticed the cap had writing in it so I thought it must be a joke or fun fact like you sometimes find under beverage caps. When I looked though I was floored by what I saw. It was a "Real Fact" #696 and said: With an average life expectancy of 81.2 years, the people of Okinawa, Japan live the longest.
I couldn't believe my eyes. I mean what are the odds that I would get that particular cap here in the middle of the United States at a time when I was contemplating getting back on track while waiting for my greasy tacos to come. It's weird.

I did enjoy the tacos but have now took the hint and I'm back on-track. It's perfect timing as the garden has really been coming in nicely and I was able to make a real nice stir-fry with miso flavoring from my pickings. The weather is now hot with frequent showers so the Goya we planted from seeds has really been doing well. Here are a few garden pictures for you to see.
Japanese Eggplant (Nasu)
Japanese Cucumbers
Flowers to bring in the Bees

From Purlpe Bells to Pink Puffs
The Goya Climbing
Reaching for the Sky

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Okinawan Cultural Events in the Midwest

You might believe that being Okinawan in the middle of the United States far from any ocean would mean that there wouldn't be anything happening involving Okinawan culture. Au contraire! There is lots happening around here. Here are some videos I put together of the 2010 Japan Day held by the Mid America Japanese Club. It was held on June 26th & 27th 2010 in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
A video of the Okinawan Culture and Foods Booths
The Okinawa Kenjinkai Children's Group Performance

Matsuri Daiko Performance
Our Sanshin Players

This weekend there will be more Cultural Events that have ties to the culture of Okinawa. First there will be dragon boat races held in Racine Wisconsin on July 9th and 10th. Here is the link to the event so you can check it out if you are in the area. Midwest Dragonboat Festival This event is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Racine Wisconsin.

Then on July 10th, the Yin Yang Do Karate Association will hold their annual founders day on the grounds of the Kemper Center in Kenosha Wisconsin. The events 2010 topics include: Special Guest Shorin Ryu, UZA Sensei from the Okinawan Cultural Society, Tai Chi with Al Gomez , Judo/Jujutsu techniques with Don Jambreck, Patrick Weyand. In addition, we will kick-off the celebration with traditional dance and music from representatives of the Okinawa Kenjinkai from the Chicago area.

I will try to make both events and video tape them for the blog. Hopefully I will see some of you there. Mata yassi!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In Japan but surrounded by U.S. influence, Okinawa struggles with split identity

Article taken from the Washington Post
By Chico Harlan
Thursday, July 1, 2010; A01

CHATAN, JAPAN -- These days, when Melissa Tomlinson describes her fraught relationship with the United States, she speaks in English, the language she once rejected. She grew up here on the island of Okinawa. Her mother was Japanese, and her father was an American who served in the U.S. Army, came to Okinawa, fell in love, fell out of love, then fell out of touch.

"I had plans to track him down, find him and punch him in the face," said Tomlinson, 22. "I just wanted to figure out my identity."

Tomlinson's family tensions illustrate the complex cultural clashes that dominate the politics of Okinawa and, lately, relations between what have been the world's two largest economies as they cope with a rising China and a belligerent North Korea.

For the more than 60 years since the end of World War II, native Okinawans and U.S. troops stationed on nearby bases have developed deep, passionate and generation-spanning ties that complicate political and diplomatic debates about the future of the U.S. military here. Those passions have recently claimed the head of one Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who had called for the Americans to be booted off Okinawa, and caused his successor to sharply tone down his party's assertive stance toward the United States.

A vocal majority of Okinawans still demand closing the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. American officials, citing proximity to North Korea, China and Southeast Asia, insist it remain in Okinawa. Japan, in its attempt to mediate, has only frustrated both sides.

The current resolution, which Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government will honor, calls for Futenma's eventual relocation to a less populated region in the north of the island. Kan apologized last week for the "heavy burden" facing Okinawans.

Many locals on this Pacific island hosting more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan complain most commonly about the noise, congestion and crime. But emotional blood ties and cultural confusion amplify those concerns. Tormented by her identity, Tomlinson said she has tried to kill herself "a couple times" in the past two years.

Tomlinson said she struggles to convince herself -- and others -- that she is truly Japanese and Okinawan. She called her identity "ambiguous" and said her feeling of being an incomplete person has sometimes led to deep depression.

A generation of biracial Okinawans know about intercultural relationships, writ small. They know about romance and separations, child-support battles and reunions. They know that Japanese children refer to their biracial peers as "halfs," and nowadays, they know of the local American-Asian school, for biracial children, where those kids are taught to call themselves "doubles."

Okinawa's demographics separate it from mainland Japan. Here, the rates of single-parent households and divorce are twice the national average. At the American-Asian school, 70 percent of the 80 students come from single-parent households, Principal Midori Thayer said.

"Unfortunately, some kids never live with their father, but they cannot lose their DNA," she said. "Their body shows that they are not 100 percent Japanese."

Denny Tamaki, 50, the local representative to the Japanese parliament, knows only that his father, an American serviceman whom he has never met, was named William. When William returned to the States and Tamaki's mother decided not to follow, she burned his photos and letters. When they moved to a new home, she didn't give him their new address. When Tamaki turned 10, his mother took him to a government office, where they officially changed his first name to Yasuhiro.

Tamaki knows little English and wants Futenma moved off Okinawa because "it feels like we're living under occupation." But he has a passion for American music -- Aerosmith, for instance -- and American television shows.

A decade ago he tried to track down his father, with no luck. When his kids ask about their grandfather, he tells them that it would take the detectives from "CSI: Miami" to find him.

Search for a Father

Tomlinson's mother and father were married on Okinawa, and then moved together to Georgia after his tour on the island ended in 1975. Tomlinson was born in Hinesville, Ga., while her father was stationed at Fort Stewart. Tomlinson's parents separated when she was 3; she returned to Okinawa in 1990 with her mother. Her father retained custody of their two older children, who stayed in the United States with him.

Growing up, Tomlinson said, she remembered nothing about the separation, and never spoke to her father or siblings. "I've had to live with some tough decisions," said Melissa's father, who requested that his name not be used.

Tomlinson said her conflicted feelings were often fueled by her mother, who told her she looked "like an American" and tried to hide her from her co-workers. She said they fought frequently, and she told her mother: "Why did you have me? I want to be a Japanese, but I don't get to choose."

In school, her dual identities battled. Sometimes she was an American who didn't speak proper English. Sometimes she was a Japanese who didn't look Japanese. For several years, she tried to forget every English word she knew.

During high school, she said, a teacher encouraged her to learn English because she would need it if one day she wanted to track down her father. "Maybe you can hear the truth," the teacher told her. "You should know both sides."

At the University of the Ryukyus, Tomlinson tried to find English-speaking friends. She watched American television without the subtitles. Still, she confided to friends that she felt depressed.

From her mother, Tomlinson had heard only nasty tales about her father, who was once stationed at the Army's Torii base. After her junior year in college, in spring 2009, she decided to try to find him and left school for a time.

In March, her U.S. military ID card, a privilege from a relationship she never had, was expiring. The Army passed along her father's address. She e-mailed him, asking for him to sign the required forms for a new ID.

Weeks later, she heard back from the father who had not seen her since she was 3.

"Hi Melissa, Hearing from you, to say the least, came as quite a shock," he wrote. "I was not aware that you could speak English let alone read or write it. The last time we had contact, and I am sure you do not remember it, you could only speak Japanese. Trying to bridge the gap with words after all this time would be futile. In life sometimes we have to make decisions that we don't know if they are right or not, but we have to live with them."

Tomlinson read and reread the e-mail. She discussed it with friends, and together they parsed the words. Their relationship continued, e-mail by e-mail, and she learned that he liked fishing, and that he missed Okinawa, and that he says he has thought about her every day.

For all these years, he wrote, he avoided contact because he didn't want her to be torn between parents.

"It would have made your life miserable," he wrote.


This article provides an excellent insight into the lives of many people Uchinanchu people. I have lived this life also from the time I was twenty years old. I'm sure many relationships in Okinawa start out with couples being drawn in by the attraction of having a foriegn boyfriend or girlfriend. Someone exotic and not the norm for the person's particular culture.

Relationships often times lead to love but many times in intercultural relationships the attraction can be one sided. I believe for American servicemen many enter into relationships believing that if it doesn't work out thay can simply get divorced. Something that in American culture seems to be a normal progression in many relationships.

What people do not realize is that Intercultural marriage takes a lot of cooperation for success. People by nature do not simply give up their cultural heritage and adopt that of another completely different society. I speak from experience (28 years) it takes a lot of give and take to make things work. Tolerence and compassion for the feelings of your spouse are high on the list if you want things to work.

My wife and I have three kids that were brought up in this milticultural relationship and I know that sometimes things were rough for them. Personal identity however is not determined by ones racial composition but rather by the character of the person.

Described as "Ha-fu" in not necessarily a bad thing although in Japan there is a stigma to not being associated as 100% Japanese. I believe that half Japanese and half American children are some of the best looking people I know and should be proud that they possess the best traits of two great cultures. Here is a video I found on You Tube about it. Let's hear what you think!

Please Comment!

'Digital TV and the World' Special Project Okinawa

I experienced a SNAFU with yesterdays post so I removed it and have reposted it here. Sorry, to those who commented already.

My friend Akko sent me a link yesterday to some videos that the Washington Post has placed online. The videos are about different subject matter from Okinawa. Apparently they are part of a project by the Center for Digital TV and the World in association with the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. These stories were produced by reporters trained in the 'Digital TV and the World' special project and the "Reporting on Japan" class at the graduate school of journalism. The journalists travel the world finding interesting subject material that helps reveal the fabric of a community. I love their work and thought I would share it with everyone here on my blog.

Let's hear what you think!
Originally Posted By Okinawa Otaku to Okinawaology Blog at 7/03/2010 10:46:00 AM

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "'Digital TV and the World' Special Project Okinawa...":
Very fascinating coverage! They all gave great insight into Okinawans and their struggles in a modern world dominated by US and Japanese influence. I watched and loved every one of the videos. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Anonymous to Okinawaology Blog at July 3, 2010 11:50 PM