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.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Okinawa Has Waterspouts?

Today I opened my Browser to find a story on the Yahoo mainpage about waterspouts that occurred on the 21st in Yomitan Okinawa. A photographer captured this picture of the spout.

Here is the story as taken from the Japan Update Web Site.

Waterspout Shows Power Off Yomitan Coast
A thunderstorm sweeping across Okinawa’s west-central coast Wednesday afternoon provided an impressive exhibition for those looking to the water near Yomitan. A waterspout wound its way down from the dark storm cells, dancing its way along the water and approaching within a few hundred meters of the coastline. Fair weather waterspouts formed over water due to warm temperatures and high humidity are generally not as dangerous as tornadic waterspouts that continue over land. Photo by Jeremy Goins.

I looked online for references to waterspouts occurring in Okinawa and found that while rare they are not uncommon in the watm waters around Okinawa.
Here is a short video of one near Henoko.

A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water and is connected to a cumuliform cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water. While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur. Waterspouts do not suck up water, the water seen in the main funnel cloud is actually water droplets formed by condensation. While many waterspouts form in the tropics, locations at higher latitude within temperate zones also report waterspouts, such as Europe and the Great Lakes. Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snow precipitation bands. Waterspouts have a five-part life cycle: formation of a dark spot on the water surface, spiral pattern on the water surface, formation of a spray ring, development of the visible condensation funnel, and ultimately decay.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goya Recipes! Bitter Melon on Your Plate.

Okay as promised here are several Goya recipes for all cooking types out there. Goya Champuru is a staple food during the islands long hot summers. Grown as a fruit but used as a vegetable, the Bitter Melon is actually a member of the squash family. Resembling a long, bumpy cucumber, Bitter Melon can be found in Asian and East Indian cooking. From 5-12 inches in length, the grooved yellow-green to dark green skin of the Bitter Melon gives way to a fibrous, seed-filled core. Its slightly sour flavor becomes quite bitter upon ripening. This bitter or quinine flavor (a bitter alkaloid) is often combined with garlic or chile. Once thought to contain medicinal qualities, in some parts of China, Bitter Melon is still used to purify the blood and cool the digestive system. Bitter Melon can be stuffed, curried or pickled. Choose melons that are still green for optimal bitterness. They can be stored loose in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Goya Champuru - 1


  • 3 cups Goya Bitter Melon

  • Sea Salt

  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil

  • 1 block of firm or extra firm Tofu - Drained and cubed into 1/2" squares

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 lb cooked Pork or Spam thinly sliced

  • 1 Tbs. Soy sauce

  • 1 tsp. Hondashi or Konbudashi - Granulated Bonito Stock

Wash and cut Goya in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut Goya into thin slices so they look like small cresent moons. Sprinkle salt over the goya in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or more. The salt helps draw moisture from the fruit. Wash the fruit in a strainer under running water. Next squeeze the moisture out of the goya allowing the juice to be removed. This will remove some of the bitterness of the goya. Place the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan and bring the temprature up to high. Saute' the tufu until it browns and set it to the side. Add more oil to the same pan and saute' the goya. Once the goya reaches the desired degree of cooking (crisp or vell cooked) add the beaten eggs and stir fry for a few minutes. near the end add the tofu you prepared, meat, soy sauce, and hondashi. Mix well being careful not to break up the tofu too much. Serve warm and enjoy.

Goya Champuru - 2


  • 1/2 block Organic Tofu (use Firm Tofu)

  • 1 whole Bitter Melon

  • 1/2 whole Onion

  • 1 tablespoon Canola Oil

  • 1/3 can Tuna

  • 1/3 cup Bonito Flakes

  • Sea Salt to taste

  • Soy Sauce to taste

  • 1 whole Egg beaten

Drain tofu and pat dry, squeezing out some of moisture. Cut bitter melon lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into ¼-inch slices or thinner. Slice onion thinly.

Heat oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat. Break tofu into pieces by hand and add to frying pan. Fry until lightly browned. Add bitter melon and onion and toss with tofu. Add tuna and bonito flakes and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Add beaten egg and soy sauce and stir. Cook until eggs are set.

A Funny Video of Cooking Goya Champuru

Tom & Nozomi's Goya Champuru Variations

The recipe above is a basic recipe for Goya champuru. The word champuru translated however means "Mix" and there are many variations to what can be combined in the dish. The important part is that you like the taste of what you end up with in the end.

Nozomi recommends adding sweet onions like vidalias. Cut the onion cut into cresents and sweet carrots cut into long julian cuts. The carrots and onion will add sweetness to the stirfry and weaken the bitterness of the goya.

Tom likes to add 2 Tbs. of awamori or saki instead of adding the Hondashi. This eliminates the MSG factor and increases the healthyness of the dish.

Prepared pork for stir fry - Use lean pork loin. Place loin slices into a quart size ziplock bag. Grate 2 tsp. of fresh Ginger into the bag. Add 2 Tbs. saki, 1 Tbs. Sugar, 2 Tbs. Soy Sauce, and 1 Tbs. Mirin (Optional) then seal the bag carefully removing as much of the air as possible before sealing. Mix throughly for 3 - 5 minutes and then let sit in the refridgerator for at least 30 minutes. Fry in a hot pan after marinade. Discard the excess marinade. Cut pork into strips and set aside to add to goya champuru.

Beef & Bitter Melon Stir Fry


  • 1 pound Bitter Melon

  • 1 tablespoon Peanut Oil

  • 3 cloves Organic Garlic coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 pound Flank Steak cut into stir fry strips 

  • 2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

  • 1 teaspoon Salt

  • 1 teaspoon Sugar

  • 3 tablespoons Chicken Stock or Water

  • 2 tablespoons Dark Sesame Oil

Slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and finely chop the melon. Blanch the bitter melon in boiling water for 2 minutes and drain thoroughly. Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and the garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, bitter melon, and stock, and stir-fry for another 4 minutes, or until the beef is cooked. Stir in the sesame oil, turn onto a serving platter, and serve.

Goya Salad


  • 3 cups Goya (Bitter Melon)

  • 1 large Chicken Breast

  • 1/4 cup Sake

  • 2 oz thinly sliced Carrots

  • 1 stalk thinly sliced Celery

  • 1 tsp. Sea salt

  • Pinch of Black Pepper

  • 6 Tbs. Olive Oil

  • 4 Tbs. Vinegar

  • 1 Tbs. Grated Onion

  • 1 Tbs. Tomatoe Ketchup
Soak thin sliced goya in ice water for five minutes. Use younger smaller Goya if available to decrease the bitterness. drain well after soaking. Marinade Chicken with Sake & salt in a zip lock bag for 30 minutes. After marinade steam the chicken until thoroughly cooked. Set it aside and allow it to cool. When cool prepare for salad by shredding it by hand. Make the dressing by combining oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, onion, and ketchup in a bowl. The final step is to mix all of the remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl until throughly mixed. This should be done when all ingriedients are cool. Enjoy this refreshing salad.

 Here are some links to recipes from around the world using Bitter Melon

Friday, August 13, 2010

Orion Draft Beer - It's from OKINAWA!

When exploring Okinawa, it's hard not to notice the word Orion, whether it's seen on an advertisement, outside a business or on a T-shirt. After spending any length of time on the island, it becomes apparent that Orion is Okinawa's beer of choice. I particularly like the stuff and think of it as the Miller High Life of the orient.

Orion Breweries Ltd. was founded in May 1957 in Nago City as beer's popularity grew in the region during the post-war economic boom and the construction of U.S. military bases. The boom led to more jobs and higher wages, making the drink affordable for most Okinawans.

Orion, pronounced or-ee-on, unlike the constellation, prides itself on the freshness of its beer. The beer, which is specifically designed to suit the island's hot and humid climate, is made from malt and hops imported from Germany and the Czech Republic and then ripened under a strictly controlled process. The brewery's location in Nago was selected for its proximity to a fresh water source.

Orion's beer production is divided into a six-stage process. The series of steps are as follows: ingredients stage, mashing, fermentation process, filtration, bottling and canning, and quality inspection. Beer enthusiasts can witness the entire process by taking a tour of the brewery.

Brewery tours are available to the public for free everyday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 12 to 4 p.m. The brewery is closed Sundays and national holidays. The brewery is also closed from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3rd for the New Year.

A guide escorts groups on a 30-minute tour where patrons can view the entire brewing process. On the tour, visitors can watch beer go through each step as the tour guide explains what is happening. There is also a short video on the assembly line process and a beer tasting. Soft drinks are available to those who don't drink or are driving. There is also an Orion gift shop in the guest hall.

We visited in December so we had our jackets. Here we
are sampling a free beer at the end of the tour.
To schedule an English tour, call the brewery at 098-052-2136.

Here is a Video Review that My friend James Knott put together. He does beer reviews from all over but I found this on especially interesting.

Orion is Okinawa's top selling beer, and one of the top five in all Japan. Orion also has international distributors in Taiwan, Hawaii, California and New York. Orion is fondly known among Okinawans as the "beer of beers." Additional information about the factory is available at: The Orion Beer Website
Orion is a pilsner-style lager, which is distinct because of its use of Saaz. Saaz is a variety of hop found in the Czech Republic and the Hallertau region of Bavaria, Germany, which gives pilsners a stronger hop flavor than most lagers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bitter Melon / Gourd (also known as Momordica Charantia)

What is Goya? (Bitter Melon)
Goya is one of the most famous vegetables used in Okinawan cuisine. It is the key ingredient in goya champuru a signature dish in Okinawa which embodies the very essence of the Okinawan diet. Normally composed of stir fried goya, tofu and eggs, Goya champuru can include a variety of other vegetables and even meat. The dish is well known for its health aspects due to its high vitamin and anti-oxidant content. However, It is also known for its bitter taste so proper preparation is a must when using this vegetable for cooking. 
Goya Fruit
My wife and I have been growing goya bitter melon in our backyard garden for several years now here in Wisconsin with varying success. The vegetable requires at least 90 days of hot weather to produce a quality gourd. So with our northern climate having both hot and cool summers we have had mixed results from year to year.

The English names for the plant and its fruit include bitter melon or bitter gourd. In China it is known as pinyin or kugua. The Philippines calls it Ampalaya and in Japan it is called Goya and in India it is known as Karela. It can also be found in South America and the Caribbean where its also known as Balsamino or Saraseed.

The varieties will vary between locations due to different growing conditions and mutations of the plant. Colors range from very light almost pastel green to the richest deep green you can imagine. Our plants were looking a bit on the yellow side until I discovered that the soil here in Wisconsin is iron deficient in many areas. I added an iron supplement from our local gardening center and now our plants are a deep rich green.

The plant itself is a tropical climbing vine with delicate yellow flowers and tender, deeply lobed leaves. They love all the sun and humidity they can get and require regular watering. We grow them using a trellis that is built into our fence and it works well. I built it so once the vine reaches the point it wants to go over the top of the fence we can move it to an angled trellis where the fruit can hang beneath the large green foliage.

Its oval and long, textured green fruits are as crunchy as a cucumber  but extremely bitter to the taste buds. They are known for their medicinal properties, the bitter melon is easy to grow and cultivate, even in the backyard.

Step 1
Prepare a garden site that has good rich soil with lots of compost worked into it. Bitter melons can be a host to fungal diseases, so it helps to keep the ground surface dry. Place a strong trellis or support system into the ground that will allow the bitter melon to grow about 6 feet high. Augment the garden soil with compost or dried manure. Add iron suplement to sweeten the soil if you live in an area like us with moderate iron levels in the soil. This will promote that bright green tone in the fruit and leaves of the plants. Bitter melon prefers soil that is rich but drains well. Make sure the location receives six to eight hours of sunlight every day.
Step 2
Purchase your seeds from a reputable seller. They have been distributed in other countries for centuries but have not been as available in the United States. Thanks to the Internet, bitter melon seeds can now be easily ordered online. I would recommend someone like Kitazawa Seed company which deals in Oriental vegetable seeds.
 Harvest the fruits within two weeks after the flowers open. Young fruits ready for harvest are bright green, firm, juicy and crunchy. Fruits become more bitter and spongy as they mature.
Single Climbing Vine
Step 3
Germinate the seeds by soaking them in water for 24 to 48 hours or until they swell up. Peel off the outer coating with a sharp paring knife and plant the seed about 3/4 of an inch deep into moist potting soil. Keep the soil most until a green shoot or cotelydon pops through the soil, which should take about five to seven days.

Young Plant After Transplanting
Step 4
Transplant the plant once it has grown at least two real leaves and when the temperature outside has reached an average of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In our area we plant between mothers day and memorial day when the threat of frost has diminished. Do not disturb the soil around the roots when transplanting it, if at all possible. Place the plant into a hole the same size as the dirt ball. Gently pat the plant into the soil. Ideal spacing between plants is around 2 feet apart along a row to allow sunlight to reach the lower branches.

Our Plants Between Spring Peas
Step 5
Water the bitter melon vine in the mornings until the vines are well established. This will allow the heat of the day to dry the soil after watering. Another technique used in growing gourds and cucumbers is to place straw or hay around the base of the plant. This will help retain moisture in the soil without the vine resting in damp conditions.

Fruit hanging from Trellis
Step 6
Train the vine to grow up your support system, using cotton string or plant ties if necessary. The vines will have small grabber shoots that will come out of the vine and grab on so if you mind the plants as they grow training your plants should be easy. Just move your vines without breaking off the grabbers and they will grab on by the end of the day to where you put them. The fruits will grow straight if they are hanging as opposed to laying on the ground. You can prune overreaching or wayward growths on the vines to control the shape of the plant and encourage development of new stems, which will bear more fruits. Typically the growing time for melons is 80 to 90 days, but it may vary for your area and growing conditions.
Trained Vines on the Trellis
Step 7
Allow some fruits to over ripen. Once they have turned yellow harvest their seeds for the next crop. This should save you some money the following year.

This One Got A Bit Too Ripe

Here is a little bit about the Health benefits of eating bitter melon.

Bitter Melon helps support healthy blood sugar levels with compounds called charantin and momordicin.
Bitter Melon helps achieve positive sugar regulating effect by suppressing the neural response to sweet taste stimuli.

Compounds present in Bitter Melon, such as vicine, peptides, and polypeptide-p (plant insulin), work together to give Bitter Melon its potency.

Bitter Melon helps maintain a normal level of triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver and blood.

Several clinical trials have shown that bitter melon extract and juice lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It contains several phytochemicals that appear to act in ways similar to sulfonyurea drugs, without the side effects. If you are taking medication for your blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor before trying the fruit, and keep a close eye on your blood sugar. The easiest place to find bitter melon is an Asian food market. Bitter melon can be taken in whole fruit form or as a momordica extract, tincture, or juice. 

Well that is it for today. I will follow up tomorrow with some receipes for cooking Goya Bitter Melon. I hope this has inspired some of you to try it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Official Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai T-Shirt Design Contest

Do you have some artistic ability? Like to draw? The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai is having a contest that may be for you then.

As many of you are aware the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival will be held from October 13 to 16 next year in Okinawa. This event is sponsored by the Prefectural Government of Okinawa and has been held every five years since its inception in 1990. The word in the Chicago uchinanchu community is that many members of our organization plan to attend the event in 2011. Because of this the Okinawa Kenjinkai's officers have decided that it is time to begin design of a new official Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai T-Shirt Design.

On the eve of the event, (Oct. 12th 2011) there will be a parade where members of the Okinawa Kenjinkais' from around the world will gather to march as a group down Kokusai Dori, a famous street located in the heart of the capitol city of Naha. Traditionally groups have dressed in attire appropriate to their particular Kenjinkai so that the groups are easily distinguishable from one another. Our most recent design, pictured above, was designed just prior to the last Uchinanchu Taikai in October of 2006. As you can tell we difinitely stood out as a group.

The current design was developed by the Okinawa Kenjinkai's officers just prior to the last event. This year, we have decided that we should get an early start by having a contest to design a new official Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai T-Shirt design that will be used during the next event.

Do you think you might be interested in helping us develop a new design? Here is what you need to do. Design a shirt that represents both Chicago and your Okinawan heritage. There should be elements of both places to draw the design together and make it easily identifiable as to what it represents. Remember these T-shirts will be seen all over Okinawa.

The design must be no more than 10 inches wide and no more than 18 inches in height. Remember it should fill the front of the T shirt but look size appropriate whether on a small or extra large T-shirt.

The design must be able to be stenciled and use no more than four colors. Primary colors or colors that will look good on various color shirts should be considered. Expense will be a factor in determining the winning design and more colors means more expense.

Remember to make the design universal as the shirts will be used for other events besides the Uchinanchu Taikai and will be for sale at our annual Kenjinkai events. Please do not use trademarked designs or characters as we want our design to be original and eye catching.

Prizes will be awarded for the top three submissions but it has yet to be determined what the prizes will be. The deadline for submissions will be December 31st 2010 for the T-shirt designs. The Kenjinkai officers will then meet and vote on the winners.

If you wish to participate submit your entries to any Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai officer or send it to me at . We will be announcing the winners at next years, New Years Celebration. We may even have some of the winning design available for purchase at that time depending on production requirements and our silk screener. Good Luck!

Special Note: Participants must agree to give up all rights to their design prior to submittal. Submitting a design will give the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai rights to use the design and will be considered an acknowledgment of this agreement.

Monday, August 2, 2010

5th World Uchinanchu Festival Information

Saturday some of the St. Louis Kenjinkai members expressed interest in participating in the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival. They stated that they were unaware that such a festival existed and wanted to participate next year. When I though about it, I figured I should probably write about it here on the blog too because if they didn't know then there are probably others out there too. So here is some information for all you to pass along.

As Goodwill Ambassadors to Okinawa, and the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai, both Ikuko Nichols and I are pleased to announce that the Prefectural Government of Okinawa will once again sponsor an Uchinanchu Taikai in 2011.We have received word from Mr. Yonamine, who is a chairman with the governments Exchange Promotion Division in Okinawa, that the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival will be held from October 13th to 16th, 2011.

This is a major event that invites people of Okinawan heritage to return to Okinawa for many cultural events. The invitations are extended from the prefectural government to members of Okinawa Kenjinkais’ around the globe. The event normally begins with a march by the Kenjinkais’ in a parade down Okinawa’s famous Kokusai street in the heart of downtown Naha.

Usually the next day there is a huge opening ceremony where many performers from around the Ryukyu Islands perform a professionally choreographed show to welcome the visitors from around the world. I attended the 4th World Uchinanchu festival in 2006 and can tell you that there is no bigger event that will make you feel the pride of being Okinawan than this one.

There are scheduled events around the island and you can set your own pace depending on what you like. There are performances of Okinawan dance and music, theatrical performances, karate tournaments and demonstrations, talent shows, business exchange promoting the uchinanchu network, concerts of popular musicians, and an international fair which is a festival of food and products from around the world.

I was amazed at the sheer scope of the event when I attend and our Okinawan hosts really did a wonderful job making everyone feel welcomed. They even went as far as giving everyone free bus passes that were good throughout the festival. It was a truly spectacular event! Soon we will begin organizing for our trip.

For those of you who will be attending, you will need to start planning soon. Some things to consider will be that everyone attending will be responsible for finding their own transportation and accommodations during the event. Many of us have relatives in Okinawa that will allow us to stay with them. If you don’t, remember that the hotels will fill up during this event. Word to the wise make your reservations early! Something else you should consider is getting an international drivers license if you plan to rent a car during your stay. I did this through AAA when we went for a nominal fee and we were able to move about the island at our leisure because of it. If you have questions about the Uchinanchu Taikai you can email me at I will be happy to help you if I can. Kenjinkai members will need to get with their Kenjinkai's president to make sure your name is submitted as a participant.

Hope this helps everyone out that is interested in attending. I will post the schedule of events when it becomes available later.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Picnic Photo Album Now Online

Well yesterday's picnic went off without a hitch. Many came and enjoyed the festive atmosphere and good food. I will write more about the event in a later posting but wanted to inform everyone that the pictures I took have been put onto the website for your viewing pleasure. I would like to thank everyone who participated in making this a sucessful event and hope to hear some positive feedback on the picnic posts. You can view the Album from our website at or by clicking right here Picnic Album.

As My Friend Rich Says A Pitcher Says A Thousand Words!