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, October 23, 2010

Okinawan Karate Hidden in Dance

Did you know that Okinawan Classical Dance incorporates Karate movements into the dances? Well incorporated into the Classical Young Mens dances were often hidden Karate movements. Behind the movements lurk turbulent amorous passions; and young mens dances' called Nisai Odori, especially express a vigorous masculine quality to them by incorporating gestures from Okinawan Karate.

During the royal age of the Ryukyu kingdom dances were performed exclusively by male members of the nobility, following the first florescence of aristocratic culture during the sixteenth century. The Ryukyuan arts developed a more introspective side in the wake of the Satsuma invasion of 1609 and the subsequent domination of the Ryukyu islands by Satsuma. Satsuma would not allow the Ryukyu people to be armed so they hid their Karate movements into the dance.
The period of domination by Satsuma saw the Ryukyu Kingdom obligated to dispatch frequent ambassadorial parties to the Satsuma capital of Kagoshima and the Japanese capital of Edo on official and ceremonial business. These parties would contain envoys that would perform cultural dance to enhance the relationship with the Japanese. These envoys were also body guards trained in hand to hand martial arts with the movements they used hidden in the dance.

Today, I am presenting a film of the Traditional dance Hamachidori for you to see the actual presentation of this wonderful dance. The second film I have placed here will show a comparison of the hand movements contained within the dance and the Karate movements associated with the movement.

Hamachidori's theme is the desolation of travel and the image which runs through it is that of a bird known as the beach plover. The dancers wear costumes decorated with kasuri patterns on dark blue backgrounds and held firm without an obi in the Ryukyuan ushinchi style, whereby the kimono neckband is tucked into the belt of the undergarment. Long purple headbands trail from the dancers chignons. A feature of Hamachidori is its incorporation of flowing hand movements as used in the dances of Okinawan priestesses during religious ceremonies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Foreigners that are into Okinawan Culture

How do you feel about foreigners that are very much into Okinawan culture? Do you consider them talented or some sort of misfit trying to horn in on another countries culture? Recently, I have been thinking about how other people may view Americans who are neck deep into the culture of the Okinawan people. I imagine that there are quite a few people out there that think of us as nerds or geeks for becoming involved in a culture so different from own. This is why I believe they are wrong.

A close friend of mine recently stopped participating in our Kenjinkai's sanshin group after I wrote a blog entry about me learning to play sanshin. The title of the story was "Gaijin on a Sanshin." This friend of mine took offense to the title and I believe took it a little too personal, as if the story were written about him. It probably didn't help matters either that we both have the first name Tom.

Some people take offense to the word gaijin as if it were a derogatory term used to describe people in a less than conservative light. They believe the word can be construed as being bigoted much in the way coco-jin is. Literally translated the word coco-jin means a black foreigner in Japanese. Most Americans however can probably imagine a similar bigoted term which paints the person it is directed at in prejudiced manner. I don't believe the word gaijin was originally meant to be a derogatory word to the Okinawan people but through interpretation has become so to some in today's modern society.

I am saddened by the loss of our good friend to the sanshin group. He was of a superior level and could sing in Okinawan dialect using an uncanny ability to hit the right tones and inflections. I would consider him to be on a professional tier as sanshin players go. He had performed several times in Okinawa on both the stage and radio. He expressed his despair to me that he would never be accepted as a professional in the eyes of many and felt they only viewed him as a trained animal act capable of mimicking what he was taught.

I could understand his point of view because, I remember as a young airman serving in Okinawa in the early 1980's, we would go to clubs like the Cannon Live House on BC Street where we could hear Japanese rock bands belt out tunes by Led Zeppelin and other popular rock groups of our day. The bands sounded exactly like the albums we had sitting back in our rooms but when you went up to the musicians after the show many of them actually spoke very little English.

I believe my friend was mistaken about how people percieved him as a sanshin player though. He was very popular and everyone who knew him in his capacity as a sanshin player misses being able to hear him play. There are many Gaijins out there who have some talent in the Okinawan arts. Usually it is because we fell in love with the culture through being stationed there or through our wives connection to their native culture. There is no shame in doing your best at anything.

Here are some other friends I have who love Okinawan Culture as much or more than I do. Oh yeah they are talented too!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Memories of Nights out in Okinawa

My blogger friend Kat posted a link the other day about the band Condition Green. That post brought back memories of a wonderful time as I experienced my 20's whilw living in Okinawa Japan. I remember going to see them on the corner of Gate two street and Moromi just outside Kadena Air Base. The band came up through the 1970's and some of them are still plaing today in a place on gate two street called Jack Nasty's. They put on a wonderful show and still attract young american GI's with their now classic Rock N Roll. Here are some videos and pictures for those of you who like myself were fortunate enough to have been in the right place at the right time.

Yes that is Habu Sake he's Drinking