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.

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!

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