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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The First in a Series of Playlists about the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival

This year I spent all of October in Okinawa. While I was there I attended the 5th worldwide Uchinanchu festival where I was treated like a VIP due to my Minkan Taishi status. This presented me with an opportunity to capture some wonderful videos of the event from some prime locations. Please watch the attached video and enter your thoughts on how Okinawans will go all out to welcome home people descended from the uchinanchu people.

Visit my YouTube channel for more videos about Okinawa and its people.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little Bit About Ancient Okinawans

The oldest human remains discovered on Okinawa were those of a seven-year-old girl estimated to be approximately 32,000 years old. Her remains were found inside Yamashita Daiichi Cave in the Yamashita district of Naha in 1962. 

Yamashita Daiichi Cave is a semi-cave ruin and because it was used as a grave it escaped destruction in postwar quarrying. The bones of an 8-year-old girl, subsequently called the Yamashita-dojin were excavated from here. It is one of the most significant finds within the whole of the East Asian region and in 1969 it was designated as a Cultural Property by Okinawa Prefecture. 

Six years later, the remains of a male who lived more than 18,000 years ago were unearthed in the Minatogawa district of Gushikami. Not much is known about how these ancient Okinawans lived, but scientists are continuing lo discover more about Okinawa’s past through new excavation sites.

 Ancient Okinawans lived in small coastal communities and survived mostly on small fish and shellfish. Archeologists called this the “Shellmound Era” because of the mounds of discarded shells and fish bones that were found during numerous excavations.

Okinawans who inhabited the island during the Shellmound Era, several thousand years ago, lived in caves near the coastline. As civilization advanced, building technology improved to simple dwellings made from wood, thatch, and earth. These early Okinawans survived on fish, shellfish, and small animals that they occasionally hunted. Tools crafted from bone and stone were used. This way of life lasted until approximately 1,500 years ago.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I've now returned from Okinawa

Hello everyone. I just got back from Okinawa where we attended the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival. I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find that my status as a new uchina goodwill ambassador gained me access to some pretty spectacular events and some special VIP seating. This allowed me to get some pretty fantastic video that I will be able to share with you over the coming months. All tolled I took over 2000 photographs and 200 Gb of video. I hope you will join me here and follow along as I retrace our Okinawan adventure.

Here are a few teaser photos of whats to come.

Watch for postings soon as soon as my jet lag wears off!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goya Farmer

Every year I get a little bit better at growing these bitter melons in my garden. They are extremely healthy and taste great is you prepare them correctly. The secret is to use a spoon to scrape as much of the white fibrous material from the center before using it in you recipes. The plant is called by different names depending on what country your in but we like to call it Goya the Japanese name for bitter melon. 

Recently my friend Tom Pressley posted that he has been learning to make Champuru and posted a picture of his most recent dish. It looked more like Okazu to me as it was mostly bean sprouts and tofu. Okinawan champuru contains Goya so Tom's must be a variation of the real stuff. Here is a picture of what real champuru should look like. 

This year my crop was delayed because the first batch of seeds we planted didn't sprout for some reason. We have been pulling the seeds for the next years crops right from the fruit we are using. Maybe we picked some that weren't mature enough who knows? We did have more though but the bad seeds put us about three weeks behind. The plants did do well and the weather cooperated pretty much so we have been eating Goya.
Goya Lemon & Apple Juice Cocktail 
 Goya Pinwheels

  • To make them fill goya rings with Ground chuck that has portabello mushrooms minced into it.
  • Bread them by dipping in egg and coating with panko
  • Deep fry them up in a wok
  • When browned well remove them from the pan and let the excess oil drain into a paper towel
  • When they are dry cut them in half and serve.
Even the kids will eat these because they're fried

Here is a video that I threw together showing the growth this season. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Visitors from Salt Lake City

This weekend we had visitors from Salt Lake City. Uchinanchu Friend Keiko Mitchell and her husband Steve stopped by to say hello on their way to see their son in Rockford Illinois. Keiko recently passed her first level Sanshin test and played for us at the house. She has a wonderful voice and played very well from memory. We had dinner together and visited the Okinawa Stone down by the shores of Lake Michigan. They weren't able to stay long but it sure was nice to see them again.

One thing I like about having uchinanchu friends is once you have an Okinawan friend you have them for life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August is the Month of Obon in Okinawa Japan

Obon (お盆) or just Bon (盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors' graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

The festival of Obon lasts for three days; however its starting date varies within different regions of Japan. When the lunar calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the Meiji era, the localities in Japan reacted differently and this resulted in three different times of Obon. "Shichigatsu Bon" (Bon in July) is based on the solar calendar and is celebrated around 15 July in eastern Japan (Kantō: areas such as Tokyo, Yokohama and the Tohoku region), coinciding with Chūgen. "Hachigatsu Bon" (Bon in August) is based on the solar calendar, is celebrated around the 15th of August and is the most commonly celebrated time. "Kyu Bon" (Old Bon) is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and so differs each year. "Kyu Bon" is celebrated in areas like the northern part of the Kantō region, Chūgoku, Shikoku, and the Southwestern islands. These three days are not listed as public holidays but it is customary that people are given leave.

Bon Odori (盆踊り), meaning simply Bon dance is a style of dancing performed during Obon. Originally a Nenbutsu folk dance to welcome the spirits of the dead, the style of celebration varies in many aspects from region to region. Each region has a local dance, as well as different music. The music can be songs specifically pertinent to the spiritual message of Obon, or local min'yo folk songs. Consequently, the Bon dance will look and sound different from region to region. Hokkaidō is known for a folk-song known as "Soran Bushi." The song "Tokyo Ondo" takes its namesake from the capital of Japan. "Gujo Odori" in Gujō, Gifu prefecture is famous for all night dancing. "Goshu Ondo" is a folk song from Shiga prefecture. Residents of the Kansai area will recognize the famous "Kawachi ondo." Tokushima in Shikoku is very famous for its "Awa Odori," or "fool's dance," and in the far south, one can hear the "Ohara Bushi" of Kagoshima.

The way in which the dance is performed is also different in each region, though the typical Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a 'yagura'. The yagura is usually also the bandstand for the musicians and singers of the Obon music. Some dances proceed clockwise, and some dances proceed counter-clockwise around the yagura. Some dances reverse during the dance, though most do not. At times, people face the yagura and move towards and away from it. Still some dances, such as the Kagoshima Ohara dance, and the Tokushima Awa Odori, simply proceed in a straight line through the streets of the town.

The dance of a region can depict the area's history and specialization. For example, the movements of the dance of the Tankō Bushi (the "coal mining song") of old Miike Mine in Kyūshū show the movements of miners, i.e. digging, cart pushing, lantern hanging, etc. All dancers perform the same dance sequence in unison.

There are other ways in which a regional Bon dance can vary. Some dances involve the use of different kinds of fans, others involve the use of small towels called tenugui which may have colorful designs. Some require the use of small wooden clappers, or "kachi-kachi" during the dance. The "Hanagasa Odori" of Yamagata is performed with a straw hat that has been decorated with flowers.

The music that is played during the Bon dance is not limited to Obon music and min'yo; some modern enka hits and kids' tunes written to the beat of the "ondo" are also used to dance to during Obon season. The "Pokémon Ondo" was used as one of the ending theme songs for the anime series in Japan.

The Bon dance tradition is said to have started in the later years of the Muromachi period as a public entertainment. In the course of time, the original religious meaning has faded, and the dance has become associated with summer.

To celebrate O-Bon in Okinawa, the eisa drum dance is performed instead.

This video shows a compilation of dancers that danced at this years Bon dance at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights. Mitsuwa has become the annual spot for the bon odori in the chicagoland area. I changed the music but it fits rather nicely to the dance and the occassion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Exactly is the Uchinanchu Taikai?

Nearly 100 years ago, many Okinawans left their beloved island, lured by dreams of making their fortunes. Many islanders made their way to places such as Hawaii (where they worked on sugar plantations), Peru, Brazil, and other countries throughout the world. While many of these Okinawans dreams were larger than life, unfortunately life in a foreign country was worse than what they had foreseen. Housing conditions were poor and labor was unbelievably tough. Language barriers and new customs also gave many Okinawans problems as well.

Many people may wonder why so many Okinawans would leave such a beautiful place and move to a foreign country. Several factors contributed to this mass exodus. After Okinawa was assimilated by Japan, the new government imposed a new tax system and instigated a military draft. These policies made many islanders lives extremely difficult. The island also suffered from limited natural resources. Since space was at such a premium, few could afford decently sized farm plots, and typhoons destroyed crops on a regular basis.

Today, emigrants from Okinawa throughout the world regularly reconnect with islanders from the same village, town, or city. Many organized groups exist, promoting friendship and exchanging information. Recently, many groups have consolidated into larger networks called Kenjin-kai. There are sixty-six Kenjin-kai located throughout the world, and periodically these networks hold a Worldwide Uchinanchu (Okinawan) Festival in Okinawa sponsored by the Prefectural government, bringing representatives from different Kenjin-kai together.

The first was held in 1990 and then more were held in 1995, 2001, and 2006. This year, the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival will be held at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium in Naha. The events will take place between October 12th and the 16th once again bringing Okinawans back to their beloved ancestral homeland.

Let the Churashima spirit echo into the future!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 5th Joint Performance Recital with The Kariyushi-kai

If you're going to be in Okinawa the weekend before the 5th world Uchinanchu Festival maybe you'll be interested in attending a cultural arts performance between the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai and the Kariyushi-kai of Okinawa.

On October 9th 2011 there will be a joint performance recital featuring the Music & Dance of Okinawa Japan. Performed by members of the Kariyushi-kai and the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai the performance will be the fifth time these two groups have met to perform together.

It will be held at the Kimutaka Hall which is located at 3071 Katsuren-Henna, in Uruma City. This is an exciting event for those who enjoy the pleasures of the Okinawa culture.

EVENT: 5th Reunion Recital of the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai and the Okinawa Kariyushi-Kai

When: Sunday, October 9th 2011

View Larger Map

Where: Kimutaka Hall (3071 Katsuren-Henna, Uruma City)

Time: 3pm

You MUST RSVP for tickets to this event. If you have questions and request for more detail information please contact to Mayumi Seino /

A 2011 Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai Event

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Okinawa's Annual Shisa-mai Festival

Once upon a time, a Ryukyuan emissary returned from China after his voyage to the court at Shuri Castle, where he brought with him a gift for the king. It was a necklace decorated with a small figurine of a shisa-dog. The king found it charming and wore it underneath his clothing.

Now it happened that the Naha Port bay, by the village of Madanbashi was often terrorized by a sea dragon who ate the villagers and destroyed their property. One day, the King was visiting the village when one of these attacks happened. The people scattered running to hide from the horrible sea dragon. The local noro had been told in a dream that he should instruct the king when he visited to stand on the beach and lift his figurine towards the dragon. She sent a young boy named Chiga to tell him the message which had come to her in a dream. The King upon hearing the message went to the seaside where he faced the sea monster with the figurine held high.
Shisa near Gana-mui Woods & the Naha Ohashi Bridge
Almost  immediately a giant roar could be heard all throughout  the village. A roar so deep and powerful that it even shook the sea dragon. Then a massive boulder then fell from heavens and crushing the sea dragon's tail. He couldn't move, and eventually died. This boulder and the dragon's body became covered with plants and surrounded by trees, and can still be seen by the port today. It is the "Gana-mui Woods" near Naha Ohashi bridge. The towns people built a large stone shisa to protect it from the dragon's spirit and other threats.

The people of Okinawa call lion-dogs, shisa or shishi. pronounced "She-she" Shishi is a Chinese word meaning lion-dog. A shisa is a lion-dog originally from China that wards off evil spirits and was initially placed at the entrances of castles, temples, imperial mausoleums and communities. In Okinawa they can be seen on many houses as well. Many times there are two Shisa present one with mouth closed to warn potential evil to stay away from the property and one with the mouth open almost in a smile to welcome good spirts.
Photo courtesy of Lloyd Wanscott photographer for Okinawa Living Magazine

The Shishimai, or Shisa dance, is a lively dance performed by a two costumed performers. In the dance, the fierce guardian is transformed into a fun loving spirit as it leaps and runs, wagging its furry tail and snapping its great wooden jaws at the audience to bring the people in attendance good luck. Children and adults alike laugh and try to pet the Shisa as it bounds by and catches a ball thrown by a Chondara clown.

The Shisa brings a warm feeling of timeless joy and by means of its ancient protection. It has become a rich part of Ryukyuan history and culture as well as reflecting the traditional beliefs of the typical family in Okinawa.

Every year in Okinawa they hold an annual shisa-mai festival. I believe this years festival will be held on September 25th at the Agena Bullring in Uruma City. Several different groups will be competing for the honor of best Shisa-mai group 2011.

If your going to Okinawa early for the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival this may be something you should check out. I'm positive you won't be disappointed. Maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chicago's Annual Bon Odori

It's been a few days since I last wrote on the blog because I broke my tooth off and have been in pain for most of the week. The dentist was able to help me out before Saturday’s event at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, IL. The event is an annual one with everyone showing up to celebrate Obon. The Japanese holiday that celebrates the ancestors returning back to the earth for a yearly visit, It involves many Japanese and Okinawans from around the Chicago area as well as everyone else who likes culture. It is a time to meet with old friends and meet new ones as well.

Saturday I met a Japanese fellow named Kohei Yoshida who was visiting Chicago on a research project involving the assimilation of local uchinanchu people into other cultures. He was looking for volunteers to interview for the project and somehow he ended up talking to me. Mr. Yoshida is a research fellow of the Japan Society for the promotion of science (Social Science) with the Tokyo Metropolitan University. If you would like to contact him he said he would love to interview anyone with possible information on his research subject. Please feel free to email him at Yoshida san was going to Brazil and Peru after his Chicago visit but promised to stop back and see us next summer.
The Bon dance is a tradition where a group of people from a village gather to dance in celebration around a podium of lanterns usually set up in the village's gathering place. In Chicago we still celebrate the tradition by visiting our gathering place, Mitsuwa Market, where everyone constantly visits and picks up the essentials of Japanese cookery.

The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai has become a regular part of the celebration demonstrating its version of Matsuri Daiko a form of choreographed eisa movements to a more modern style of eisa music from Okinawa. I was there to capture all of the action to share with you here today. So here is a sample of what I took. More video can be viewed on my Youtube page at ... Enjoy!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Well yesterday was our annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai Picnic. After a week filled with rain the day finally came and there wasn't a rain cloud to be seen in the sky. The weather was hot with temperatures nearing the 90 degree mark. What a perfect Okinawa type day for our picnic. I estimate there was about 120 people present at the Robinson Woods picnic groves. The food was great as always and there was plenty of activities to fill the day. Our new Kenjinkai president Paula Schmidling did a wonderful job organizing the event and all of the officers were involved in some aspect of the preparation. Here are a few videos to let you know what you missed out on if you weren't there. Maybe we will see you next year at the picnic. Ashibi nu chura saa ninju nu sunawai! It means the more the merrier!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Okinawa Monorail Yui Rail ゆいレール

Going early to Okinawa so you can attend the Otsunahiki? Are you going to have free time between otsunahiki and the uchinanchu festival? If you’re going to be in Okinawa you’ll need to know how to get around and know what to do during the down time between festivals. Transportation is expensive in Okinawa and you’ll need to have a plan if you’re going to maximize both your budget and your time. I’ve decided to help you out a bit here on the blog by explaining your options.

I lived on Okinawa for nearly ten years during the eighties and nineties but things were a lot different back then. For one thing the yen rate was between 150 to 200 yen to the dollar at that time not the 78 yen per dollar you’re going to get during the festival this year. By knowing your options you may be able to save yourself a little money.

There are several forms of transportation on the island and I will cover them in the next few days. Your choices will include rental cars, buses, taxies, and a monorail system that runs between the Airport and Shuri right through the heart of Naha city. Today I’ll talk specifically about using the Monorail.

Okinawa Monorail Yui Rail  ゆいレール
I like historical things so let’s begin with a bit of history about electric rail in Okinawa. The first electric railway was established in 1911 by Saiga Tokichi the operator of Saiga Electric Company of Kyoto. He created the Okinawa Electric Railway which linked Naha to Shuri with a trolley line. The trolley line did well until the introduction of buses on the island. It lasted until 1933 when the line ceased its operations due to the loss of passengers brought about by the competition with buses. In Okinawa it’s really hard to find old photographs but thanks to military photographers on island after the battle for Okinawa I was able to find a picture of a trolley car on Okinawa that had been there prior to the war. I believe therefore that this must have been one of the Okinawa Electric Railway Trolley cars.

Okinawa Electric Trolley Car (1945)
The Okinawa Toshi Monorēru a Monorail called the Yui Rail (ゆいレール)

The Yui Rail Travels Above the Street Level
 Today’s monorail system is about as far from the original trolley design as one can imagine. Construction on the line began in 1996 and the when finished in 2003 the new Okinawa Monorail system gave the Okinawan people and tourists alike an alternative to the bus once again. This state of the art monorail was designed to overcome the severe congestion in the capitol city of Naha. The line runs for 13 kilometers from the Naha airport through Naha city all the way to Shuri. It really is the perfect form of transportation for those staying in Naha.

Conductors are Available to Assist You

When the wife and I visited for the 4th Uchinanchu Festival in 2006 we rode the monorail and it was a very affordable alternative to using a taxi. To ride the monorail you will need to purchase a ticket up on the platform. The cost of the fare is relative to the distance from starting station to destination station. Distances are rounded up to the nearest 1km. Children’s fares are half of adult's fares and are rounded up to nearest 10yen. The rates I found online are between 200 and 300 yen or about $3.85 to ride the entire distance. Not bad for a 13 Km ride.

Purchase Your Ticket on the Platform

Put your Ticket in the end of the Turnstyle

Your Ticket Will Pop Out the Other End

Your now Ready to ride the Monorail.
Have Fun and enjoy the Festival!
 Here are the stops along the line.
There are 15 stations on the line.

Station name       Japanese        Total distance Location

Naha-kūkō        那覇空港       0 km Naha, Okinawa
Akamine            赤嶺               1.95 km
Oroku               小禄                2.71 km
Ōnoyama-kōen 奥武山公園    3.68 km      This is the stop where the festival will be held
Tsubogawa        壺川               4.52 km
Asahibashi         旭橋               5.33 km
Kenchō-mae     県庁前           5.91 km
Miebashi           美栄橋           6.63 km
Makishi             牧志               7.61 km
Asato                安里               8.2 km
Omoromachi     おもろまち   8.95 km
Furujima            古島               9.96 km
Shiritsu-byōin-mae  市立病院前  10.88 km
Gibo                  儀保       11.84 km
Shuri                 首里               12.84 km

Other Okinawa monorail Yui Rail ゆいレール Information
The monorail is a business venture between the prefecture and a private enterprise.

How to ride the Yui Rail
The following describes how to buy and use a regular ticket (Futsu Joshaken) on the Yui Rail, monorail in Naha City Okinawa.

Once you arrive at a monorail station, the first thing you'll need to do is buy a ticket. Find your destination on the fare table located above the ticket vending machines, this will be listed in Japanese characters (kanji) and Romanized (English) letters, it will also show the cost to that station. Put the fare (coins, bills, or card) into the ticket vending machine. Then comes the challenge, match the English station name with Japanese character (kanji) on the ticket machine. Press the button for your destination and the machine will dispense your ticket. If you need a ticket for a child make sure to press the children button before you press the destination button as children fares are less expensive. If you have any problems with this process each monorail station in Naha has staff that can help.

After you have your ticket you can proceed through the station’s gates by placing your ticket in the slot on the right side of the gate. Be sure to grab it as it comes out on the other side as you will need it to get out at your destination.

Next, head toward the platform, following the sign for the train heading the direction you need to go. You can either go North toward Shuri or South toward Naha-Kuko.

Lastly, when you arrive at your destination station exit by inserting your ticket as you go through the opposite way as you did when entering. Regular ticket will disappear in to the slot but if you purchased an all-day pass, do not forget to pick it up on the other side. If you travel further then the ticket purchased, the gate will close and station staff will come to collect the remaining fare or you can pay the difference at the fare-adjustment window.

Operating times
- The first train starts each day at 06:00 and the last train departs at 23:30
- During rush hours 08:00 – 09:00 trains arrive at stations at 6.5 minute intervals
- The rest of the day trains arrive at station at 7.5 – 15 minute intervals


Regular Ticket (Futsu Joshaken)
The cost of fares is relative to the distance from starting station to destination station. Distances are rounded up to the nearest 1km. Children’s fares are half of adult's fares and are rounded up to nearest 10yen.

Pre-paid card (Yui card)
Pre-paid cards are a convenient way to use the monorail as you don’t have to think of the cost to each destination or take the time to use the ticket vending machines every time you go somewhere. Cards are available in 1000 yen, 3000 yen, and 5000 yen increments.

To buy a Yui Card simply put coins or bills in to a ticket vending machine and press the button showing "Card" and then the fare button. To use the card simply put it in the ticket slot when entering a gate the same way you would a ticket. Don’t forget to grab it on the other side when both entering and exiting a monorail station.

Multi-ride Ticket (Kaisuu Joshaken)
Multi-ride tickets are another way to save a bit of money on monorail fare. These passes are good for 6 month after the date of purchase.

To buy a multi-ride ticket put coins or bills (Yui cards can’t be used) into the ticket vending machine and press the "Kaisuuken" button and then the station button. Muli-ride Tickets are good for 10 rides.

Open ticket
If you are traveling around Naha for the day and plan on using the Yui Rail to see the sights, an open ticket might be your best option. These tickets allow for unlimited use of the monorail for one, two, or three days for a set price.

To purchase these tickets simply press the button on a ticket vending machine labeled "One day open ticket" and then the "1 day" “2 days” or “3 days” button.

If you have problems purchasing an open ticket and need to ask the station staff for help here are the Japanese names for them:

One day open ticket: "Ichinichi Joshaken"
Two days open ticket: "Futsuka Joshaken"
Three days open ticket: "Mikka Joshaken"

God Luck and Have Fun!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Okinawa Has Multiple Festivals During October

Multiple Festivals will take place in close proximity to one another this October in Okinawa. As everyone probably knows, that is when the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival will takes place. But don't just go there to participate in the Uchinanchu festival. Go a few day early and catch the fun at the Naha festival as well.

If you arrive in Okinawa prior to the Uchinanchu festival you should try to be in Naha on the 8th and 9th of October. There will be the Naha Festival which is the lead up to the annual Otsunahiki (Tug of War). This year will be the 41st year for the event which welcomes all to participate by pulling the rope either for the East or the West. The choice is totally up to you. The best part though is that its free and is really a great time.  Here is a video I took in 2006 the last time I attended the Otsunahiki. It's kind of low quality and a little bit too long but it gives you the idea of what you'll be in for.

The fun begins on Kokusai street in downtown Naha with a parade of banners, hung from huge bamboo poles. All throughout the parade route various members of the teams take turns balancing the poles in the air single-handedly. It is a show of strength and when the balancing member gets tired he must hand off the pole to another team member without letting the pole hit the ground. The banners represent the seven districts of the east and the seven districts of the west. The teams carry the banners escorted by eisa drummers and and other traditionally garbed people.

You will see and hear many things during the parade with loud traditional finger whistles peircing the air as well as the sound of firecrackers gongs and drums. The parades route leads to Komoji Corner on Highway 58 where the highway will be blocked off for the huge tug of war.  Many young men wearing the black special uniforms called  "Mumunuchihanta" participate in this parade. There are 14 committees and the flags represent symbols of good-luck to the areas where they live. It is very difficult to walk and hold the flags. So the young men are very proud to participate in the parade by holding the flags of their districts.

During the festival the busy Kumoji intersection of Route 58 will be completely cleared, with the road divider removed for the event. They do this to make way for the gigantic rope used in the tug of war. It's a Guinness World Record holder, measuring 200m (656 feet) in length, and weighing more than 40 metric tons (44 American tons)!

This event definately needs more than 15,000 people in order to pull the rope, and that means we need you too! So come join in the fun. It will become a lifelong memory for you. Then after the tug of war is over, don't forget to take home a pieces of the rope as it is believed to bring good luck for the rest of the coming year.

So that means we can attend the Otsunahiki (Naha Festival) on October 9th and then move into the week of the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival (WUF) which begins with another parade on Wednesday evening. I discovered something interesting about the festival today when reading the Ryukyu Shimpo. I discovered that another festival called the Worldwide Eisa Festival is being combined with the WUF on October 15th. Here is the article I found.

Worldwide Eisa Festival to be held on October 15

In the afternoon of July 6, at the Prefecture Reporters Club, singer songwriter Kazufumi Miyazawa (center) talked about the Worldwide Eisa Festival.

July 7, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011, which aims to establish a new style of “participatory Eisa” as a world standard, is scheduled to be held at Onoyama Stadium in Naha City on October 15 and 16.

While the festival has been held under the name “The National Eisa Festival” until last year, it has changed its name in association with the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival scheduled to be held at the same time in October.

The Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011 includes a “Creative Eisa Contest,” which invites various groups from within the prefecture, other prefectures and overseas to compete to impress and energize the audience and deliver something creative, “Traditional Eisa,” in which 18 groups of junior troupes from the prefecture are scheduled to participate, and “Chimdon Stage," (Get Excited Stage) in which the groups that want to exhibit Eisa and drum performance strive to entertain the audience.

At a press conference held on July 6, Daiichi Hirata, a member of the Festival Executive Committee and the head of the Department of Culture, Tourism, and Sports in the Okinawa Prefectural Government, said, “While we respect traditional Eisa and think that creative Eisa does allow young people to more easily participate, we want to create a new style of Eisa, one that is even more participatory and interactive, a style through which people will be able to start new friendships.”

Singer songwriter Kazufumi Miyazawa, who composed and sings Shinkanucha (Fellowship), a song for the “Creative Eisa Contest,” said, “There are many people like myself living in other prefectures and other countries of the world who love Okinawa and are concerned about its future. I wrote this song in the wish that those people’s hearts would be united.”

For further details and for applications, call the Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011 Executive Office at 098 (867) 2622.  For the official website for the festival, access

Then if your still around at the end of October you can attend the Shurijo Castle festival on October 28-30 2011. At this festival you can feel the pleasant autumn breeze, and visit Shurijo Castle to travel back in time to the Ryukyu Kingdom era! The festival will feature Ryukyu dance performances and recreation of Ryukyu King Coronation Ceremony by Chinese envoys.

The highlight of the festival, magnificent Ryukyu Dynasty Procession, will take your breath away, as a cast of 1,500 performers parade down the vibrant Kokusai Street in colorful and gorgeous costumes. Meet the dignified King of Ryukyu, elegant Queen, and numbers of Kingdom officials and entertainment parties. It is more than just a dress-up. It is a revival of the prosperous Ryukyu Dynasty into the present!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The 5th World Uchinanchu Festival is coming! Here's the Scoop.

The first World Uchinanchu Festival was held in 1990 to promote cultural awareness among Okinawans and their friends and relatives scattered around the globe. It has since become a tremendous promotional event for Okinawa Prefecture. Each time the festival is held it seems to attract more and more overseas participants which are wonderful for the Okinawan economy.
The planning that goes into this event is tremendous and the Okinawa prefecture really goes all out to welcome back uchinanchu people who many times have been long removed from their Okinawan culture. This year’s festival will take place on October 12th through the 16th and includes many cultural events.
It all begins unofficially on the eve of the actual event October 12, 2011 from 4pm to 6pm on a street called Kokusai Dori. Okinawa Kenjinkais from around the world converge on Kokusai Dori a downtown street in the capitol city of Naha for a festival eve parade. These groups form up with their associations and parade from one end of the two mile stretch to the other in garb that is representative of the areas around the globe from where they came. It is a joyous occasion and is quite a sight with both tourists and Okinawan relatives alike lining the sides of the street to catch a glimpse of the spectacle their returning loved ones in the parade.
In the past the event has been mainly focused on these uchinanchu visitors returning from abroad to their homeland. This time though I have heard there will be an effort to bring the more members of the general public to the festival grounds to participate. This is probably the reason they picked the Okinawa Cellular stadium as one of the main venues for the event.

There are a number of events that will take place during the festival at different venues. Some are exclusively for visitor from overseas and others are open to the general public. My wife and I attended the festival in 2006 and it is simply amazing the amount of effort that the Okinawan people put into this event.
There will be a champuru exchange festival and a world bazaar which runs from Friday (10/14) through Sunday (10/16) at the stadium in Naha. These are two of the events that will be open to all including the general public. I particularly liked the world bazaar because there were booths of all sorts and one gets the feeling of a carnival atmosphere. There were plenty of cultural foods available including many from South America where many Uchinanchu emigrated at the turn of the 20th century. At the last festival the empanadas were my personal favorites as they were made fresh right there on the spot. Nothing like fried food Mmmmm! There is also an outdoor stage where continuous performers display their talents. Okinawan music abounds as well as other forms of entertainment.
There will be a dedicatory Karate and Dance performance on the 13th and 14th during the festival demonstrating how Karate and Okinawan Odori are intertwined. Performances are at 11:00am to 4:50pm on Thursday and Friday. Other events include a Soccer Tournament that is being hosted at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium on Friday October 14th from 10 am to 5pm and an International Gate ball Tournament which will be held in the same location the following day from 8:30 am to 5:30pm. A Karate and Kobudo Exchange Festival also takes place on Friday and Saturday at the Budokan Martial Arts Hall at Onoyama Park and there will be the NHK Nodojiman singing contest held on Saturday and Sunday at the Naha Citizens Hall.

Registered participants with overseas groups have a tremendous opportunity during the festival as there is a structured flow to the events they can participate in. Events include formal opening and closing ceremonies, and a special performance of King Sho Hashi - Dynamic Ryukyu. They can also participate in the world business fair to strengthen business ties around the world with Okinawan businesses.
The 5th World Uchinanchu Festival is being organized by the Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa International Exchange and Human Resources Development Foundation, and the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Support is also being provided by the Cabinet Office, Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, The Japan Foundation, the Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education, and cities, towns and villages across Okinawa.
The Festival Goal is to prepare the next generation of Okinawans to carry on the achievements of previous generations and maintain, deepen and enrich the network of Uchinanchu around the world.
Organizers for the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival say it has three specific goals for participants and spectators to take away: First to confirm the Okinawan identity, the core and essential basis of the Uchinanchu Network, second to nurture and prepare those upon whom the future of the Uchinanchu Network depends, and third to contribute to the continued expansion of all phases of Okinawa Prefecture's global relationships as we look to the future.

Our gracious hosts have done much to make your experience a memorable one. They have accomplished a great task in your honor so let's help them make the event successful! Also, please be gracious and thank the representatives and organizers you meet during your stay. For once we meet we are all brothers and sisters.