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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, December 12, 2011

Turning 50 years old in Okinawa was really nothing at all considering.

When visiting Okinawa this year I turned fifty years old and since returning I've thought about it and what it means to have existed for half a century. Some may look at it as if "half of my life is now over" and still others may look at it as if "I have finally reached a time in my life when I can enjoy the adventure of the next fifty years." I tend to aspire to the second train of thought.  I hope that I can use the experience of the first half of my life to do a better job in the next fifty years.

Reaching the half way point of my existence in Okinawa was over shadowed (as it should have been) by the birthday celebration of my mother in law Yoshiko Ishiki (Kakazu, from the village of Yoza) who turned 88 years old while we were in Okinawa. She suffered a brain aneurism when she was in her 60's but fought her way back to nearly perfect health. Now at 88, she could still be considered a young un' by the many of the centenarians living in Okinawa today. However, the brain injury she suffered is now taking its toll by waging havoc with her short term memory. I found myself having the same conversation every five minutes with her. Even if it was cute at first, it can make you realize how it is important to do and think the things you like while you still have the physical ability and sound mind to do so.

Yoshiko after the War
During our stay we spoke to her on several occasions asking her about her past and things she could remember about her life. Funny thing about brain injuries, even if the short term is lost the long term memory can many times remain intact. This is the case with Yoshiko and she told me of the times she rode the train from Kochinda to Naha as a child to buy kimonos. She beamed when she told us about her brother who had been the local train station manager for the railroad as he had been the first in her family to move up from the ranks of being a farmer. She then told us of riding in a rickshaw to get to their final destination a store that sold girls clothing. It was a good time. Then she told us of the time she remembered during the battle of Okinawa. As she spoke she pulled her hair apart on the back of her head exposing a scar from some shrapnel that had injured her. She told me that it didn't hurt her anymore and she smiled as if it were no big deal. Yoshiko was in her early twenties at the time of the battle and was in charge of taking care of the children in the cave where they hid from the battle. Many of her family members lost their lives during the battle. These are rubbings of their names taken from the wall at the peace memorial park where the 200000 names of those who died in the battle are inscribed.
There was a lot of family lost during the battle.

I suppose my life has been easy when compared to the life of Yoshiko Kakazu. She was forced to take on a lot of responsibility at a very young age. Still had the will to go forth even after so many of her family had been taken. Raised a large family where they had to grow the food they needed to live on. She also worked the sugarcane fields with my father in law for many of the years of her life. She also gave me the greatest gift of my life when she produced the fifth of her six daughters.

Here is the video of Yoshiko's 88th Birthday celebration. Oh and that's me playing Happy Birthday on the Sanshin.


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.

http://www.youtube.com/user/tcorrao

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 / mseino@hotmail.com









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 Kohei_y_jiminer@yahoo.co.jp 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/tcorrao ... Enjoy!







Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 2011 CHICAGO OKINAWA KENJINKAI PICNIC

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!







Saturday, July 30, 2011

Renting a Car in Okinawa For the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival?

Hello everyone! Today is the annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai picnic so I will have to make this as quick as possible, there's plenty to do do do! Ya know!

Probably the easiest was to get around while visiting Okinawa for the 5th world uchinanchu festival is by rental car. It's definitely not going to be your cheapest mode of transportation but it will provide you with a tremendous mount of flexibility. My wife and I rented a car during the last Taikai and it was a wonderful experience. We were able to go wherever we pleased and were able to assist others we knew also when changing venues or events. One thing to remember is that gas is extremely expensive in Japan and has to be factored in to the cost as well as the price of the actual rental. If your retired military however gas on base is usually much more reasonable than off base.

This is an example prices may vary!

Okay then here's how to rent a car in Okinawa

Most of the car rental companies in Okinawa are located at the Naha Airport or in very close proximity to it. They send shuttles buses to pick up customers and bring them to their shop locations near the airport. Just follow the rental car signs in the airport there in both English and Japanese if my memory serves me correctly. There's also a number of car rental companies near Omoromachi Station in the Shinto shin shopping area by the Duty Free Shop.


The procedure for renting the car is quite simple. First just go up to the counter and choose the class of car you wish to rent and let them know for how many days. The cars are different than the ones you know in the states so ask questions about the models to find the one best suited for your needs. The rental company will ask you to show your international license or Japanese license and another form of ID such as a passport or alien registration card. International drivers licenses are easy to obtain through AAA and you don't have to be a AAA card holder to get one. I will provide a link to the application that you can fill out to take with you to your local AAA agent. Once they are satisfied you are who you say you are you will be asked to sign a rental contract and the staff will take you to your car for a brief inspection.


Some car rental companies in Okinawa include The Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) in the price and others add it as an additional fee. Generally it costs around 1,600 JPY per rental and must be paid up front. The LDW is mandatory by car rental companies, please remember it is not insurance. Its purpose is to free renters of financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen while under rental contract. Using the vehicle in violation of any of the user restrictions listed on the rental agreement could void LDW and leave the renter fully responsible for any damage to the vehicle. You should check with your car insurance company in the United States to see if you will be covered in Okinawa under your current insurance. If not then you would want to purchase the offered insurance through the rental company.


Driving in Okinawa is not like driving in the USA, The side streets as well as some of the main roads on the island are incredibly narrow and can be tricky to navigate at times. Also they drive on the left and you must be constantly vigilant . It is not uncommon for a new driver on Okinawa to have a flash back and turn into oncoming traffic. But if you remain alert and think about it you should be able to handle driving on the left.

Japanese law requires small children traveling in a vehicle to be safely fastened into a child seat. Most car rental agencies on Okinawa can provide child safety seats for any children traveling with you so it is not necessary to bring them with you. Be aware though the they will charge a small additional fee for the use of the car seat..

Most rental cars in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan come with GPS / Navigation systems, however in Okinawa most are only equipped to operate in Japanese. If you own one in the states you may be able to download the maps for Okinawa and Japan for your trip. I used the Japanese one even though my Japanese is not that fluent. My wife entered the information and I followed the directions on the screen which weren't that difficult to understand visually.

In Japan you must be 18 years old or older to rent a car according to Japanese law. You will also need your credit card just like you do when renting a car in the USA. Be aware that your credit card will probably charge you a foreign exchange fee for purchases overseas and the charge will be made at the rate for the conversion rate for the day the charge is actually processed. This date as well as the exchange rate may be different than it was on the day you actually rented the car. Just something to keep in mind.

My recommendation would be to rent the smallest car that can possibly serve your needs. My wife and I rented a subcompact and it could easily hold 5 people. Of course we didn't have the trunk storage space of a bigger car but we had relatives that came to the airport to meet us that helped get our bags to where we stayed.

Before you start driving in Okinawa, on the left hand side of the road, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the vehicle's equipment and operation, including heat and A/C, radio, lights, windshield wipers, spare tire, seat belts and door locks, and gas tank access. You may be surprised to find out they are on the opposite side many times from what you are use to. Oh yeah and the drivers side is on the right in a Japanese car. This may feel a little weird at first but you will quickly get use to it. I think it helps me remember to stay on the left because I think in my head "Hey the driver is towards the center of the road." if I find myself riding towards the outside of the road then I'm on the wrong side.

Getting distracted trying to figure out the controls while driving can be dangerous. Don't wait until the fuel warning light goes on to think about buying gas, especially if you don't know how far it is between gas stations. If, in the unlikely event that your car malfunctions on a major thoroughfare, turn on the hazard lights and, if you have a cell phone, call the police (110) and the rental company.

If you're involved in an accident contact the police to complete an accident report, then immediately contact the location from which the car was rented. You can find location phone information on your reservation confirmation paperwork.

The last thing I have to say is that parking in a pay lot in Okinawa is extremely expensive so try to park at public venues if possible. You may want to check with your hotel to find out about available parking and if they charge a fee to park at their facility.

Well that's about what I know about renting a car in Okinawa. Be careful and we'll see you in Okinawa.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Using the Bus while in Okinawa for the Uchinanchu Taikai

Probably the most convenient form of transportation for getting to all points on the island of Okinawa is the bus. Buses are surprisingly expensive on Okinawa but do run many of the main roads on the island on their routes. Fares depend on the distance you have traveled at the time you get off the bus. Fares start around ¥150 but vary according to the bus company.

When getting on the bus take a ticket from the ticket dispenser as you board. If the bus has two doors make sure you enter and exit from the front door.

While riding, there is an electronic voice that calls out the stops (in Japanese). When your stop is called press the button next to the window to signal the driver to stop. It's a good idea to know what your destination looks or a remember a landmark that can be seen several stops away. This can help ensure that you exit the bus as close to your desired destination as possible.


There is an electronic display at the front of the bus that has numbers and a corresponding fare that increases as the bus makes its way along its route. When leaving, match the number on your ticket to the number on the display. The fare next to that number is what you pay.

Drop your ticket and exact fare, yen only, in the fare box. There is a change dispenser at the front of the bus that gives change for 1,000 yen bills, 500 yen coins, and 100 yen coins.
 
Bus fare from Naha Bus Terminal to Nago is about ¥1740 (About $22.32 at todays rate) for the 70km ride. Children under six who are accompanied by a parent ride for free and children in the sixth grade or lower pay half fare.

Nearly all buses use the Naha Bus Terminal as a starting and ending point for their routes. Unfortunately, there are no bus schedules printed in English to show you and the buses do not always stick to their allocated times, so please allow plenty of time for your travels. The different bus companies servicing Okinawa can run the same route. Please look for the bus number in the window of the bus to determine its destination, not the color of the bus.

Here is a list by bus numbers indicating the buses departure city and destination as well as the bus company running the line. The first hurdle you will need to overcome is determining which bus to take. Just because there are no schedules or routes available in English, doesn't mean it will be impossible to figure out where you're going. At every bus stop there is a map of Okinawa with routes included and a list of the buses that service the stop your at and their schedules. Find a bus that goes to your destination and its next arrival time. Route numbers 1 through 17 are categorized as the City (Naha) Line and numbers 20 and greater are the Suburban Line.

Four different bus companies operate routes in Okinawa. Because more than one bus company operates each route, it is best to signal the bus you want, otherwise it may not stop to pick you up.


Naha Airport Limousine Bus

On the Okinawa Main Island (Okinawa Honto) there is an extensive network of Airport Limousine Buses that operate all year long. This service is one of the best ways to get to almost all of the resort hotels on Okinawa at a fraction of the cost of taking a taxi. The pickup point at Naha Airport for the Airport Limousine Buses is located outside the Arrivals lobby on the 1st floor of the main terminal building.

During the high season of late July to the end of August more buses operate and on a more frequent schedule but there are also many more visitors using the Airport Limousine Bus service.

When leaving Naha Airport the Airport Limousine Buses use the first come first serve system and cannot be booked in advance. Make sure the bus you get on goes to your hotel by asking the driver.

When departing hotels and on the way to Naha Airport it is important to check your flight time and the travel time of the bus before leaving. Please remember that travel time of the Airport Limousine Buses may be longer than shown on the schedules due to traffic. Ask hotel staff where the pick-up point for the bus is and double check the schedule with them.


TOUR BUS INFO

There are also tour bus companies on the island that offer package tours which range from 6 to 10 hours. Prices are about $40 to $50 but may not include entrance fees to all venues.

Ryukyu Bus 098-863-3636

Okinawa Bus 098-861-0083

Naha Bus 098-868-3750