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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chicago Okinawa Shinnenkai Announcment

The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai will hold their annual New Year's Party on March 19th at the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago Illinois.

The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai would like to invite everyone to partake in our annual New Year’s Celebration on March 19th, 2011. The party will be held at the Midwest Buddhist Temple which is located at 435 W Menomonee St. in Chicago. The event is one of the premier events each year for the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai and features many cultural performances and a show that is sure to thrill. There will be a potluck dinner, (everyone brings a dish) which usually includes both Okinawan foods and American favorites. Soft drinks, coffee, and tea will be provided free of charge and beer & cocktails will be available on a pay as you go basis. Don't miss out on this chance to mingle with friends and have some good times with people who take great pride in their Okinawan heritage. The party is free to our members and guests are $10. If you are a current officer serving with one of the other Okinawa Kenjinkais', and would like to attend, please email us and the fee will be waived. Hope we see you all there!

New Year’s Party Schedule

11:30 AM...................Doors Open

11:30AM to 12:30PM......Social Hour

12:30PM to 2:00PM...............Lunch

2:00PM to 5:00PM........Performance Program

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Want to buy a Used Sanshin

Okay I know there are some of you out there that would like to own a fine sounding Okinawan sanshin. I know this because I am one of you. My sanshin, the one I am currently learning on sound very tinny to me. When my sister in law came to visit a few years back she even commented that if we were comparing her sanshin to mine her's would be on the quality level of FM radio sound and mine would be AM talk radio quality. Well this year I am going to the 5th World Uchinanachu Festival in Okinawa. I am hopeful that when I go I will be able to find the Sanshin sound I am looking for.

Today I was looking around in preparation for my trip trying to make a list of things I will do and see while I am in Okinawa. I stumbled across a site for the Bluefin Sanshin shop and was suprised to find that they have a very impressive website that not only offers custom made sanshins but also used sanshins. I am including the link to the site. If you don't speak Japanese
don't worry I am running the link through Google translate so they will show up in English. I'm sure there are others out there that may prefer to purchase a
quality used sanshin much like I might be doing. Please visit the site and see what you think.

Below is a short video of the type of sound I'm looking for in my sanshin when I finally find it.

Click Here to Open Video in a New Window

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Okinawan Poetry

Okinawan people have had many poems that are just as beautiful as those of "Manyoshu" the greatest anthology of Japanese poetry. They are the basis for many famous folk songs in the Ryukyu islands. Here are some examples taken from a book that was given to me by my sister in law. The book is called "For Appreciating Okinawan Poems or Folk Songs." The book was written by Saburo Isa and published in 1976.

Tin nu       buribusi ya
Yumiba     yumarisiga
Uya nu      yusigutu ya
Yumi nu    nara n

So numerous are the stars in the sky
Yet countable they are.
How innumerable the precepts,
of the parents are!

A Video featuring the Original Okinawan Night Light.

Agari              aku gariba
Simi narega   i chu n
Kasira            yuti tabori
Wa u ya         Ganasi

When dawn breaks in the east,
It's just the time for me
To go on learning.
Oh, dear mother help me
To arrange my hair.

The people of Okinawa have had a great many poems that have been familiar and popular to all Okinawans throughout many generations. Each of them has their own music which incorporates sweet and facinating melodies. This makes them popular to sing to the accompaniment of the sanshin. Many years ago when there were no electric lights in the islands the young men and women of the islands would gather under the moonlight to dance and sing. It was only a natural process that the created so many poems and folk songs.

In the coming year I plan to add the translations to various Okinawan poems and folk songs to the front page of the blog. I've searched the web and apparently these poems and folk songs are relatively hard to find. Therefore I will share the ones I have.

To be continued...
For appreciating Okinawan poems or folk songs =: Eiwa ryūka kanshō

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sanshin Etiquette for the Beginner

Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. This post is about some sanshin etiquette I found online. Apparently there are rules to learning this instrament. Here are a few tips from a book of Okinawan Poetry written by Naganori Komine (1995).

  • The shortest way to master a song is to repeat not the whole song but short phrases within the song. Don't rush to play the entire song until you have mastered each individual part completely.

  • The movement of your hands is critical to keeping the tempo of the song. Imitate the movements of your teacher.

  • Move your bachi (pick) within a circle around the sanshin head. Don't raise your bachi higher than the edge of the sanshin.

  • Don't sing louder than your teacher until you become familiar with the melody of the song you are learning. Once you are familiar with the song, then try to sing louder than your teacher. Komine sensei recommends you sing solo in front of your teacher to allow for announciation correction.

  • Don't open your mouth too much when you sing. Okinawan articulation differs from western speech.

  • Don't stick out your chin and keep your body strait upright.

  • Set your gaze to a point about 270 centimeters ahead of you when you play. That's about 8 feet for you westerners.

Then finally,

  • Don't open your knees to much. Keep your knees about a fists width apart.

This is good information to know if you also want to look like your formally trained when you play in front of people. I however have been teaching myself how to play sanshin and have my own sort of unorthodox style now. I have been teaching myself by practicing pieces of songs until I basically have memorized them. I play them over and over again until I have played them hundreds if not thousands of times.

My wife tells me that Okinawans say that once you have played a song a thousand times the fingers will remember where to go on their own. This appears to be true in my case because sometimes I play faster than I can read the Kunkunshi. Of course I speak very little uchina guchi and have not been able to bring myself to sing it yet. I have been intrigued by the video I previously posted though where Blondie sings an english song called Magic to the melody of Asadoya Yunta. A song that I am currently teaching myself. I'm thinking I will create my own poetic words to describe my feelings while playing this wonderful melody of shima yuta.

Here is a sample of my playing. It's not great but I am having fun learning and enjoy it very much.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Asadoyunta meets Rock n Roll (Culture Clash)

In this post I would like to address the influence American Culture has had on the Okinawan people. Constant bombardment of Americanisms has assimilated Okinawa's youth into hybred island people. Not to worry though because being a family based society many of them still remain grounded and loyal to their culture despite the onslought of outside influence. I like the way they can incorporate their more traditional lifestyles and still express themselves in a more modern fashion from time to time.

I found this video and felt it was perfect for getting my point across. The video is very interesting to me because it shows the results of American culture and assimilation on the Okinawan people.

The song is Asadoyunta a song that I am currently learning on my sanshin. While I lean towards the more traditional they lean towards the present. Americans have influenced the development of Okinawa's youth in more ways than one can imagine. These kids are too young to remember the much simplier time their grandparents lived in. At least the haven't given up on their Okinawan heritage. I would give it two thumbs up!

Here is Dave's suggestion: