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, June 8, 2011

The Red Rope of Marriage - An Okinawan Folktale

I have always been interested in Okinawan folktales and mythology. Because of this interest I have decided to place some of them here on occassion for your enjoyment. Just remember that folktales are not sweet or kind and that there may be content that might be inappropriate for young children.

The story I have chosen for today can be heard throughout the Ryukyu islands. Some call it Kara-Banashi or China Story because it originated in China. The story was brought to the Ryukyus' after the establishment of the Ryukyu Kingdom in the Mid 15th century. For our purpose here I'm calling it the Red Rope of Marriage.


It is said that in the old days, a couple destined to be wed in the future were tied together with an invisible red rope at birth.

This story begins with a bright young man who was a son of a Kunigami district official. One day he decided to go to the capital city of Shuri for he thought living in the northernmost part of Okinawa would not give him a chance to move up in society. He began his journey to Shuri on foot, as wheels had not been invented at the time. He figured it would take him five or six days to reach Shuri from Kunigami.

As he went up and down the mountains, the young man amused himself by looking at the bushes and animals he passed and by humming or singing to himself. One day, as night began to come, he decided to rest under a huge tree he could see in the distance. As he approached the tree, he saw an old man with white hair sitting under it. The old man was twisting a red rope in his hands and noticed the young man.

Young man, may I ask where you are heading?’ “I’m going to Shuri to study and become an Ichibanko,” the young man replied.

The young man was curious about the red rope and why the old man was twisting it. What is the red rope for, old man? “Oh this? This is a matchmaking rope.” The old man never stopped twisting the red rope while he talked. Then it is true there is a rope of marriage? The young man was even more curious now. Yes, it’s true. The old man squinted his eyes as he looked at the young man. “In fact, I know who is going to be your wife, young man. Really? You know who I will many?” “Of course I do. Look over there." The old man pointed. “See the young girl carrying firewood on her back? She is the one who will be your wife"

The young man looked at where the old man pointed and saw a young girl walking a short distance from them. He saw she was dark-skinned and had reddish hair. Ugly, thought the young man. He was very disappointed and somewhat angry this girl was destined to be his wife. “I can’t believe that ugly girl is going to be my wife! The young man exclaimed. “My life will be miserable. I don’t want to marry her.”

Outraged at the thought of having to marry this girl, the young man drew his sword and attacked the girl. The sword slashed the girl’s back and she collapsed on the ground. The young man ran away without seeing what happened to the poor girl.

The young man continued his journey and soon reached the capital city of Shuri. He went to school and studied very hard. A few years later he passed the government examination and became an Ichibanko, a high honor. As an Ichibanko, it was guaranteed he would get a good govermnent job. He was very happy now with his life. Before he started working for the government he decided to go back to Kunigami to tell his parents of his success.

On his journey back to Kunigami, it began to get dark as he looked for a place to sleep. He soon saw a rich mans house and decided to ask the master if he could stay there for the night. The young man knocked on the door and waited. The master of the house opened the door and looked at the young man.

“Master, would you kindly let me stay the night at your house?” The young man asked. ‘Young man, may I ask where you are from? The master asked. “I was studying at Shuri and became an lchibanko. I am now heading to my hometown of Kunigami to give my parents the good news.” The master smiled at this and opened the door wide, beckoning the young man into the house.

“An Ichibanko is a most honorable achievement and no one around here ever became one. Well, well, it is truly an honor to have a smart young man like you in my house. Please come in.”

Not only did the master provide lodging, he also presented the young man with a wonderful dinner. The young daughter of the master served the meal. She was so charming and beautiful the young man instantly fell in love with her.

After the young man finished his meal! the master said, "Young man, this is my daughter. She is now at a good age to wed. If an intelligent young man like yourself would marry her, it would be our family’s dream come true. Would you kindly take her as your wife?" The young man was a little surprised by this sudden offer, but accepted without hesitation. The young man and the beautiful girl got married and lived very happily together.

One day. the young man was watching his beloved wife from behind as she watered the garden. When she bent over, he noticed a large scar running from her neck down her back. Where did you get that from?” He asked. “Oh this?” She said and tried to brush it off as nothing. ‘Some years ago when I was coming home carrying firewood on my back, I dont know why, but a man suddenly attacked me and slashed my back with his sword. I fainted from the pain. The people who found me took me to their house to care for me. I lost my memory, so they brought me up as their own daughter.”

Listening to this story, the young man remembered the strange encounter he had with the old man many years ago. The old man had been right. Man and wife were bonded with a red rope from the lime of their birth. I could never tell my wife, thought the young man. I will compensate my actions by loving and cherishing her forever. He made this promise to himself from the bottom of his heart.

From that day on, the young man loved his wife more than before and worked very hard in his job and soon was promoted to a higher position in the government. The young man and his wife were indeed a perfect match because they had been bonded together by the invisible red rope.


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  4. Im american have been married to my okinawan wife for over 40 years meet her when I was in the navy something brought us together I belive the story we have talked about hat and why we meet

  5. I beleive your boug have been to an okinawan women over 40 years something brough together I was stationed there and she is from there I had girlfriends in highschool and she had other boyfriends none that lasted for either of us till we meet

  6. Hi Tom; I was born on the island many, many moons ago. I too was in the Air Force from 1971-1974. I was adopted in 1956 by an American serviceman and brought to the states where I have lived since that time. I am looking for my ancestral past in language, folktales, myths and stories. I enjoyed the "Red Rope of Marriage"! Thank you. I would love to hear and see more posts, more stories, fables and myths about Okinawa. Regards!

  7. The Chinese and Japanese share the same notion of bonding before birth via an invisible red rope. Interesting that this motif is used in marriage stories.
    Red rope/thread has also been used as a symbol of disloyalty and unfaithfulness (The Scarlett Letter) and escape (Red Rope of Rahab). It's also seen as a form of protection (Kabbalah).