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.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters
236 Aza Tomishiro, Tomishiro-son
This post is a collaboration of various articles and fact sites on the internet. I visited the island of Okinawa in 2011 with my family for the 5th worldwide uchinanchu festival. I had lived on the island for nearly 10 years prior but had never visited the Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters.  I'm not really sure why but it had never really peaked my interest in the past. I did however want to do some things on the trip that we had never done before in Okinawa and this turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Entrance to the Headquarters from the lobby area
Located in the hills to the south-east of Naha. This tunnel system was the Japanese Navy Headquarters used during the battle. The war was not going the way of the Japanese after the battle of midway island and with each defeat the prospect of an invasion of they Japanese mainland became stronger and stronger. The Japanese began preparing for invasion and decided to use the island of Okinawa as a fortification where they would fight to the death to prolong the time until the mainland would be invaded.
The tunnel system was built by a Japanese naval construction party (Yamane Division) in 1944. Marks made by the construction party's pickaxes can still be seen on the walls and ceilings. The Imperial Navy's Vice Admiral Minoru Ota, commander of the Japanese Naval forces on Okinawa, and 4,000 of his men lived in the labyrinth of tunnels and then committed suicide there during the final days of World War II. There are still traces of the mass suicide, including a message written on the wall by Ota, which is clearly visible. This farewell message was for his commanding officer and told about the devotion of the Okinawan citizens who served in the Imperial Army during the fierce battle of World War II. After the war, the headquarters was left pretty much as it stands today. In March of 1970, the Tourism Development Board removed the remains of soldiers and restored 275 of the original 450 meters of the headquarters. There are tunnels 30 meters underground that run in all directions to the commander's office, storerooms, medical room, power room, kitchen, and staff room.

Here is an interesting video of our self-guided tour of the renovated tunnel ruins includes the cipher, hospital and officer's rooms, including where officers including Vice-Admiral Minoru Ota committed suicide with hand grenades.

The Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters is open daily from 8:30-5:00, admission is payable only in yen. Photography is permitted. There are restricted areas, so be aware of the boundaries for tourists. Some of the signs and information are in English.
A memorial tower for the war dead marks the site above the headquarters. There is also a small souvenir shop and restroom facilities. The lobby includes photos and relics, and outside panoramic views of southern Okinawa and a monument to Ota.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take Hwy 58 south past Naha and over Meiji Bridge, turn left onto Rte. 7 at the Yamashita intersection (across from Naha Military Port entrance). About 2.5 km down, the road curves and there is a road on the right, across the street from a botanical garden. Take this road (it goes up a hill), turn right, then veer right at a fork in the road to the parking lot of the headquarters.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm Back! With A Folktale of The Gods Miruku and Sarka

My good internet friend Len Yoza from Hawaii got me thinking after I posted the other day on my Facebook account. You see I was explaining about working hard to get promoted and taking a leave of absence from my Kenjinkai duties. He told me congratulations for getting promoted but also said he was going to miss my posts on the Okiawaology blog. Well that part got me thinking because I write reports all the time for my job and I always find time to fit them in so I've decided to continue the blog entries now that I have reached my promotional goal.All I need to do is some time management and I should be able to continue my work here too.

So, Here is an Okinawan folk tale to get things started again.

The Gods Miruku and Sarka

 Once there were two Gods who lived in neighboring villages. They each had very different personalities. Miruku was honest and believed in hard work and Sarka on the other hand was lazy and cunning. The villagers in Miruku's village worked very hard and their village was prosperous as a result. Sarka's village was poor because much like Sarka they were also lazy.

One day Sarka was taking to Miruku and said, You know, we live so close to one another yet we don't seem to get along very well. Sarka then suggested that they move farther apart so that they would not have to see each other quite so much. Sarka held up two lotus buds and asked Miruku to pick one and said, the one that blooms first decides who gets to pick their land first.

Miruku knew that Sarka was cunning and that he wanted to drive him away but he just smiled and said, "All right" in a very calm voice. Then the two gods sat and closed their eyes and waited for the lotus buds to blossom. Sarka kept his eyes open ever so slightly and suddenly saw that Miruku's bud was beginning to blossom first so he secretly switched Miruku's bud with his own. 

"Oh Look", he said loudly, "My bud is blooming first so I will be the first to choose new land." Miruku knew that Sarka had switched the bulbs but he calmly stated, "Go ahead and pick." So Sarka said, "Listen Miruku, The land I see from here will be mine and you can have all the rest." The land Sarka claimed was mountainous land which blocked the view of the rich flat valleys beyond.

It came to pass that Sarka's people had a very hard time working and cultivating the rocky soil in the mountainous are Sarka had chosen. Miruku's land however was easy to cultivate and all who came there prospered.

One day Miruku went on a trip to a far away island to find new seeds to cultivate. When he returned he noticed his people seemed so sad and worried. He asked them what was wrong and they told him that when he was away Sarka came and blind folded all the villagers and then hid their fire. At that time in history human's still didn't know how to make fire so they feared they would not be able to cook their food, and would suffer in the cold weather, and would not be able to see anything in the dark. It is said that animals could talk to humans back then and the grasshoppers and locusts came forward to speak to Miruku. They told Miruku that they had seen Sarka hide the fire in the anchakura tree.

Miruku then left to find the fires. After some time of searching he was able to find the anchakura tree. He rubbed the tree and it began to smoke and gradually produced a fire. Miruku then put together a fire making device using the tree and took it back to present to the villagers. "Here is a fire making device" he announced loudly. Hold the wooden stick and make it turn on the wooden board, then you will be able to make fire. 

Having been given the device the villagers no longer needed to worry about losing their fire. Sarka was furious and Miruku became even more respected than he already was. Sarka sat and thought of other cunning things he could do to Miruku's villagers. He created mice and let them loose on the farm land. The mice soon became a menace to the village because they not only damaged farmland but the started to harm babies by biting their noses, hands, and legs. Miruku's village was in danger and the villagers asked Miruku to do something about it. 

Miruku created cats to catch the mice. Not the kind of cats we know today but smaller cats that were as small as the mice so that when a mouse tried to escape into a tiny hole the cat could follow them in and kill them. 

Sarka was angry at Miruku's cats but one day he went to Miruku and said he was sorry about the mice. He said, I had no idea they would harm humans. Now I have some advice for you. If your cats were bigger than my mice they could kill the small mice more easily. Miruku didn't know there was another scheme behind Sarka's suggestion. So he thanked him for the advice and made the cats bigger than the mice. The new cats were bigger and stronger but couldn't follow the mice into their holes. This allowed the mice to escape from the cats most of the time when they were chased. The mice stopped harming the villagers though out of fear for the cats.

Sarka thought of another plan to menace the villagers. This time he created wild boars that were bigger and stronger than Miruku's cats. He freed them in the village and the boars ravaged the land causing more damage than the mice ever did. The villagers once again asked Miruku to do something about the problem. So, Miruku created dogs.

Wild Boars! Miruku yelled, what Sarka has created belongs in the mountains and not the villages. Go back to the mountains! Miruku then freed the dogs and the dog's chased the boar back into the mountains. Again Sarka had failed.

They say that this is because the mice and boars that Sarka created resembled him with long faces and sharp, cold looking eyes. But, the cats and dogs Miruku created had good round faces just like him and they soon became friends with the villagers and friends of all humans. 

Dogs and Cats truly are our friends. This is Duncan my dog who passed away during my hiatus from the blog. Where ever they come from they sure can bring joy into our human existence. Appreciate them while you have them! 

The God Miruku appears as the god of a rich harvest in festivals that occur annually in the Ryukyu islands. Anything referring to the Miruku world means it is a prosperous society. The God Miruku on Okinawa is said to be the Miroku-bosatsu and the god Sarka is the Shaka, Buddha himself in the Buddhist religion. Although the story of the gods Miruku and Sarka is not widely known on mainland Japan, it does appear in mythology in South Korea as part of the earth's creation of the island of Saishu, just off Korea's south coast.