The Luck of the Okinawan Irish

March 17th, 2009By Category: Culture, Travel

KijimunaIts spring here on Okinawa and everything as far as the eye can see is turning a bright fresh shade of green. That reminded me that St. Paddy’s day is upon us once again. I’m not Irish but having lived in Okinawa these last few years, I couldn’t help but notice the many similarities between these two peoples. It almost seemed to be too many to count let alone ignore!

First of all, both the Irish and the Okinawan’s are island peoples and both have had a portion of their territories forcibly taken from them. The British took Northern Ireland and these days, the Amami island group, once part of the Ryukyu Kingdom, what Okinawa was once known as, is now a part of Kagoshima prefecture. Both peoples have a reputation for being a fun loving lot and both possess a fondness for strong drink. In Ireland they have their world famous whiskey of which it’s been said “God created to keep them from conquering the world.”

Here in Okinawa they have their Awamori Sake which tastes more like a whiskey than your typical Nihon-Shu. The Irish also have a reputation for loving a good scrap. Go ahead and rent the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie “Far and Away” or the John Wayne classic “The Quiet man” if you need a refresher. They also have a long history of champion boxers going all the way back to the great John L. Sullivan.

Okinawa has a peace loving reputation but surprisingly, they’ve also had more than their fair share of famous boxers to include the legendary WBA Junior Fly Weight World Champion Yoko Gushiken. Both places have had problems with snakes. Okinawa has its infamous Habu which unlike many other venomous snakes can strike a victim from 360 degrees. Ireland fortunately had its snake problem resolved centuries ago by St. Patrick. Okinawa doesn’t have any saints to speak of so they imported the Mongoose from India. It was a great idea till someone realized that Mongoose are daytime animals and Habu’s are nocturnal. Okay, advantage Irish.

Both islands have a rich folklore dominated by mythical “little people.” Ireland has the Leprechauns and Okinawa, Kijimuna. Both are said to be endowed with magical powers that can either bring you good luck or great misfortune. So if you happen to encounter one or the other it’s probably a good idea to be nice. Another similarity is the disproportionate number of family names that begin with the letter “O.” In Ireland you the O’Malley’s, the O’Reilly’s, the O’Hara’s, the O’Connor’s and the list goes on. Similarly, Okinawa also has the Ohara’s, as well as the Omine’s, the Oshiro’s, the Ota’s and so on. Lastly both are well represented in the entertainment world.

There are untold numbers of renowned entertainers with Irish lineage along with Enya and super-group U2 still on the charts. Okinawa has musical talents like Begin, Kiroro and Amuro Namie. Other notables include popular comedian and actor Gori as well as actress/super-models Yu Yamada and Kuroki Meisa. Of course who could forget actress Nakama Yukie who it seems appears in every single television commercial there is and whose image is plastered across every billboard in Japan.

I could go on and on listing untold numbers of similarities between them. Perhaps enough to give conspiracy theorists enough fodder to write a few hundred books on the subject.That would be a nice change of pace. After all, standard fare like Big Foot, Roswell and JFK is getting a bit old, don’t you think? Regardless, lets all have a round of cheer it for the Irish and their Okinawans kinsmen this St. Patrick’s Day.

Author of this article

Keith Graff

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