Remember Karate Kid 2? Where Mr. Miyagi goes back to Okinawa to get his honor back?
If you do, you probably didn’t realize he was also going back to eat some bitter melon in signature dishes called goya chanpuru (stir fry of bitter melon, tofu, egg and sliced pork or Spam). A dish he probably had a couple Okinawan brewed Orion beers to wash it all down with… I think those scenes didn’t make the final cut.
This took some research because I knew there were some distinct difference like calling somebody who is from Taiwan, Chinese. Something you just may want to have some sensitivity to because just like Taiwan which is an island off of China, Okinawa is a tiny little island way off the Southwest part of Japan. They both have their own distinctive roots and culture, and I think Hawaiian’s know what I’m talking about.
Okinawa is part of an island chain called the Ryukuan islands, and they are considered a part of Japan. The indigenous people of these islands are called Ryukuan or Lechewan. There’s a bunch of subgrounds within the population, and Okinawans are considered to be a part of it. They do speak Japanese, and their nationality is Japanese, but they’re still considered Japan’s largest minority group with 1.3 million living in Okinawa or dispersed outside of Japan, mostly in Hawaii.
So after reading all that, and if you still feel the way I do which is like Hank Hill:
Hank: So are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn: I live in California last twenty years, but first come from Laos.
Kahn: Laos. We Laotian.
Bill: The ocean? What ocean?
Kahn: We are Laotian. From Laos, stupid! It’s a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It’s between Vietnam and Thailand, okay? Population 4.7 million.
Hank: (pause) So, are you Chinese or Japanese?
If that’s you, you need to read Kelly Yamamoto’s response about “Do Okinawans identify themselves as Japanese first, or Okinawan? The answer is so well done, so go read it.
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How about some famous celebrities with an Okinawan connection:
- Tamlyn Tomita, actress best known for her role in “The Karate Kid, Part II”. She’s a quarter Filipina.
- Brian Tee, actor best known for “Fast and the Furious, Tokyo Drift”. Brian was born in Okinawa, but left when he two years old. He’s Japanese and Korean.
- Merle Dandridge, actress in “The Last of Us”. She was born in Okinawa, and she is Korean, Japanese and African American.
- Namie Amuro, musician and actress, and she was born in Okinawa. She’s a quarter Italian.
Where is Okinawa? It’s that tiny little island that I circled in red. For a closer look in and around Okinawa via Google Maps, click this link.
Here’s your chance of getting a taste of Okinawa in Orange County.
Habuya Okinawan Dining
14125 Red Hill Ave
Tustin, CA 92780