Okinawa Glossary

Glossary of Terms:

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Andagi (Also known as Sata Andagi.) Okinawan donut. Andagi is probably the most well-known Okinawan snack. Go to Anma's Kitchen for a recipe and photo of this delicious snack!
Asadoya Yunta "Asadoya Yunta" originates in Taketomi Island in Okinawa. It is a very popular song, singing about a beautiful lady, "Asadoya nu Kuyama" who was brave enough to reject the wedding proposal from a government man. The Japanese government came to Ryukyu and ruled around that era, so this song has a little anti-government theme. The Asadoya nu Kuyama's house is one of the tourist attractions in Taketomi Island. If you are on a water buffalo ride, the Ojii will play sanshin and song it for you!

There is a slow version, called "Asadoya Bushi." The words are same but the melody is quite different. The most popular version is called "Shin Asadoya Yunta" and the words are not in Yaeyama dialect, but in standard Japanese. It does not sing about Asadoya nu Kuyama at all.

"Yunta" is a style of songs, which is a very basic components to make the Yaeyama songs and dances very special from other parts of Okinawa. Yunta sing about intensive labors (farming), a joy of and a prayer for an abundant harvest of crops, love, building houses, etc. in a narrative fashion.

(Reference: Contribution by Tomo [Yaimanchu] to E-mail Discussion Group Uchinanchu Network on 09/07/1999.)
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Anma The Okinawan word for "mother."
Awamori The favorite liquor of Okinawa made of distilled rice. Usually contains 10 to 40 percent alchohol. The best awamori has been aged for over 10 years.
Chanpuru Also spelled champuru or champloo, this Okinawan word means "mixed together". In the context of food, it describes a stir-fry which usually includes vegetables, egg, tofu, and pork. Goya Champuru and Tofu Champuru are popular restaurant menu items. In the context of music, it is used to describe a mash up of styles. Usually Champuru music combines modern riffs with traditional Ryukyuan songs.
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Eisa The eisa, a folk performing art, is a dynamic, spirited dance intrinsic to a midsummer festival called Bon, or Festival of the Dead, which takes place for three days from July 13-15 of the lunar calendar. A dance of Okinawa Island and the surrounding smaller islands, it is basically a circular dance composed of both men and women. See also Eisa.
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Goya Often translated as "bitter melon", this vegetable has become extremely popular as a symbol of Okinawan healthy food. Roughly the shape and size of a cucumber with a bumpy exterior, it is high is vitamin C.
Haisai An informal Okinawan greeting meaning "hi" or "hello!"
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Kachashi A form of Okinawan freestyle dancing characterized by hand waving and a joyous attitude. This dance is performed better under the influence of awamori.
Kariyushi Wear Okinawan style Aloha shirt. During the winter, businessmen will wear a suit but for most of the rest of the year, kariyushi shirts are acceptable and more comfortable for Okinawa's humid climate. Kariyushi shirts can range from flowered cotton prints like Hawaiian Aloha shirts to more traditional Ryukyuan hand woven textiles costing hundreds of dollars.
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Mozuku One of a number of seaweeds that is used in Okinawan cooking. Mozuku is gathered around the islands at low tide. It is usually served with a vinegar as an appetizer with meals or is cooked as tempura.
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(Also ojiisan.) Means grandfather or old man. See Asadoya Yunta. Photo One is a picture of the ojii that is spoken about in the Asadoya Yunta entry.
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Photo One
A small hand-held drum used in Eisa dancing and festivals.
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Sanshin (Also samisen or shamisen.) A three-stringed lute-like Okinawan instrument. Shaped somewhat like a small banjo, the body of the instrument is covered in snakeskin. It is played by plucking its strings with a plectrum. It is the backbone of classical Okinawan music. The instrument has its roots in China, but has been adapted and changed for Okinawan music.
Shikwasa Okinawan lime. Many beverages are flavored with shikwasa. Also spelled shikuwasa.
Shisa The shisa is an integral part of the Okinawa culture. Shisa almost always come in pairs; one with its mouth open and the other with its mouth closed. Despite popular belief, the pair is not one male and one female. If you notice, both are male and this can be seen in the presence of their manes.

It is said that women are pure of spirit, while men are not. This is because men are to be the protectors of the household, therefore possessing a warring or warrior spirit, whereas women were the spiritual leaders of the society. For this reason, the shisa with the open mouth holds the spirit of all males that enter the building atop which they are perched. This is to ensure peaceful dwellings and relationships within the home or place of business. When the male leaves the building, this spirit is then bestowed upon him once again.

The shisa with the closed mouth is the more fierce of the two, and is believed to be the one that dispells evil spirits from entering the dwelling.

Shisas are similar to gargoyles in that they are seen as protectors and can be seen stationed on rooftops of many buildings in Okinawa.

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