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Karate -- A Minority Art, Part 10

The diet of Okinawans also differed from that of mainland Japanese. With respect to prejudice, the key food item was pork. Generally, Japanese did not eat or like pigs. Okinawans often had small pig farms and pork was an important part of their diet, if they could afford it. Of course, Chinese also ate pork as did other people in Asia and the Pacific.

But Japanese believed pigs to be unclean. Japanese in general ate little or no meat before the war.

In Hawaii, Japanese would often taunt Okinawans by calling out, "butta, butta" ("pig, pig").

I know many people here in Hawaii who grew up with metal pails hanging in a tree outside their house. Once a week or so, a person from a pig farm would come and collect food scraps in the pail. All of these scraps would be put together in a big barrel and cooked to feed the pigs. It was a hard job, but what a great recycling system! Today, we throw away our food scraps.

At Christmas time, people from the pig farms would bring gifts to the homes.

One of these pig farm owners was Chonin Sanra Arakaki, a Karate expert who lived in the Hilo area.

When I went to Okinawa, one of the most delicious dishes was soki, pig bone soup (a lot like oxtail soup). Just thinking about it makes me hungry!

But at the time Karate was introduced to mainland Japan (the 1920s), pork production and consumption was another basis for discrimination against Okinawans.

It is interesting to note that one of the big customers for pork in Hawaii during World War Two was the American military. The Okinawan pig farms prospered. As the pig farms prospered, many of the pig farm owners relatives would open markets and inns, which also prospered. Pig farms helped to improve the economic standing of many Okinawans here in Hawaii. Thus, something that was once a source of discrimination became a source of prosperity.

After the war, Okinawans in Hawaii raised money to send pigs to Okinawa. All the livestock in Okinawa had been eaten or killed during the war.


Charles C. Goodin