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Karate -- A Minority Art, Part 7

Another characteristic of Okinawans, asserted at the time of introduction of Karate to mainland Japan, was that Okinawans were dark. Much like the issue of hairiness, the idea behind discrimination based on dark skin color was that Okinawans were somehow less cultured or civilized.

When I was a child, I lived in Northern Japan at Misawa Air Force Base. I remember taking trips to the countryside with my family. Japanese women who worked in the fields would drive small motorcycles. No matter how hot it was, they would be covered from head to toe with clothing to protect them from the son. Literally every inch of their bodies, except their eyes, was covered. This was in the 1960s -- people were not concerned about skin cancer. They were concerned about becoming dark.

I have seen many photographs of how the early Okinawans looked here in Hawaii when they worked on the sugar cane plantation. Indeed, they were very dark. They look as dark as Filipinos (another group working on the plantations). Of course, anyone would become dark working long hours in the hot Hawaiian sun.

Hawaii and Okinawa are very similar. Both are very hot and sunny (Okinawa is even more humid).

My point is that people working outside in Hawaii or Okinawa would get dark. I am probably the only exception -- I would get burned! I would turn dark for two days and then my skin would peal off!

So were Okinawans darker than mainland Japanese? Some probably were and some probably were not. And if they were, so what? Today we would consider skin color to be irrelevant... wouldn't we? I certainly hope so.

Use sunscreen!


Charles C. Goodin