Culture of Okinawa Takeaways: What we can Learn from the Ryukyu Kingdom

I will be ever grateful to the Ryukyu Islands because that is where traditional karate comes from. Karate has immensely improved all aspects of my life. But karate is not the only good thing to come from the culture of Okinawa. The traditional values held highly in Okinawa come to us in martial arts. But many more values and positive cultural norms spring from that same place.

One thing that we can learn from Okinawa is self-responsibility. In Okinawa, each person is expected to pick up after themselves and to keep their own area clean. Usually, you won’t see trash cans on the street. If you have trash to throw away while you area out, you hold onto it until you get to your own trash can, or one in a store or your workplace. You also won’t see litter on the street, because Okinawans practice self-responsibility.

Another value in the culture of Okinawa is respect. Respect is highly regarded and used throughout the day. One way that is seen in their daily life is that retirees volunteer to be crossing guards. They help the young children on their way to school to safely cross the streets. Parents know their kids are safe on their trek.

Okinawans also promote respect for the elders traditionally in their daily interactions with them. In the 1960s, a Japanese national holiday for elders started. It is translated as “Respect for the Aged Day.” Keiro No Hi is celebrated on the third Thursday in September and is a day to honor older adults.

The Okinawan way of life reminds me of an African Proverb which, to me, is all about respect:

“Let us take care of the children, for they have a long way to go. Let us take care of the elders for they have come a long way. Let us take care of those in between for they are doing the work.” – Indigenous African Proverb

Traditional Ryukyu lifestyle choices help Okinawans to respect themselves and their own bodies and to live healthily for over 100 years! If you would like to learn more about the things these centenarians do, check out this blog on 9 Ways to Live Longer.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Jenifer Tull-Gauger knows what it’s like to be an “old soul” and a painfully quiet kid struggling to fit in. Her journey to 7th degree black belt is a testament of how she found inner strength through traditional karate. Now in leadership for the international U.R.K.A., she heads up a private dojo with her husband.

Jenifer combined her passions for art and writing, with what she’s learned from 23-plus years of teaching karate, to create a children’s character-building picture book series. The Dojo Kun Character Books help children to find their own power in their lives.

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