Sunday, September 9, 2007

The List of Questions

This will help me keep things very basic, direct and a little bit kooky.

• Since Jews have been in Portugal for centuries, do Portuguese in Hawaii have Jewish blood?
• Are the Ainu the same people as the Jomon, the darker-featured early settlers of Japan?
• Since there are theories that the original settlers of the world were water-farers, is it possible that they are the same people who settled in Southeast Asia (specifically Taiwan), and then became the Jomon of Japan, and their descendants settled across the Pacific?
• Why do the singing harmonies of the South Pacific sound so similar to those in South Africa and nowhere else?
• How much did the Mongols of the Khan dynasty intermingle and intermarry with tribes in Central Asia and Eastern Europe?
• Is it true, according to one theory, that the original settlers of Northern Japan (Ainu of Hokkaido) came from Siberia, and those people originated from Northern Europe?
• Is it true that some of the original Native Americans have DNA that traces back to Northern Europe?
• What drove people to migrate through Siberia and over the frigid land bridge to Alaska despite sub-zero temperatures?
• There is a tribe in Thailand that shares similar DNA to Japanese. What is the connection?
• Was there any migration from North America to Hawaii in the pre-Western contact era?

Questions that have already been answered in my inquisitive study:
• Why did Samoans and Tongans have such a bitter rivalry that carried over to Hawaii when I was a kid back in the 1970s?
• What's the difference between Okinawan and Japanese names?
• Why do Okinawan dishes have much more pork than traditional Japanese dishes?
• How did Islam arrive in the Philippines?
• Why is there so much antipathy between the older East Asian people — Korea vs. Japan vs. China?
• How did beer brewing arrive in East Asia?
• Why does diabetes attack Asians, Polynesians and African-Americans at such a high rate?

There's more, of course, but this is enough for now.

A history of the Azores

I know it's common knowledge that the Portuguese desccendants in Hawaii originated from the Azores Islands of Portugal. Take a look at a map and it's absolutely insane how far away these islands are from the mainland. In fact, these islands are practically in the middle of the Atlantic!

I also wonder, if all of the Portuguese in Hawaii are from the tiny Azores, why are there so many people named Medeiros? (Which is a derivative of Madeira, or the Madeira Islands, also of Portugal. From what Wikipedia says, the islands were still uninhabited into the 1400s, when the Portuguese government sent citizens to live on these islands. They were, naturally, a strategic point for countries at war in the years to come. I'd like to visit the Azores. I shouldn't really think they're so tiny. One of the islands, Sao Miguel, has a current population of 123,000.

Here's a link to a flickr page of photos.

flickr: Reg. Aut. dos AƇORES - Portugal

If life there had been this good back at the turn of the century, we wouldn't have so many Portuguese in Hawaii. There would be no ukulele, no malasadas, no Portguese! Migration is often the result of hardship and dreams. It's always interesting to go back in time and trace the footsteps of people.

Hannukah in Dublin and Cork

Not quite what I was looking for, but exceedingly interesting and valuable for anyone who treasures the history of migration. Here is an account on Wikipedia of the history of Jews in Ireleand. I had no idea Daniel Day-Lewis is half-Jewish. Cool.

Wikipedia: History of the Jews in Ireland

Waves and colors of Western Europe

Since doing some reading about migration to Japan, re: Jomon and Yayoi periods, I can't help but see Japanese faces and wonder, 'Hmm, definitely Jomon.' Or, 'Oh, definitely Yayoi.'

But I've so wondered about some reading I've done about Spain and the rest of Western Europe. How Spain had invaders from the south (Moors) and the North (red-haired Vikings, or Norsemen). It's pretty fascinating to me, maybe more so because my brother (he's my half-brother but I never considered him anything but my "full" brother) is part Irish. He has brown, wavy hair and somewhat fair complexion. He could pass for Irish, or any of the more southern European extractions like Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish ... he's sorta lucky that way!

But what compells me in terms of migration is that I'd like to learn more about where certain facets of the region originated. Red hair. "Black Irish." And, of course, the whole Protestant-versus-Catholic thing. I've seen my share of PBS documentaries about the history of Ireland and the church wars. Sad stuff. But was any of it aligned with ethnicities? Or were there brothers and cousins warring along those religious lines?

I find bloody, violent rivalries within small regions so compelling. To the rest of the world, say to someone like me in Hawaii, all Irish are pretty much the same at a glance. Probably much the same for someone from Ireland who takes a look at people in Hawaii. How could people in such a beautiful place not be able to get along? But it's true. There are problems everywhere.

So I'll post what I find tonight, and maybe the info will entertain, amuse and educate all the same.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jomon vs. Yayoi

While I'm on the topic of Jomon and Yayoi cultures, this quick take on the debate is quite entertaining.

Neomarxisme: Jomon vs. Yayoi

At first, I thought the fashion was pseudo-punk rock, but on closer inspection, they are true to some of the designs I've seen represented by artifacts from the two eras in Japanese history.

If the Jomon truly were the first culture — possibly the Ainu — with such earthy symbols in their art, the model to the left definitely works all of it quite well.

Then, the model to the right, with the Yayoi influenced outfit certainly carries the supposed Northeast Asian (Koryo) influence. Whatever the case, this is another interesting way to read the debate.

The ensuing thread on Neomarxisme is intriguing, as well. I've read much about the aboriginal people of Taiwan. If Taiwan is, indeed, Hawaiki, there will be much more to read and pass along for those of us who can't get enough of all things Pacifica.

Flames afloat from India to Hawaii

I'm just sitting back down, turned the channel to PBS, and a photographer is enjoying his time in India. I envy him.

Tiny candle boats float down the River Ganges. Is this where the Japanese tradition of floating candles comes from? Possibly. Buddhism arrived in Japan from India via China. Wherever your faith is rooted, there is something ethereal about candles floating on water, drifting toward a larger place.

When it happens in Hawaii, as a remembrance of loved ones who have passed on, it transforms the environment. I would wonder, once again, how anything moves from India to a faraway place like Japan, except that the sight of the floating candles is so calming. A narcotic to the eyes, then to the mind and soul. And it's not just floating candles. Heck, curry comes from India. So do mynah birds (definitely) and mango (not sure).

I see what travels over mountains and oceans, and I am in awe every time. Migration is absolutely amazing.

Keally on Yayoi and Jomon cultures

Amusing. I always find it amusing when someone tells me about purity of a culture, of a nation, of a "race." For the record, I'll say that these are hogwash. Every culture has both original facets and borrowed facets. It's just a fact, and it's all around us. But the denial about loaned cultural aspects continues, and I don't really hold it against anyone who fancies his ancestral homeland as one of greatness. I just laugh about assertions of purity.

Take Japan. With all the historical evidence in place, we know that the Jamon culture preceded the Yayoi. There are artifacts throughout Japan with the exception of Hokkaido and Ryukyu (Okinawa). Rice is widely believed to have been imported from central China, not just as a product, but as a skill that revolutionized ancient Japan and fostered population explosion.

Migration of people from the Korean peninsula is also a given. I know there are people today who cringe at the fact that they have Korean and Chinese blood coursing through their veins, but that's just the fact. Live with it, I say, and be thankful that the skill it takes to grow rice was given freely to the original settlers of Japan.

Professor Charles T. Keally breaks it down well: Yayoi Culture

The originals, the Jomon, supposed shared more physical characteristics with Southeast Asians, while the Yayoi resembled Northeast Asians. I wonder why there was migration to Japan from China and Korea, and not so much from Southeast Asia. Was overpopulation more of a crisis issue in those regions?

Kyushu, like Ryukyu and Hokkaido, fascinate me in terms of travelers. Kyushu's location made it much more accessible to mainland peoples and faraway travelers by ship. Does this mean there was a multicultural society there to some degree? I don't know, but if the info is out there, any kind of proof, I hope to find it soon.

One thing that Keally doesn't delve into with this analysis is whether the Ainu are more closely related to the Jomon, the Yayoi or anyone else. Whether the Ainu were simply pushed by warfare or politics to the northern, cold region of Japan, and whether they are related to the Ryukyu people, I also want to know.

Here's a cool site (PDF) with a series of pics in lectures by Prof. John C. Huntington

Early Jomon artifacts
Late Jomon and Yayoi period artifacts, housing technology
Kofun period

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I've always been fascinated with Islamic Spain of yesteryear, when people of different faiths and cultures prospered together.

I'd read quite a while back that Jews had lived in Spain and that their descendants intermarried into Spanish and even Portuguese families. The same could be true of the Muslims, or Moors, who lived in Al-Andalus for centuries. Jews and Muslims were in Spain for 1,500 years until explusion by Catholic rulers.

These aren't the kind of things you learn in high school, but wouldn't most students find this compelling? In Hawaii, we've been heavily influenced by Portuguese culture and people. But nobody teaches these things.

The series on PBS is worth a watch, no question.

Islam: Empire of Faith: Part 1
Islam: Empire of Faith: Part 2
Islam: Empire of Faith: Part 3

The images are so vivid and the history is so rich. I feel like traveling to Spain to see Al-Andalus and the other places where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together, then escaped to as civil war broke out. It amazes me, particularly how some Muslims migrated from Baghdad to North Africa and to Spain.

The Alcazar of Seville, Granada. Artistry and craftsmanship of Muslim hands.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rosia Montana, Romania: Power to the People

A slight deviation from the norm here. Rosia Montana is a peaceful country village in Romania that is at risk of immense upheaval. Gold Corporation plans to mine the entire mountainside of the village, which is considered the oldest settlement in the country.

The skepticism of residents is understandable, as PBS' Wide Angle documentary revealed. There have been other gold mining disasters due to the use of cyanide. This site,, goes into some detail about the conflict.

The town was once ruled by Rome, hence the name of the country, and ancient caves were the work of the invaders. Or rather, the work was done under their thumb. Now, corporate greed has arrived from Australia and Canada.

Some things never seem to change.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guns, Germs & Steel

One of the best series I've ever enjoyed, on any network, was Guns, Germs & Steel on PBS. Jared Diamond's book turned into a documentary regarding native cultures and their doomed futures as Western power and greed arrived.

Though migration of peoples was a necessity driven by overpopulation, war, poverty and other common elements throughout time, the existence of conflict and conquest just as pervasive. The winners occupy. Losers have to leave. True in pre-contact era. True today.

Diamond's ability to weave history and simplify the power of Western weaponry — guns, germs and steel — makes for a fascinating watch. I wish we had this to watch when I was back in school.

Guns, Germs & Steel at

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ancient fashion in Japan

In the back of my mind, I've always wondered if the original inhabitants of Hokkaido and Okinawa shared any common threads.

Well, there's one site — Kyoko National Museum — that shows us that the two cultures from opposite ends of Japan didn't exactly use common threads at all. Literally. Different resources mean different types of fiber from plants are available. The clothing of early Okinawans — the Ryukyu Islanders — was and still is brightly colored thanks to a dyeing technique known as bingata.

It's pretty cool stuff that makes me feel in awe. My mom was a seamstress who often would sew aloha shirts for my brother and I from scratch. Well, sort of by scratch. She'd buy the material from a store and sew it together.

Anyway, the bingata designs were used for kimono.

Meanwhile, the Ainu in Hokkaido made cloth from elm fibers into shirts called attus. They look nothing like bingata and have more resemblance to designs from Western Europe, slightly Celtic, even. That would be something worth exploring since there are a few theories out there that claim the Ainu descend from caucasian blood, traveling across Northern Europe and North Asia before crossing the Korean peninsula to Japan. True?

Nobody can prove it, but it's definitely food for thought.

It's certain that the Ainu lived in Japan long before the latter, invading waves of migrants. But where did the Ryukyu people come from? Questions, questions and more questions.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Opening a chapter on Okinawa

I was slow to enjoy the internet. Even at work, back in 1993, we got real computers for the first time and were completely banned from the 'net.

Not having been on it, I didn't miss it. I finally got my own computer in 1996 or so and it's been a whole new world since. In the last several years, reading theories about migration has been one of my pastimes. And one of the places that fascinate me is East Asia.

Growing up with all kinds of kids, it always amazed me how different we are though we may have roots from one region of the world. Take Korea and China. Korea and Japan. Their relationships through the millenia are compelling in so many ways. The way the cultures and societies view each other is sometimes perplexing, as well. Ask a Japanese national about the fact that his or her descendants probably came from Northeast China and Korea, and they might rebuke you.

But what really trips me out is the history of Okinawa. I'll go into more detail about the islands later, but having grown up without knowing the difference between Japan and Okinawa was so unfortunate. Learning about the differences much later has been so rewarding.

More later.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Were there menehune in Hawaii?

The widely accepted belief that two sets of migrations occurred in Hawaii sometimes leads me to think about the legend of the menehune.

In most translations, menehune are understood to be little people who were the original settlers of the islands. One version I've read states that the menehune weren't physically smaller than the later settlers, but that they were smaller in stature politically. They didn't have the power to stop their adversaries, and thus departed from one island to the next until stopping on Kauai, the last bastion of a liveable environment.

It is true that there are many tales of the menehune on Kauai, including the giant inland fishpond outside Lihue that was built by them. (Menehune were said to have been prolific fishpond builders across the islands, able to build them overnight at the command of alii, or chiefs.) I've been there and I tend to believe that it was a working, thriving fishpond that, indeed, fed the populace of the island at one time. Even the nickname of the high school on the island's west side, Waimea, is Menehune.

An old friend, Manny Henriques, drove me up and down the island when I was there a couple of years ago on a work assignment. We went out to Kekaha, and I got to see many interesting spots along the way, including several of the rural post offices. Then we headed up the mountain to see Waimea Canyon, and beyond that, Kalalau Valley. The valley is on the north side of the island, so the drive was quite a voyage. The place is unspoiled and mostly uninhabited — Manny says some hippies live off the land there. It was the site of Jurrasic Park, a wide, lush valley that Manny said was once home to the "Lost Tribe."

Even as a Hawaii resident, I'd never heard of this. Manny explained that even as recently as 150 years ago, there was a large contingent of people in the valley, perhaps 200 strong. Were they descendants of menehune? No one knows for sure today, but King David Kalakaua actually wrote a book called The Legends and Myths of Hawaii. He supposedly writes that the menehune were real, and that the Lost Tribe consisted of 65 individuals according to a census.

Manny says that the Lost Tribe eventually integrated themselves into society. I just wish someone had documented information about the Lost Tribe. It's a theme that replicates itself in similar ways across the Pacific, even around the world. Some theories make a lot of sense. Other theories are fascinating, but require a lot of imagination. More on those theories later.

Perhaps one of the best sources of information comes from Tales of Molokai: The Voice of Harriet Ne, which can be found online in a review by Big Island resident June Gutmanis.

As with many Hawaiians of an older generation, Ne thought of the Menehune not as mystical, night-working, little people given to disappearing before sunrise, but as a people of small stature who had come to Hawai‘i before the Hawaiians and who were often friends with local families. According to her, once, while visiting on Kaua‘i, she went to a cave where the Menehune were said to live. After waiting for a time, she met a group of Menehunes returning to their home. She described
them as being short and quite fair. Both men and women wore long hair made into pugs with sticks through them.

On another occasion, while visiting a Mrs. Johnson in Puna, Hawai‘i, Ne met two Menehunes who came to visit her friend. As a favor, they caught a special kind of fish for their hostess. Ne relates that when the Menehune were talking together, they spoke in a strange language that she had heard before.

I'll post more info about menehune as I find it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Destination: Hawaii

There are a zillion places around the world that fascinate me. Actually, it's the people and their cultures that trip me out. And more so, what happens when those people and cultures overlap.

But I'll start with my home, Hawaii. There are different estimations, but generally, historians place the first arrival of humans as early as 600 or 700 AD. From the Marquesas Islands, they arrived and prospered. The first landing is widely believed to have been at South Point, Ka‘u on the Big Island.

The second wave came at about 1100 AD from the Society Islands. First of all, the fact that Polynesians could get around the South Pacific, as well as Melanesia and Micronesia, is a feat that's on a level with any other pre-Industrial era technology. How do you nagivate 2,000 miles to find a tiny dot out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? It's almost unfathomable without modern technology. Even the Hokulea today navigates through Polynesia and Micronesia, but not without nearby help and technology. It's just so risky, even with modern anemities.

Second, there are different theories as to why islanders left Marquesas and the Society Islands. Famine? Warfare? I think both were elements, but I do believe the primary reason was overpopulation. Though war was a part of life in Polynesia, there simply isn't enough land to sustain a growing society. And overpopulation, or condensation of people in a small place, is usually a bad idea, even today. Especially today.

I just wonder, more than anything, how the first Hawaiians knew of the islands. Was it pure luck? Was it divine inspiration?

Some things, we'll never know.

It was, according to one thesis I read online, that religion arrived in Hawaii around the time of the second wave when a Tongan priest was requested. The first heiau was established, and the rest of Hawaiian religion developed. The migration of religion, and its evolution as it migrates, has also fascinated me. After all, we all came from somewhere, and as man traveled outward from his origin of birth, the myths and beliefs stayed the same, and yet changed.

Every culture has a creation myth. But that's for another post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We Are ....

We are all the descendants of migrants. Whether our ancestors migrated a year ago, a century ago, or a millenia ago, we all came from somewhere else.

Whether it's Hawaii, the Pacific at large, South America, North America, Asia and Europe, there is never enough information to satisfy my thirst.

Sometimes, there are theories where solid fact should exist. I'm willing to explore all angles in the quest. If you share my interest in all things migratory, join in. The more, the merrier!