OFF TO YAEYAMA 八重山んかい行ちゅん

1972441_845099572173491_1858730747_nO-RI TO-RI!Our third day in Okinawa had us flying out to the Yaeyama Islands of Ishigaki and Taketomi.  These beautiful southern islands of the Ryukyu chain holds some of the worlds most beautiful beaches and traditional images.  They love their culture and it shows in the surrounding and its people.

We landed at the new Ishigaki International Airpot and toured the island, focusing on the minsa a textiles of Okinawa.  Our members took their time looking at the beautiful work and time it takes to make such pieces that has a long tradition in these islands.  They also spent equal time shopping for omiyage to bring back, as well as gifts for themselves.  After doing some sightseeing, we found a folk arts store which specialized in Yaeyama goods, and where the owner makes “saba” , lauhala slippers.  This art is quickly dying due to the younger generation not wanting to spend the time in making or learning this art.

We then went to the Yaeyama High School to visit with the students who will be visiting Honolulu and presenting a Yaeyama music and dance concert. They have placed numerous times in Okinawa and All Japan performing arts contest.  They have also taken the overall titles numerous times and will once again be representing Okinawa in the finals at the all Japan National contest.  Watching these safe_image.phpyoung students, you could feel and hear their love for the culture and music of the island, as well as their passion.   Although almost half of the students who helped to win the all Okinawa title had just graduated, the younger members have stepped up to the plate and are giving it their all.

After watching the practice we went back to our hotel and had dinner with the Yaeyama High school teacher, Nagahama.  He arranged for us to go to a friends place and try yakiniku featuring Yaeyama beef, which is supposed to be comparable to Kobe beef.  Its from Ishigaki anyway that matsutake and Kobe beef started. 1238113_845211358828979_1696745433_n The marbling of the meat was amazing, and the tenderness and taste was more than what I expected.  くぬ牛や椅っぺマー細微異端。This beef was amazing!  It melted in your mouth!  There was so much food and the other things we did this day was amazing.  I’m looking forward to the next day.

The next day we took a ferry to Taketomi



Connecting with Okinawa’s Most Sacred Sites

Our tour reached the half way point today as we visited the most significant sacred sites and historical places in Okinawa.  We all woke bright and early to leave for the Azama Pier and board our boat to Kudaka Island.  This island is said to be the place where the gods descended to create the first Okinawa people and also brought the 5 sacred grains which still sustain the Okinawa people today.  We were guided by a “kaminchu”, or spiritual leader of the island to a few sacred areas on the south end of the island.  Unfortunatelly we couldn’t visit the north side because of the beginning ceremonies and prayers for an observance which signaled the arrival, mating and laying of eggs of the irabu, sea snakes.

We learned from the “kaminchu” that the head “guru” or priestesses of this island in the Hokama and Kudaka areas, were the most powerful and lead the ceremonies and rituals which date back to the three kingdom period of LooChoo.  These two priestesses were the ones who initiated other guru, including the high priestess Kikoe Okimi of Shuri.  The Hokama and Kudaka nuru were successors of their family line as to where other nuru came and learned their practice at Kudaka from the nuru on the island.  So this was actually the central place of training and education for priestesses and where even the Shuri king came to get advice.

After that we returned to the main island and continued to Sefa Utaki, which is connected to Kudaka Jima as a spiritual center.  Up to 400 years ago the center of spiritual power and training was on Kudaka.  After that they moved it to Sefa Utaki.  It was a big difference at Sefa Utaki, in that there were bus loads of tourists, and the way that they have fixed up the place since it has been designated a s a sacred site made it seem like any other tourist place.  We were told that the Japanese tourist have made it a main “power spot” to receive power.  This “power spot” belief has gotten very popular with Japanese and some online and tour companies have also made “power spot” tours to go to these sacred and private areas that only the locals used to go to.

“Ichimadin Shimanchu” Message Unites Voices and Expands Connections

Angel(Peru), Brandon, and Norman at the National Theater Okinawa

From our participation in the National Theater Show, to the last school a Makabi Elementary, Ukwanshin gave the message of revitalization focused on the language.  The coinciding of the Worldwide Uchinaanchu Taikai also brought new connections and networking to expand the movement and work to help save Uchinaaguchi, and look at how it connects to cultural revitalization also.  

At the National Theater show, we were able to participate with many Okinawan traditional performing artists from North and South America, Okinawa and Hawaii.  The performing artists were great, and showed that the music and dance of Ryukyu is still alive and well in the places our ancestors took it to.  At least for the next few generations, the performing arts will be passed on and connection to Okinawa continued.

Meio University Presentation

After the two shows at the National Theater, we were finally able to really focus on our main reason for being in Okinawa. We hit 11 places in about a week.  We visited 4 universities, 1 high school, 4 elementary schools, and 2 symposiums.  Takaesu Elementary in Gushikawa gave hope for the future.  The children gave their greeting in Uchinaaguchi, and many said they still live with their great grandparents.  They were very receptive and said they want to learn more from their elders at home.  We also had a very productive and emotional group discussion at the Christian University where Okinawa NGO, various university students, and teachers attended.  The focus for this symposium was on Hawaiian language immersion and language revitalization in Okinawa.  As in all of the areas we spoke, the discussion covered the same ideas and comments on how to save Uchinaaguchi and why.  There was also the introduction of Hawaiian immersion school topic and seeing how it could benefit Okinawa.  The most impact however came with Keith closing with his comment on starting action.  “It’s great we talk about these things but it cannot stop here.  After we leave, you have to decide what you are going to do and do something or our being here today doesn’t mean anything.”  This hit the guts of many of the students there and brought some to tears, as they realized that they have been deprived of something that is theirs.  They also felt so ignorant of their culture and language and realized there is a crisis. “I see now how we have been given only what Japan wants us to know, and in the process it has made us only become more Japanese.  Our language and history has been kept out of the educational system, and we have been deprived of our connection to our ancestors and identity.  We have to take it into our own hands and work to educate ourselves and reconnect”, said one student who is active in one of Okinawa’s government affiliated NGOs.

Naha Mayor Declares Uchinaaguchi Use at Session Openings and Closings

With comments and influence from the visiting Okinawans for the taikai, the Naha Mayor announced in the Ryukyu Shimpo Newspaper that they will begin the use of Uchinaaguchi in the opening and closing sessions for Naha City.  This a a great step as the support of Uchinaagushi by politicians would help to boost and support use in other public forums and political programs.  The next step is to get the language into the schools as a regular class, and then to push for immersion schools.

Kanagusuku Elementary

Our concert at the Tenbusu Theater in Naha brought young and old alike, who came to enjoy both Hawaiian and Okinawan music connected with our message of revitalization, especially of language.  It was great to feel such a warmth from the audience, as emotions were definitely affected as tears flowed and hearts connected with the love and concern for Okinawa.  Both the Okianwans from Okinawa, and those from the outside, including us, were all one family without anything separating us, as the music brought us together with our similar understanding and love for our ancestors.  It was an awesome feeling.  At the end of both shows, the audience chanted and cleped for encore, and wouldn’t leave until we came out again.  We had alerady changed and were going to meet everyone in the lobby when we hear this unexpected chorus, and the Tenbusu staff told us we should go back out.  We ended up with kachashii and “achame”, where at one point almost 100% of the audience was dancing with each other and didn’t want to stop.




Taikai Brought Glitz and Hype to Worldwide Uchinnanchu, But Many Voiced Lack of Traditions and Language

The Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times Newspapers, interviewed participants young and old at the taikai.  Everyone enjoyed some part of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the shows and festivities at the taikai.  However, there were also many that felt that the modern production for the taikai, and the lack of Okinawan language brought concern.  Some elders also felt upset that traditional dance and music were either missing or at a minimum.  The theme song for the taikai was a modern song sang in Japanese.  “We are so happy and grateful that Okinawa has put on such a festival to welcome us home, but to spend so much money to get here and not find Okinawa dance and music represented in the opening and closing is a bit saddening.” said one participant from Brazil.

The Base to Survival of Traditions and Culture Will Lie In the Revitalization of Uchinaaguchi.

In all, the language needs to come back strong so that the identity and culture of Okinawa will survive.  Okinawa can go on to evolve, but without its connection and preservation of traditions, the connection to our ancestors will also be cut off as it may become unrecognizable as Okianwan.  If we look around, other people who speak their own language have no problem with their identity, and can move on to evolve while still being able to connect to their traditions.  In order for realization and action to happen we must ask our selves “Why?”  Why did our language decline 96% in 60years?  If we can understand this, we will see that it was not the decision of the Okinawans, but a forced movement implemented by Japan, to inculturalize the Okinawans and change their identity and culture.  From this we will be able to also understand why performing arts are changing, why the war cam to Okinawa, and why Okinawans are against the bases.  The Okiawans still have no voice in decisions, and there is still the continued effort to wipe out the identity and traditional practices which makes Okinawa so different and unique. This was a hard  weeks with non-stop visits, eating convenience store food on the go, and lack of sleep.  However, it was all worth it and we were strengthened by knowing that this is the work of our ancestors.  Thank you to all of our Okinawa friends who made it possible, and also to our Hawaii supporters who share in our work.  Ippe Nifwedebiru!

Finally able to Relax


Exchange with Local Okinawa Youth Shows Concern For Future

The morning began with a visit to a special education school in central Okinawa that is based in mainland Japan, but caters to Okinawa’s high school students with special needs.  It was a hard late morning as we constantly wondered if these students understood and enjoyed what we were presenting.  We were lucky enough to have two 3rd year students join us playing sanshin.  Some of these students have a hard time with expression, or are very shy to talk or ask questions.

After that we were on our way to Okinawa International University  to meet with students and members of a performing arts eisaa group.  It was very interesting to see this group that was formed to help kids with handicap or disadvantaged who could not join a regular eisaa group.   They performed for us a bunch of eisaa, and we in return did a few Hawaiian numbers as well as Okinawan folk music while explaining the importance of identity and culture in comparison to Hawaii.

The main part of the evening was the discussion session where we went into detail on our view of the importance of identity and the lacking or dilution of it in Okinawa.  The students felt the crisis and need for revitalization but said that there are some things that would make it hard, especially in the language area since there are many different dialects from the various areas, and also the social levels of vocabulary.  I also explained that there seems to be disagreements and  strong sentiments on who is wright or wrong in the way the language is taught or spoken.  I explained to them that the Hawaiians also had this problem but the elders and teachers sat down and worked this problem out by realizing that if the disagreements and arguments continued, the language would surely die and all would be lost.  There needs to be a medium and also lenience to perpetuate the language.  In Okinawa it seems that some elders are hard head and want things to be done one way and with the honorific levels of speech.

The youth, especially the college students seem to have a growing interest in revitalizing their identity, but due to the decades of brainwashing and cultural genocide, they don’t know where to start or how to move.  They are very concerned aobut their future and in how they can pass on the Okinawan identity, language and culture to the next generation.  We explained to them that it is the current college students and graduate level population that has the power to change things and that with this surge of interest in revitalization, it can happen with their empowerment.  They need to move and not just have discussions on the topics.  They need to go to their politicians and tell them what they want.  They need to start networking and create a fellowship with elementary and high schools to create support and leadership.  Mostly, Okinawa and Okinawans on the outside must say “Let’s do it!, and “Where do we start?”, in stead of “it can’t be helped”, or “maybe it can happen”.  We need to look at our ancestors.  This quote from the Hawaiian Culture Ka Wana series “Hewa”, paints the picture and explains what we need to do for our identity in relation to Hawaiians.

“Knowing how our ancestors behaved begs the question of whether we are doing the same.  If we are practicing our culture in a way similar to how they did, then we know that Hawaiian culture is very much alive today.  If we do things differently we have to ask if those changes are to our benefit, and whether we can reclaim what has been forgotten, lost, or suppressed.

…..indigenous peoples (identity) is more than just behavioral controls….If we cannot (or do not) live as such(traditions, language etc) we do not live as such and do not exist as a People, and are just like everyone else.”

So far we have seen more and more riding the wave to bring Okinawa back to its roots.  Language connects and lives in a peoples culture, and history.  Once this changes or is taken away, so will the culture and identity of the people.

Music and Dances of Okinawa Flourishes Throughout the World

The gathering of performing artists from South America, Hawaii, and mainland USA showed the preservation of the arts and continued interest in what is truly a connection to our roots and ancestors.  The level of the arts outside of Okinawa has risen to the same playing field as so many now make the sacrifices to go to Okinawa and take on the challenges of learning Music and dance.  In just about 20 years, its a big contrast to the handful of pioneers who ventured outside their local dojos to train in Okinawa.

In talking to many of the performers from mainland US and South America, the enjoyment of the dances and music is what draws them to continue the arts.  When asked about whether they think it strengthens identity, they said “yes!”  They also mentioned that they do have some sort of concern for the language and how they themselves dont speak or understand.  This show gave the performing artist the opportunity to perform on the prestigious National Theater stage, but more importantly, it started a network to support each other outside of Okinawa, as in some areas, there are only a few.

“Ichimadin Shimanchu” Uchinaanchu From Around the World Return With Energy, Excitement.

Young shimanchu with red shirts of eisaa design and the words “Requios” on the back stand in line for immigration clearance with us in Narita.  Some of the members are with family and their faces are full of excitement and anticipation.  They look like any of the others you would see at the Okinawa festival in Hawai`i or other gathering.  However, their chatter is in Portuguese, and gives away they have come almost 24 hours travelling from Sao Paulo Brazil, the largest diasporic population of Shimanchu.  A group of English speaking men and women, some with guitars, approach us and ask where we got our T-shirts from.  They are form Seattle and will be attending the festival.  We tell them the shirts are our original and they ask if there’s some way they can get some.  The Brazil youth are all trying to read our shirts too and keep on pointing at us.  Other elderly and young alike have come from other far away places to attend the taikai.  There is energy in the air.  I everyone returning has brought with them a part of their ‘uyafwafuji”, the spirit of their ancestors, to return home and celebrate the connection we all have as Shimanchu.

Finally touching down in Okinawa, we gather our bags and can hear the cheers and applause of family and others who have come to greet everyone arriving back.  In the arrival lobby as we exit the baggage claim, people hold signs and banners to greet, whether it be friends relatives or strangers.  This reminded me of the words to Kudai Kuduchi, ” Sudiyu chiraniti muru fwitu nu nkeeni njitaya Miigushiku” (Standing arm in arm, so many people waiting at Miigushiku to welcome friends, relatives, loved ones, or just other shimanchu)

Our schedule begins with an early morning visit to Tamaudun to greet the spirits of our kings and queens, and ask permission to return home and bring the spirit of our ancestors back to travel with us on our 12 day mission.  We look forward to whats ahead and have hope that our ancestors can help to restore and revitalize our Shimanchu traditions, culture and language through their influence.  We were apprehensive about coming during this big event and with all the thousands who have come back, but I think the energy here will help to lift us up to be able to try and do our best.  Those of our Shimanchu in Hawaii who have supported us for this trip, the well wishes, prayers and aloha is what got us here.  Thank you everyone.  Chibariyo!  This is not our travels, but the travels an work of our Uyafwafuji.  Keep posted for updates while we are in Okinawa.!

Does this sound familiar? It’s time for Okinawa to stand up and be counted.

Language, Culture, Identity.  These three are what makes a people, and which are inseparable. Cultures, or native people who have lost their language have also lost their true identity and culture.  Those who have returned to their language have found resurgence and revitalization of its people and culture.  It is time for Okinawa to be counted and stand up to be proud of the LooChoo identity.  However, people of Okinawa, Miyako, Yaeyama, and Aguni must take responsibility and begin a movement that will make history.  The responsibility is not only for those living in the Ryukyu Islands, but also for those of us outside who are connected through our blood and ancestry.  Indigenous Taiwanese, Welsh, and others have stepped up to revitalize their language and identity.  Please read the following article which focuses on the Native American, Maori, and Hawaiian language fight.  Let’s put Okinawa on the list of success to revitalizing language and identity.

Note: This article was first published in the November/December 2005 issue of the National Association for Bilingual Education’s magazine Language Learner on pp. 22-24. Reproduced here by permission. Permission to reprint is hereby given with proper credit to the author and Language Learner as the source of original publication.

Cultural Rights, Language Revival, and Individual Healing

Jon Reyhner,Northern Arizona University

Throughout the history of the colonization of the Americas, the goal of schooling for America’s Indigenous peoples was forced assimilation. They were to give up their native culture, speak the language of their conquerors, and become Christian. Yet assimilationist schooling had effects that went well beyond these goals. In 1975, Dillon Platero, the first director of the Navajo Division of Education, described the experience of “Kee,” a typical Navajo student:

Kee was sent to boarding school as a child where–as was the practice–he was punished for speaking Navajo. Since he was only allowed to return home during Christmas and summer, he lost contact with his family. Kee withdrew from both the White and Navajo worlds as he grew older because he could not comfortably communicate in either language. He became one of the many thousand Navajos who were non-lingual–a man without a language. By the time he was 16, Kee was an alcoholic, uneducated, and despondent–without identity. 

Believing that Kee’s story was more the rule than the exception, Platero emphasized the need to use the Navajo language more in teaching Navajo students. 

More recently, the first Navajo woman surgeon described the effects of assimilationist schooling on her family in her 1999 autobiography The Scalpel and the Silver Bear:

In their childhoods both my father and my grandmother had been punished for speaking Navajo in school. Navajos were told by white educators that, in order to be successful, they would have to forget their language and culture and adopt American ways. They were warned that if they taught their children to speak Navajo, the children would have a harder time learning in school, and would therefore be at a disadvantage.A racist attitude existed. Navajo children were told that their culture and lifeways were inferior, and they were made to feel they could never be as good as white people. This pressure to assimilate, along with the physical, social, psychological, and economic destruction of the tribes following the Indian wars of the 1800s combined to bring the Navajo people to their knees.

My father suffered terribly from these events and conditions. He had been a straight-A student and was sent away to one of the best prep schools in the state. He wanted to be like the rich white children who surround him there, but the differences were too apparent.

Dr. Alvord concludes that “two or three generations of our tribe had been taught to feel shame about our culture, and parents had often not taught their children traditional Navajo beliefs–the very thing that would have shown them how to live, the very thing that could keep them strong.”Language Nests

The Maori of New Zealand are another example of an Indigenous group who were forced to learn in a colonial language with poor results. As with other Indigenous peoples that lacked immunity to European diseases, three-fourths of them died in the first decade of European exploration. Still, they still make up about fifteen percent of New Zealand’s four million people.

Because Maori children, despite speaking English, were doing poorly in school, a preschool movement was started. Putting children in school at an earlier age, along with the spread of radio, television, and movies, accelerated the rate of Maori language loss. To reverse this trend, in 1982 Maori language activists responded with a movement for Maori immersion preschools, known as Te Kohanga Reo (the language nest). Relying on the fact that many elders still spoke Maori, schools were able to operate entirely in the native language. In addition, smoking was banned, they were to be kept very clean, and parents and preschool teachers made the decisions.

By 1998 there were over 600 of these preschools. Wanting their children’s Maori education continued and based on the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi with the British government, activists convinced the New Zealand government to provide first Maori immersion elementary schools. Secondary schools soon followed and finally Maori language university programs, which helped prepare Maori teachers to work in immersion schools.

Native Hawaiians, another Polynesian people, share a similar history with the Maori. Before the late 19th century, when Hawaii was an independent nation, Hawaiian children were taught to read and write in their Hawaiian language in their own schools. But after a coup d’etat overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, American missionaries and businessmen used their newfound power to outlaw the use of the Hawaiian language schools throughout the islands. As a result, by the 1980s, there were few Hawaiian children who could still speak their heritage language in the 1980s. Again, despite speaking only English, these children did not do well in school.

In 1984, observing the success of the Maori, Native Hawaiians started their own language nests (Punano Leo) after parents successfully petitioned the state to change its English-Only law. As in New Zealand, popular support extended the Hawaiian language immersion programs into the public schools. By 1996, there were nine sites serving 175 children; in 2003 there were 12 preschools and 23 public schools with Hawaiian immersion classes.

When I spoke with a parent of a Punano Leo student, he described its curriculum as “a way of life…you have to take it home.” It was bringing back the moral values of the culture and helping mend families. Parent involvement includes parents also studying Hawaiian and volunteering to help clean the school for eight hours a week. Their mission statement reads:

The Punana Leo Movement grew out of a dream that there be reestablished throughout Hawai’i the mana of a living Hawaiian language from the depth of our origins. The Punana Leo initiates, provides for and nurtures various Hawaiian Language environments, and we find our strength in our spirituality, love of our language, love of our people, love of our land, and love of knowledge.

The Hawaiian immersion schools graduated their first high school students in 1999 and now have more than 3,000 students in grades K-12. At the University of Hawai’i at Hilo there are now both undergraduate and graduate programs taught in the Hawaiian language.Healing Possibilities

Northern Cheyenne tribal college president Dr. Richard Littlebear, speaking at an Indigenous language conference in 1997 at Northern Arizona University, described the healing possibilities of revitalizing tribal languages and cultures that is beginning to occur through bilingual education with American Indians and Alaska Natives:

Our youth are apparently looking to urban gangs for those things that will give them a sense of identity, importance, and belongingness. It would be so nice if they would but look to our own tribal characteristics because we already have all the things that our youth are apparently looking for and finding in socially destructive gangs. We have all the characteristics in our tribal structures that will reaffirm the identities of our youth. Gangs have distinctive colors, clothes, music, heroes, symbols, rituals, and “turf”….We American Indian tribes have these too. We have distinctive colors, clothes, music, heroes, symbols, and rituals, and we need to teach our children about the positive aspects of American Indian life at an early age so they know who they are. Perhaps in this way we can inoculate them against the disease of gangs.

Another characteristic that really makes a gang distinctive is the language they speak. If we could transfer the young people’s loyalty back to our own tribes and families, we could restore the frayed social fabric of our reservations. We need to make our children see our languages and cultures as viable and just as valuable as anything they see on television, movies, or videos.

While the treatment of Indigenous people by colonists certainly warrants considerable anger, as Meti historian David T. McNab recalls, “The Elders tell us that it is alright to feel angry about stuff like this [e.g., Massacres of Indians at Sand Creek, Wounded Knee and many other sites] and it is good. However, in the end you must go down to the river, offer a gift of tobacco to the Creator and simply let the anger go…. Otherwise the anger will poison your spirit…”Note: This column is adapted from Jon Reyhner and Jeanne Eder’s American Indian Education: A History (University of Oklahoma Press, 2004) and Jon Reyhner’sEducation and Language Restoration (Chelsea House, 2006).

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Copyright © 2006 Northern Arizona University, All rights Reserved Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflection of Okinawa, Hope Through the Hawaiian Model

Israel Kamakawiwa`ole, a Voice for Hawai`i

Click the above link to watch this emotional presentation by IZ.  The words he speaks, the emotions, the struggles that he talks about from the stage is reality for the Hawaiian people.  If you were to take that and just exchange it for Okinawa, along with some other problems, including the near extinction of our language, you can hear IZ referring to our Okinawa community also.

IZ and the Makaha Sons, and many other Hawaiian entertainers were not afraid to bring out reality from the stage and challenge the young Hawaiians and the community to do something to save their culture, language, history and identity.  Its because of their understanding of the crisis that they were facing, along with their solid understanding of who they are and where they came from.  In this video clip you will hear IZ refer back to the ancestors, just as we have been doing with Ukwanshin.  As he said, “Ancestors are forever, we are forever”.

As the date for the Worldwide Uchinaanchu Taikai approaches, those who are attending should also think about Okinawa and the reality of a crisis we are in despite the facade of celebration, andagi and kachashii.  Listen and watch this video clip.  Through the Hawaiian model we can understand and move to action our revitalization.  Yutasarugutu Unigesabira!  Kudos to Jamie for finding this clip.


Ryukyu Shimpo English Article on Ukwanshin’s Okinawa Visit

Okinawan Americans come from Hawaii to play the sanshin at a requiem held at the Miyamori Elementary School Memorial

Okinawan Americans come from Hawaii to play the sanshin at a requiem held at the Miyamori Elementary School Memorial Third generation Okinawan Americans from Hawaii play Okinawan folk songs at the memorial service held at the Miyamori Elementary School in Uruma City.


June 5, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

Fourteen Hawaiians originated from Okinawa, including 36 year-old Norman Kinjo visited the Miyamori Elementary School in Uruma City on June 3 to attend the memorial service held for the victims, including 11 children, killed in the June 30 1959 crash of a U.S. F-100 fighter from Kadena Air Base. At the memorial of Nakayoshi-Jizo or Good Friend-Jizo (protector of deceased children) on which the names of the victims are engraved, they offered prayers to comfort the spirits and sang an Okinawa folk song to the accompaniment of thesanshin. Mitsuteru Toyohama, the president of the Ishikawa-Miyamori 6-30 Association, guided them around the scene of the accident. He said, “Those who were killed would have been pleased with their visit.”

Kinjo, Erick Wada and their colleagues performed three songs, including Tinsagunu hana with vocals and sanshin accompaniment at the memorial service. Erick is a member of the Ukwanshin-Kabu-Dan in Hawaii. “Sightseeing is all very well, but we can’t gain a real understanding of our roots in Okinawa if we don’t also look at the deep sadness that sits in the background,” said Kinjo.

When the “Iha Four Sisters” Okinawan folk music group from Ishikawa in Uruma City toured Hawaii last December, Kinjo and others learned about the tragedy of the plane crashing into Miyamori Elementary School. Kumiko Iha, now 62 years old, but just a fifth grade girl back then, accompanied the young visitors from Hawaii on this trip. She was impressed that, “I told them just a little about it, but they were very interested in the incident. I actually learned something about Okinawa from them. They are wonderful, just like their fantastic music.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)


Wishing You All a Healthy and Prosperous 2011!

This past year has been a busy one for Ukwanshin.  We were kept busy with many projects…major ones being Danju Kariyushi and of course, the finale with the Iha Four Sisters.  As the end of the year comes and the new year begins we can look back and see the trials, tribulations, celebrations, and many other events that may have affected us in a way during this past year.  I am also reminded that we are one more year closer to losing our resources of our Okinawan identity and traditions, but also one year richer in our work to preserve and pass on our traditions.

As I was looking around while going to get things to prepare for the new year, I noticed that I was one in a few of my age, that was hunting for new year ingredients and decorations, which I am so used to having since my grandmother was alive.  Where are the younger generations?  Who is keeping up the traditions in other houses?  How important is it to others to continue these traditions?  I was thinking also that there might be one day when families may no longer get together to prepare and enjoy traditional new year celebrations.  Here in Hawai`i at least, it seems like the younger generation is becoming so inculturalized into the western way, that our younger Okinawan community is losing its grasp on something which was a big part of life for us growing up.  I hear so often the excuses of “too busy”, “humbug to make the food” etc.  It’s kind of interesting that our 1st and 2nd generations didn’t have the technical tools and equipment that makes our lives so much easier today, but yet, they didn’t complain.  We have so much to make things easier, faster, and instant, but so many cannot find or make the time to do tradition.  Instead, our priorities have become things like sports, facebook, being connected to our cell phones, instead of family.  Who will continue the food for new years?  How many know how to order mochi, pig’s feet, pork, fish, etc?

The preparations for the new year may seem superstitious for some, but if you think about it, it all makes sense.  Clean your house and put things in place for beginning of the year so you don’t go into the new year in clutter.  Make food to share with family and friends to start the year with fellowship and in company of your household.  Display new year decorations to remind us of our roots and to honor our ancestors as we hope for the good year of health and prosperity.  The values that are contained in the so called “rituals” of the new year celebrations are what keeps us together and in check of ourselves.  It’s a time to look outward in a time where society looks so much at itself.

As the year of the rabbit traditionally starts on February 3rd, try to find time to look back at how we can continue our traditions, share them and pass them on to our next generations.  Ii sougwachi debiru!  Happy New Year!