Ukwanshin Visiting Okinawa With Message of Revitalization

Ukwanshin’s Norman, Keith, Brandon and Eric will have a busy schedule on the 12 day visit during the World Uchinaanchu Taikai next month.  They will be participating in the special performance at the National Theater, along with other performers from Hawaii, including Afuso Ryu members, Frances Nakachi sensei, and many others.  However the highlight will be the concert at Tembusukan in Naha on October 20th, and the various schools and symposiums that have been set up to spread awareness of the need to protect, preserve and revitalize Okinawa’s languages, culture and history.

We were not thinking of going to Okinawa at this time, especially after just coming back from our study tour in June, but we had many ask us to return during the taikai and send our message out about the need to protect language, and culture.  People are becoming more aware of this need, especially the young ones who are in college.  NHK will also be doing a documentary on us, focusing on our view from afar and our message to protect and continue the language.

We hope to be fruitful on this visit and go with the understanding that this is for our ancestors, and we are only the instruments of their work.  Yutasarugutu Unigesabira!

Ukwanshin Launches “LooChoo nu Kwa : Children of LooChoo” series T-shirts 琉球之子オリジナルTシャツ販売中

“Fwitu nu inuchi ya kutuba nu inuchi”.  “Life of the people is in the life of their language”. With the urgency to help revitalize our Okinawan language, Ukwanshin announces the launch of the “LooChoo nu Kwa” line of T-Shirts with the remake of our “Shimanchu” line in a new design by Norman Kaneshiro.  Our original “Shimanchu” sold out and we have been receiving lots of requests for the “Shimanchu” shirt to come back.  We will be following with other shirts with different Okinawan themes and sayings, to hopefully show pride in our identity and culture through our language.  “LooChoo ” is the Okinawan pronunciation of Ryukyu,  which refers to the whole island chain from Amami to Yaeyama islands, and since we are descendants of our ancestors who came from that soil, so we are the children of Ryukyu.  We must always remember that if a language dies, so does the real identity of it’s people.  Keep in touch for the next T-shirt “Mamuti:Protect!” coming out soon.

“Loochoo nu Kwa: Children of Ryukyu” T-shirts now available!

“Loochoo nu Kwa: Children of Ryukyu” is the new t-shirt label we are introducing to help spread awareness of Ryukyu culture and identity. Our latest “Shimanchu” shirt features a saying by Eric Wada, 生まりから島ん人、何時迄ん島ん人 (Nmari kara shimanchu, itsimadin shimanchu, “Born native…Forever native”,  asserting our life-long connection to our roots and heritage. The design (created by Norman Kaneshiro) also features an important symbol of the Ryukyu people – the pine tree. The Ryukyu evergreen symbolizes not only strength and vigor, but also perserverance and fortitude as it is one of the only trees that can grow in the rocky soil near the seashore. Its deep roots symbolize our cultural heritage and the firm base that our ancestors have built so that we may thrive.

Supplies are limited, so please hurry and order yours today! Shirts will be available for pick-up and purchase at the Jikoen Hongwanji Mission Obon Matsuri on July 22 (Friday) and July 23 (Saturday), or you may send us your order via email or post. Proceeds from the sales will support our many ongoing classes and projects.

Choose from a selection of black, maroon, or deep forest green.



  • Youth M, Adult S thru XL: $15.00
  • 2XL thru 6XL: $19.00
  • Postage: $4 for first shirt, additional $1 per shirt thereafter.**
  • **Call 294-9152 or email us at to arrange for pick-up to avoid postage fees.

~ Send us an email at to order your shirts, or mail us the order form: “Shimanchu” T-shirt Order Form

Send your completed order form with a check made payable to “Ukwanshin Kabudan” to:

     Ukwanshin Kabudan
     PO Box 61307
     Honolulu, HI 96839 
Please support the work of Ukwanshin Kabudan by making your purchase today!

Iha Four Sisters: In Hawai`i Again, For Our Elders

The Iha Four Sisters arrived to a breezy morning at the Honolulu International Airport.  Their brief sound check while checking the instruments they will be borrowing for the concert, gave a glimpse of a great show to be anticipated.  Their voices and emotion in the music, puts them at the top of female folk vocalists.

Watching and listening to them though, I realized that there was a down side to this group.  This quartet may be the last in their generation of traditional female vocalists who are really grass roots and share their talents from their heart and soul.  you can feel it in their music and singing.  They have so much to share besides their music, and its sad to see that there are very few, if any, who are willing to follow in their footsteps.  The younger generation seems to take this “art” as just entertainment, resulting in a show, rather than an experience.  The focus of current Okinawan entertainers seem to also be business and money.  Of course there isn’t anything wrong with that, but then the real Okinawan identity in “shimauta” may die as time goes on.  What are we to do?  Should we resolve to the easier way of just moving ahead?, or should we really work hard to preserve and pass down tradition?

Obon Season Brings On Busy Schedule and Ending With First Obon With Vegas Okinawa Club

We’re off to a busy summer season, helping out the Young Okinawans of Hawaii with eisaa, bon dances in Honolulu.  Also on the schedule is Lahaina Maui, Rinzai Zen Mission Paia, Maui with the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group, Hawi Jodo Mission with the Kohala and Kona Okinawa clubs, and ending in August with a workshop, concert, and eisaa, for the newly formed Las Vegas Okinawa Kenjin Kai.  Please join us and remember to make your issei buttons with your issei, or grandparents photos who have passed away, so it will remind us of why we do eisaa, or bon dance.

” Danju Kariyushi” May 29th, 7pm, LCC Theater SOLD OUT!! MAHALO!

Norman, Eric, and Terry depict "moashibi" in the plantation.

“Preserving Identity Through    Music, Dance, & Stage”

Come with us on this historical, musical journey of our roots.

Have you ever wondered about the sugar cane fields that once spread over the Ewa plains and throughout the countryside?  What happened to them and the people who worked there?  What experiences did our first generation immigrants experience and what was their connection to their homeland?  How are we, as 3rd, 4th , and 5th generations, connected to our roots and places of our ancestors?  These are questions coming up and bring to the surface, the many experiences, visions and values that have almost been lost in our fast moving, self centered world.  Could finding and understanding who we are help us?  How many families sit and talk story about the “good ole days”, or our immigrants’ life, or where they came from?  How many know of the deep suffering and often heart wrenching stories of immigrants who felt they let their families back home down because they could not save enough to return home?  Many turned to drinking, gambling and even suicide.  Why do we need to remember?

Scene from a rarely heard story of a mother selling her daughter because of the family's poverty.

Danju Kariyushi” is a folk song that has been  chanted and used for centuries in Okinawa, to send off loved ones on a safe journey.  The lyrics speak nothing of the sorrows of parting, but instead, of joyful aspirations, hope, and anticipation for a safe journey and quick return.  “Danju kariyushi” embodies not only the optimism and resilience of the Okinawan soul, but also an invitation to all to return home to their roots no matter where their journey takes them.

In this spirit, the Hawai`i Taiko Kai, under the leadership of Terry Higa Sensei, and the Ukwanshin Kabudan, Ryukyu Performing Arts Troupe, presents “Danju Kariyushi”.  Incorporating theater with Okinawan music, dance and taiko, we will take a journey and recount key events in Oknawan history…from the Satsuma invasion of 1609, to the establishment of the Hawai`i community.  Through this presentation we hope to not only share the struggles of our people to maintain our identity and pride, but also to celebrate our unique culture that has endured centuries of hardship, and which has come to Hawai`i from far across the Pacific.       (Photos by Wes Kawachi)

The young generation takes up their obligation to pass on and protect their identity and culture.

“Voices From Okinawa” By Jon Shirota, Presented by Kumu Kahua Theater

Kumu Kahua’s production of the play “Voices From Okinawa”, by Jon Shirota, brings to the forefront, the many problems Okinawans are facing and with the reality of hardships, decisions and the continued treatment of them as second class citizens in the Japanese society .

The story takes place in modern day Naha Okinawa and Ginoza village.  A young part Okinawan-American sansei is teaching at an English school in Naha and decides to  have his students tell a story to practice their conversational English.  At the apprehension of the school principal, the students relate personal experiences one by one as real life experiences that are connected to political and social problems unfold.  The thorn in the Okinawan’s side though seems to be the continued US military presence and the problems the Okinawans have been facing for the past 60 years.  American military arrogance, occupation, public disturbance, lack of adherence to the local laws, and also rape issues are brought up through the students’ stories.  The most emotional is the personal story of a female student being raped by an American serviceman, and also the land issues with military bases in Okinawa.

The topics which were brought out in “Voices” are real issues that need to be talked about today, especially in the local Okinawan community.  The Hawaii United Okinawa Association has lacked in providing information or even supporting Okinawa on these issues, which in turn has left most of the community ignorant of the importance of the education about Okinawa’s continued struggles even to this day.  As we were told time and again in Okinawa last month while we were on tour there..”the Battle of Okinawa has not ended”.

With the current situation of Futenma and Henoko coming to head right now, this play comes at a great time to help understand what is going on, and the Okinawans’ struggles to try and balance everything while still trying to retain their land.  The disturbing helplessness by the Okinawans to apply local punishment to US military that have broken laws, such as robbery and rape, are still a reality till today…everyday.

Despite minor glitches and transitions in the scenes that seem out of place to the seriousness and weight of the stories, the message and “voices” are there and well represented.  I was struck however, upon talking withthe main character “Kama” after the show, that he had no idea that these things were still happening in Okinawa.  I think if the cast had some time to be exposed to information of what is really going on in Okinawa and see that the stories they are portraying are a reality everyday to this day, it would make the play even more strong and have more of an impact on the audience.

The play runs for five weeks from now through December.  Call the Kumu kahua Theater for information on show times etc.  It is a play worth seeing, especially for Okinawans.

Toshimitsu’s Niibichi in Okinawa

toshis-weddingToshimitsu Matayoshi, a past obuchi scholarship recipient and foreign exchange student from Okinawa, got married in Ryukyu traditional costume this past weekend.  The ceremony and reception was held at the Shuri Nikko Hotel Grand Castle.  The ceremony was followed by an elaborate 8 course dinner which took 2 hours to complete.  During the dinner, the newlyweds roamed the tables and poured beer or awamori, and mingled with the guests.  They also did a candle lighting ceremony and cake cutting.  Toshi looked so nervous but happy, and relaxed with all the drink he was getting from friends and relatives.  Toshi even danced the opening celebration number “kageyadefu” with his aunty.  Othere entertainment followed, which included Okinawan dances, friends, and Norman and I played shimauta, and dedicated Miitubuni to them, as the words describe how a husband and wife should cooperate and work together through good and bad times, like a boat in the calm or stormy waters.         toshis-wedding1

The evening ended with the lively kachashii, that wished the couple abundant happiness, prosperity and children.toshi-kageyadefu1wedding

Toshi now works for the Okinawa Times Newspaper Company as a reporter and journalist.  His friends and bosses from the nespaper were present and all gave speeches describing him as a serious and dedicated individual.  We wish T?oshi and his new wife all the blessings in their new life together.

Young Okinawans of Hawaii Experiencing Return to Tradition

The Young Okinawans of Hawaii have started their bon dance season already, but this year, there’s an obvious change in appearance and purpose. With the help of Ukwanshin Kabudan, they have learned what obon is all about, and the importance of connecting this season with their ancestors through the songs and dances that have been passed down. They also made buttons with ancestors’ photos, that they wear to remind them of the reason why they are doing eisaa bon dances.p7180025jpg The return to tradition has brought back members who have been looking for their identity and connection to culture, as well as new members who want to learn more about their roots. The button project also gave them a chance to research photos of deceased relatives that they have never seen. In past years, YOH had added some English modern songs, and also performance drumming to mofern Okinawan.  However, these numbers had many elder temple members feeling reluctant to join in or even restricted participation.  Current president David Miyashiro wanted to go back to traditional Okinawan for the elders in the community, and for the ancestors.  The change has brought a wave of positive feedback and appreciation.  Rissho Kosei Kai’s members commented that although they do modern dances and line dances in their bon dance, the Young Okinawans made them think and realize that tradition can be fun and for the young.  They were very surprised that so many young members had interest in Okinawa traditional eisaa, and hoped that their young members would use YOH as an example. “It showed that the Young Okinawans are proud of their culture,” said one RKK member.  “It makes me feel so happy to see that”. Good job Young Okinawans! For photos and short video clips please copy and paste this link to your browser bar, courtesy of Jamie Oshiro.

Okinawa Still Being Scarificed: Henoko and Takae Now the Targets of Base Expansion

Base expansion in Okinawa is continuing, as Okinawa is still being sacrificed and used by the Japanese Government to carry the burden of base expansion by holding out the golden carrot of money to the local government officials. Most recently, a 5400 page environmental report was released by the ministry of defense, and presented to the community in Henoko. No mention of the endangered dugong was mentioned in the report. Questions were raised by the local residents, but fell on deaf ears. In Takae, north of Ogimi village, they are also facing a new challenge…threat. They have been protesting the expansion of a heliport to accomadate the osprey aircraft. Now, they have been presented with a lawsuit by the Japanese Government for obstruction, due to the American military complaints of “loud riotous protests that obstruct and cause concern for safety”. The Takae sit ins have only been peaceful, with only a few residents rotating shifts at the designated gates. This bogus lawsuit went to trial yesterday, in an historic act, as the first time the government has sued local residents for trying to protect what is rightfully theirs. 24 attorneys have stepped up to back the Takae locals in this case. It is interesting that America so tousts its democracy to the world, when it doesn’t practice it itself. There is news of decrease of troops and closing of Futenma, but the expansion of Henoko and Takase just doesn’t make sense. How mush more must Okinawa suffer?