We have just returned form a very hectic but successful and once again humbling journey back to our ʻnmarijima” of our ancestors.
We travelled along with members of the Young Okinawans of Hawaiʻi, family that now lives in Boston, and members from Hilo, Hawaiʻi. We were also joined by other Hawaiʻi participants who wanted to join our “tours”. Although this wasnʻt supposed to really be a “tour” for us, it was great to be able to take around participants to some of our favorite and inspiring places that you cant experience on a regular tour.
The theme of our journey this year was “ʻImi”, which means “dream” in the native Okinawan language, and coincidently, “to seek”, in the antive Hawaiian language. To dream and seek is exactly what we are doin in our work in the communities both in Hawaiʻi and Okinawa, as we move to realize our traditions, connections and language connected to our uyafwaafuji. It was very interesting that many of the events planned by our connections in Okinawa also expressed a “dream” as they work towards the same goals. It was a revelation that our ancestors are steering us in the same direction as we continue their work.
Upon our arrival, we were already greeted by the media at the airport, and who followed us through most of our visit to document our engagements at symposiums, discussions, shows, and visitations to local historical places. We were so blessed to be in the news almost every other day, as they covered our exchange and dialogue with local Uchinaanchu on language and identity.
Highlights however, was the various symposiums, and also the exchange with Okinawa Hands On NPO, which has been one of the groups in the forefront of Shimakutuba revitalization. Words cannot explain the emotions and hope that we have seen in the youth of this group and the young leaders who are inspiring the students to take pride in their identity and language.
Another highlight was the Hawaiian language experts from UH Hiloʻs Ka Haka ʻUla Hawaiian Languguage College. We were blessed and himbled to be able to have taken these members to inspire the Okinawa people to take a more serious stance in revitalizing the language by looking at the Hawaiian models and struggles as Okinawa moves on to hopefully bring back Shimakutuba to normalcy.
The impact of the events and visits will only be measured in the actions taken after we have left, but we are very hopeful in a boost in work and movement to seriously bring Shimakutuba into the homes and schools.
As we digest our experiences in Okinawa this past journey, we also look towards next yearʻs Loo”Choo Identity Conference which will connect to the “ʻImi” while we seek to deepen our understanding of who we are and where we come from.