This past Gakumun Kai focused on our Okinawa mini conference theme “Imi ni Miru Uchinaa”, “The Okinawa We See In Our Dreams. This title encompasses the Okinawa that we as 3rd,4th,5th, generations have seen or heard through stories of our grandparents and great grandparents, and through our own experiences of visiting and touching base with Okinawa personally. It also connects to the Okinawa for those who are there. The Okinawa that is still reflected in the eyes of our living elders that have seen the revage of war, hunger, predjudice, genocide, and still are experiencing fallout and continued problems.
The evening opened with Norman presenting the song Meekata, which tells all of us to not give up and be like the rocks that build and build to form a mountain. To protect and pass on our identity and culture even if LooChoo has no king, no one can take away our identity. He then went on to sing “Natsukashiki Furusato”, from which we got the title to the conference. We also realize through this song and are reminded that we are connected to our “homeland” and worry about there as they must think of us here. The connections through our island cultures and of our inherited are a fine intermingling that help us to understand each other and not feel like strangers.
The evening’s presentation was full of information which made everyone think and wonder where do we go from here and how can we move? We realized that those of us in Hawaii don’t know much and however much we say we are local, we can never claim to be native here because this is not really our native home. In the same sense we cannot claim our ancestors home as our own either because we were not born there. So we are kind of at a loss or limbo, but with a strong emotional tie to where our ancestors came from and to which our blood connects us. There is so much that everyone who came that evening feels connected to or concerned about. It is a genuine love for who we are and for the identity that our ancestors have given to us. We realize the obligations to carry on and protect what is culturally ours, and to preserve what is in danger of dying due to past adn present predjudice, modern influence, and lack of understanding. Professor Ishihara from Ryukyu University in Okinawa also shared his information and concern for the endangered Ryukyu language, and lack of interest by native Okinawans. He is afraid that within our generation we will see the demise of our language if something more aggressive isn’t done soon. The end of the evening left everyone thinking what should we do? Living in the kind of world we do now, it’s very easy to forget and not realize what is slipping through our fingers. We look in the mirror everyday, but do we really see who we are and where we came from? What happened to the values of our familes and communities? What started the demise of our culture which was thriving only little over 50 years ago. What is important to us now? These are questions to think about and which we will be trying to understand more when we visit Okinawa this month. Keep checking back to our blog for updates during our tour, starting from the 20th of this month.