Loochoo nu Kwa Culture/Identity Workshop at Jikoen

On August 25, 2007, in collaboration with the Young Okinawans of Hawai‘i, we presented our first culture/identity workshop in Honolulu at the Jikoen Hongwanji Hall from 5pm to 9:30pm. Indeed, the ancestors seemed to have had a big hand in guiding this event. Though the date and location of the venue were chosen strictly for logistical reasons, it happens that August 25th was Uukuyi, the first day of the 3-day Okinawan Obon (feast days to celebrate the visitation of the ancestral spirits to our world based on the lunar calendar) and that on such a day, it would be held on the grounds of the temple that was built by Okinawan immigrants decades ago and served as an early meeting place for the Okinawan community on O‘ahu. Under these auspices and in the presence of almost 150 people, we proceeded with the task of building bridges to days long past and to things forgotten by many.

The evening started with chants in both Okinawan and Hawaiian inviting the ancestors to join us in recalling their cultural legacy, followed by a musical performance of “Tinsagu nu Hana”, a favorite Okinawan folk song that reminds people of all ages to treasure the teachings of their elders and always hold them close to their hearts. After a few remarks by Eric Wada, the stage was set for our presentations. Eric, Keith Nakaganeku, Derek Fujio, Terry Higa, and I were the primary presenters for the workshop. The following is an outline of the evening:

I. history of Ruuchuu — Norman Kaneshiro

II. religious customs and rituals — Eric Wada

III. presentation on uta-sanshin — Keith Nakaganeku

IV. presentation on kutu (koto) — Derek Fujio

V. presentation on teeku (taiko) — Terry Higa

VI. introduction to Okinawan dance and dance types — Eric Wada, assisted by Takako Miyazaki, Hitomi Takahashi, and Keith Shimabukuro

VII. slideshow and narrative reading — Eric Wada and Jamie Oshiro

VIII. question-answer/discussion

IX. Eisa led by the Young Okinawans of Hawaii

Probably the most powerful presentation for the evening was the narrative reading and slideshow. With images of people places from Ruuchuu’s distant and not-so-distant past, Eric and Jamie read a scripted exchange between a young Okinawan man and the spirit of his deceased grandmother who has returned to help him to find his roots and understand who he is. While the warm exchange between the two characters provides insights into core values in Okinawan culture, it also carries a strong emotional appeal to younger people to start finding their identity and for our elders to start telling their stories.

The evening was appropriately capped with audience participation in an eisa dance led by the Young Okinawans of Hawaii. The workshop participants of all generations seemed to genuinely enjoy the dancing as an expression of respect for both their ancestors as well as their culture.

The workshop was, for us, both extremely rewarding and a good learning experience. Much of the comments we have received from both attendees and volunteers have been very encouraging. We will definitely continue to do more workshops and similar activities to provide deeper insights into Ruuchuu history and culture.

Of course, we owe thanks to many people. First of all, to the Young Okinawans of Hawaii for agreeing to co-sponsor and support this event and for providing all of the volunteers. A big mahalo also to Jikoen Hongwanji for welcoming this event with open arms, especially Rev. Shindo Nishiyama and President Lily Horio. Thanks to Donna Shiroma-Nakasue and Shari Kawamura for filming the entire event for ‘Olelo public access television. And last but not least, to all of the attendees who made the time to spend with us. Nifee deebiru.

(photos courtesy of Toshimitsu Matayoshi)

1. 8-25-07 workshop - kitchen preparations 01 2. 8-25-07 workshop - kitchen preparations 02 3. 8-25-07 workshop - juushii 4. 8-25-07 workshop - saataa andagi

1. One of the earliest preparations for the evening was making refreshments for workshop participants. Eric Wada, Keith Shimabukuro, and Takako Miyazaki shown working in the kitchen.

2. Hitomi Takahashi washing dishes in the kitchen.

3. A serving of kandaba juushii, a traditional Okinawan rice gruel made with potato leaves.

4. Saataa andagi (a deep-fried sweet batter) was also made available.

5. 8-25-07 workshop - hair and costume prep 6. 8-25-07 workshop - slideshow preparations 7. audience appreciation

5. Eric prepares kimonos for display while Takako and Hitomi prepare the traditional hairstyle displays.

6. Christina Liu and Norman Kaneshiro making preparations for the audio-visual presentations.

7. An early-comer presents Eric with a lei as a token of her appreciation.

8. 8-25-07 workshop - Keith playing 9. 8-25-07 workshop - observing sanshin chiiga 10. 8-25-07 workshop - Derek solo 11. 8-25-07 workshop - Terry lecture 12. 8-25-07 workshop - Eric explains costumes

8. Keith Nakaganeku sings “Unna Bushi” as part of his lecture on uta-sanshin (“song and sanshin”).

9. Participants look over parts of the sanshin which were passed around for a closer look.

10. Derek Fujio demonstrates scales and techniques during his presentation on kutu (Japanese: “koto”, 13-string zither).

11. Terry Higa gives insights into the teeku (drums) and its role in Okinawan music.

12. Eric Wada explains the significance of various textiles and motifs in Okinawan dance.

13. 8-25-07 workshop - Garrett studying kankara 14. 8-25-07 workshop - view of audience

13. Garrett Kam inspects the kankara sanshin, a type of sanshin that was used in the midst of the poverty of World War II.

14. A view of the almost 150 workshop participants.

3 thoughts on “Loochoo nu Kwa Culture/Identity Workshop at Jikoen

  1. Daniel

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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