There is a story I remember hearing attached to a dance called “Meekata.” The music is set to “Kajadifuu” and the dancers are dressed as Ryukyu castle guards wielding the rokushaku bou or long staff. The lyrics to the song are as follows:
Ishinagu nu ishi nu, ufushi naru madin
Ukakibushee mishori, waushuganashi
A rough translation of this poem (as I understand it) is, “as long as it takes for tiny stones (“child stones”) to become a great rock, please watch over us, our beloved king.”
While I do not know when the lyrics were written, the tradition I know of states that it gains its most importance in the context of the overthrow and exile of the Shuri king in 1879. Although the dancers wield weapons, it is by no means a display of force to take back the kingdom. On the contrary, it can be said that the song and dance are performed with the belief that the king would never return and that their world will change forever. Nonetheless, those who were left behind made a promise to protect the kingdom at all cost, but ensure that not a single drop of Ryukyuan blood be shed. The little stones they refer to are the will of the people and that of future generations. The song calls upon the sons and daughters of Ryukyu – then and well beyond – to uphold their great people and to protect them, not by force, but with their resolve and spirit. Even without a man on the throne, without their own government, or even without their own sovereignty, the spirit of their kingdom will live on in their hearts and one day rise again.
Until that day comes, however, the work is hard and tedious. Heaps of tiny stones built over decades come tumbling down with a single gust of wind and the waves wash them away from each other. The passing of time carries them farther apart and disconnects them. Yet, though we know we can never turn back time, though we know that the kingdom is lost and that the king is gone, one memory at a time, one story at a time, one step at a time, with every tear and every bead of sweat, we will fulfill the promise these people made to their king over a century ago. Even if we never build our mountain, we need to at least dream. It is only then that we can truly accomplish great things.
Thank you to all of the “rocks” who have come before and who are with us now.