Ukwanshin’s Travels Bring Okinawans Together For New Beginnings and Sharing Culture

Haleakala sunrise
Haleakala sunrise

As Ukwanshin began its journey almost 10 years ago, we never thought that the name, which infers to the crownship of the LooChoo dynasty, would turn out to be a real vessel that took us and anyone who became involved in Ukwanshin, to experience travels, emotions and connections.  This past year so far has been full of great experiences as we have seen a growing hunger for identity, culture, and roots to our Okinawan traditions.  Most recently, we have been priviledged to be part of the Paia obon festival where we also were joined by memebers of the Young Okinawans of Hawai`i.  Their reconnection to the true purpose of their club, and the unselfish energy of its members gives us a great hope that our culture continue at least through their generation.

Collin Hoo of young Okinawans helping Maui eisaa member get ready
Collin Hoo of young Okinawans helping Maui eisaa member get ready
The exchange that took place at the Maui Rinzai Zen bon dance was awesome.  You could hardly notice the separation of localities of the two groups as they blended together as one Okinawan community for the same purpose and enjoyment.  “It was like we were all family” said Collin Hoo of Young Okinawans.  “It was an awesome experience”, said David Jones of YOH.
Raymond Higa of Maui commented that”the Honolulu group gave us so much energy”.  “This was the closest I’ve ever experienced to what I saw in Okinawa”, said Jayson Hondo of Maui.
Both the Maui and Honolulu groups have gone through the same workshops and learning of Okinawan culture and history.  This made the meeting of the two groups so great, as they all knew what their purpose was, and who they were as Okinawans.  They unerstood that they were carrying on their culture left by the ancestors.

Cara Shinsato and Sandy Higa of Maui
Cara Shinsato and Sandy Higa of Maui
Both groups danced all night together as one, to honor the issei who had left this legacy.
The young Okinawans all left with an experience that refocused who they were and why they need to do what they do, as well as continue their learning of their culture which is really in danger of dying.  They have realized that what they do is not for themselves, but always in connection to the ansestors and to honor the second generation thats left, before they are gone.
As for Maui, they are looking forward to next year already, and welcome the Young Okinawans back to help celebrate obon with them.  Its a bridge that needs to be built and reinforced.  Okinawans working together and understanding their roots.

Norman, Derek, and Terry senseis before the bon dance. Terry sensei is actually from Maui.
Norman, Derek, and Terry senseis before the bon dance. Terry sensei is actually from Maui.
“Its so great to see this bon dance get to where it is.  Before I started coming back a few years ago, I remember the crowd dwindling down.  It makes me feel so good now”, said Terry Higa.
In addition to this great experience, Ukwanshin has the honor of being able to take many first timers to Okinawa in October.  Four younger members are from the Young Okinawans of Hawaii, and there are about 3 families who will go to reconnect with their great grandparents’ birthplace.
It seems that the journey of Ukwanshin is unending as long as there are people who have the hunger to connect to their identity and roots.  There is so much work to be done and the energy of the people who come to Ukwanshin is the wind that sets the sails.  As the Young Okinawans said when they went to Haleakala to see the sunrise..”This is our new beginning.  We need to connect and understand what our ancestors did.  The sunrise is awesome!”

Sunrise and new beginnings.
Sunrise and new beginnings.