Ukwanshin Begins Another Journey Back “Home”

img_0054Ukwanshin’s Gakumun Tour departed on its journey back to the home of our ancesotrs, and taking on board the members of all the groups that Ukwanshin has been working with, including the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group and a few from the mainland.  For many, this was the first visit to their “home”, or place of their issei.  The eight hour flight from Honolulu to Osaka, for the connection to Okinawa seemed to last forever, as the excitement kept everyone anxious to get there.  The idea of being able to return and represent the first generation Okinawan family members who never really made it img_0055back, made this trip even more valuable.  Everyone looked forward to what lied ahead, and many kept on flipping back to the channel that showed the progress of the flight.  For the Young Okinawans of Hawaii, it was the first time in over a decade that members of the group went on this kind of tour, to study and learn about their roots and history.  Their hope is that it will make their club stronger, and also build leaders who are more knowledgable and aware of their identity and culture.

img_0057Ukwanshin was also fulfilling its purpose by bringing precious cargo of 3rd and 4th generation Hawaii Okinawans, who have never been to the land of their grandparents.  To be able to finally connect and set foot on the soil where our ancestors left over a hundred years ago, is an awesome experience.  We could clearly see how the modern day Ukwanshin” is the vessel that continues to bring people together or to journey and make important connections.

img_00581After the arrival in Osaka, and clearing customs, everyone got a quick bite in the Osaka terminal and then it was off to our connecting flight.  We were greeted in Okinawa by the ever supportive group of Gushikawa friends.  The unexpected cool breezes that greeted us, were a welcome addition to the already warm greeting.  The weather in Okinawa was so  much cooler than the weather we had left back in Hawaii.

After check -in at the hotel, the group had a welcome Okinawa soba snack , and the exhausted  members retired to their rooms for the night, anticipating a full first day the next morning.img_0059 We were also very happy to have Garrett Kam join us from Bali.  Garrett is originally from Hawaii and now lives in Bali where he is the curator for Bali’s Arts Museum.  He is a valuable source of information for our connection to the Southeast Asian influences in Okinawa textiles and language.

The first full day began with a great spread at breakfast.  About 80% of the buffet was Okinawan food!  Maasaibitan!  Ono loa!img_0061

continuing our Ukwanshin tour tradition, we started off the tour at Shuri’s Tamaudun, royal tombs, to pay respects to roayal families and ask them to be with and watch over us on our tour. The group then split up into two groups and we visited the Shuri Castle and a Shuri weaving shop.  It was amazing to see the rare art of Shuri style weave being done before our eyes.

After the castle, we ate lunch at Shuri Dunchi, which is an old traditional Okinawan house that has been turned into an Okinawan resteurant.  Its located right on the historical Kinjo Ishidatami, or stone paved road.  This area is protected and preserved by the Okianwan governmentimg_0063.  Our lunch included fu champuru , muzuku, rice,and soup with taro stems.   While eating we enjoyed the surroundings of peaceful gardens and a pond.  After luch we continued on to the Naha City Historical Museum.  We were treated to a presentation by the museum’s curator, Masaaki Hokama.  He gave us a lecture on the Ryukyu history and how the 1879 admission to the Japanese prefectural identity also heralded the beginning to demise of Okinawan culture, due to the prejudice and other things   Which caused many Okinawans to give up their language , culture, and , idientity.

Later on we had the privilege to    go the the Okinawa Prefectural  Performing Arts University.  Here we toured the grounds and also sat in on soem classes.  We were given the opportunity for dialogue  but with a larger group .                 In the dialogue, which was offered by Kaneshiro sensei, we could see the lack of              img_0071understanding and  need for foundational growth.      img_0070