Kumu Kahua’s production of the play “Voices From Okinawa”, by Jon Shirota, brings to the forefront, the many problems Okinawans are facing and with the reality of hardships, decisions and the continued treatment of them as second class citizens in the Japanese society .
The story takes place in modern day Naha Okinawa and Ginoza village. A young part Okinawan-American sansei is teaching at an English school in Naha and decides to have his students tell a story to practice their conversational English. At the apprehension of the school principal, the students relate personal experiences one by one as real life experiences that are connected to political and social problems unfold. The thorn in the Okinawan’s side though seems to be the continued US military presence and the problems the Okinawans have been facing for the past 60 years. American military arrogance, occupation, public disturbance, lack of adherence to the local laws, and also rape issues are brought up through the students’ stories. The most emotional is the personal story of a female student being raped by an American serviceman, and also the land issues with military bases in Okinawa.
The topics which were brought out in “Voices” are real issues that need to be talked about today, especially in the local Okinawan community. The Hawaii United Okinawa Association has lacked in providing information or even supporting Okinawa on these issues, which in turn has left most of the community ignorant of the importance of the education about Okinawa’s continued struggles even to this day. As we were told time and again in Okinawa last month while we were on tour there..”the Battle of Okinawa has not ended”.
With the current situation of Futenma and Henoko coming to head right now, this play comes at a great time to help understand what is going on, and the Okinawans’ struggles to try and balance everything while still trying to retain their land. The disturbing helplessness by the Okinawans to apply local punishment to US military that have broken laws, such as robbery and rape, are still a reality till today…everyday.
Despite minor glitches and transitions in the scenes that seem out of place to the seriousness and weight of the stories, the message and “voices” are there and well represented. I was struck however, upon talking withthe main character “Kama” after the show, that he had no idea that these things were still happening in Okinawa. I think if the cast had some time to be exposed to information of what is really going on in Okinawa and see that the stories they are portraying are a reality everyday to this day, it would make the play even more strong and have more of an impact on the audience.
The play runs for five weeks from now through December. Call the Kumu kahua Theater for information on show times etc. It is a play worth seeing, especially for Okinawans.