February 3rd begins the lunar new year of the Rabbit. Preparations begin weeks in advance, and to re-introduce Okinawan/LooChoo tradition of celebrating the lunar new year, and to pass on traditional food preparation, Ukwanshin had its first field trip here to Chinatown. As our elders and ancestors did before, we walked through Chinatown to discover where to buy ingredients for Okinawan specialties like, “ashitibichi”, pig’s feet soup, “nantou”, Okinawan gau mochi, and “jimami dofu” peanut tofu.
The group of 15 visited the bustling old town as many people were already preparing to welcome in the rabbit. We first visited O`ahu Market to find where to get local pork feet and sparerib. We also visited one of the few surviving Okinawan owned stalls which sells sashimi, Hiro’s , owned by the Tamashiro family of Itoman. We then went across the street to a Chinese market in Kekaulike Marketplace to get sweet potato starch, peanuts, tapioca, for peanut tofu, and brown sugar, and mochiko for nantu. Going through some of these places actually reminded many of Okinawa. From the sights to the smells of the stores and town. The prices in Chinatown definitely make it worth coming down to shop. It’s also the experience that makes it all part of the process.
After the food search, we went to the Feng Shui store in Maunakea Marketplace to find feng shui items for the year of the rabbit. Okinawa, especially in the Shuri area, practiced feng shui for buildings, prosperity, etc. Many Okinawan spiritual advisors and healers also practice some sort of feng shui. As the owner of the Feng Shui store said, ” Its all actually common sense if you think about it. Feng Shui is using the energy around us and making sure good energy is passed around. You keep things neat and clean, and use remedies to suppress the overly strong energy. Thats why you clean house before new year, take care of ancestors. It all makes sense if you think about it.”
We ended our day with lunch at Mei Sum dim sum restaurant. Everyone was relieved to relax and eat their fill of Hong Kong style delicacies. Everyone got excited to learn about the actual cooking of the food, so it looks like we will soon be starting cooking classes! There were many young participants in this field trip which brings hope that Okinawan traditional foods will continue into the future generations. Thanks to all who attended as this brings hope for Okinawan traditional foods to continue to be passed on. We must remember to keep ou focus on what is really tradition and not make our identity and culture commercial or for show. There is so much meaning in what is part of our culture and to see things being sold off for the sake of entertainment and fanfare, is not going to help revitalize our traditions and identity. it will only help to confuse. Chibariyo!