By Eric Wada
I stumbled across this recent video of a young group of talented Okinawan dance artists, many of whom I personally know. Although I had much respect for them and recognize their traditional talents, this video broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes as I watched in disbelief. What would our ancesotrs think? What would the late grand masters who passed down the art and left us with the responsibility to preserve our dance art say? One of the dancers in this abomination of Okinawan identity and art is the great grandson and heir to the Tamagusuku line.
I am a traditionalist. I am a cultural practitioner of an art that has been passed down through the ages, and which has endured harsh times in history, and even suppression. An art that brought our ancesotrs out of the ruins of WWII and brought back pride to a people who were in desperate despair and depression. Okinawa now enjoys recognition and popularity for its culture, but with that has come the commercialization and departure from the foundation of the soul of LooChoo/Okinawa.
How will the arts survive in the future? Should this kind of new dance ( as I don’t consider this Okinawan dance), just be accepted and nothing said? Maybe because I am so orthodox that it matters more to me than others, but I would like you to watch this video and decide for yourself, but also remember our ancestors, and how much they suffered to save our culture and identity. Will tradition survive as just a remnant? To me, by doing things like this, it shows that those participating don’t have pride enough in our culture, that they have to use music and influences from the outside to make it entertaining. How sad! Many will say “Shikata ga nai”, or “Cannot help”, but with those words, its like taking the poison and grenades that were given to our ancestors by the Japanese military during the war, and committing cultural suicide. We are the most dangerous plague to our identity and culture.