Ukwanshin’s 5th Gakumun Tour to Okinawa was another visit full of unforgettable events, emotion and information. Out of all the tours, this must have been the most personal, as it brought us into so much personal contact and information than any other. I think that this was able to happen because we as a group went up with a purpose. Everyone also went up with an open heart to our ancestors, and as representatives of our ancestors who did not make it back to Okinawa after immigration.
Words cannot describe our experience on this visit. There are things that happened that were so personal and can be understood and conveyed through the heart, or to others who have experienced something similar. From the visit to the royal tombs, to the heartwrenching roars of the US military planes flying over us at Kadena, the exchange with Taira Toshiko at Kijoka Banana fiber kaikan, her chanting the “danju kariyushi” as she stood in the doorway as we left, celebrating the reopening of the Yonaha pottery in Motobu, the excitement of Itoman Hare boat races, feeling the strength and pride in culture at the Sonda eisa practice, the hospitality of the Taketomi village elders, the reconnection and celebration with a memeber finding his family roots, and grave that hasn’t been visited in over a hundred years, and many other priceless encounters.
Visiting Okinawa is always a spiritual one. Not necessarily religious in that sense, but connecting to ancestors and generations past. If we open ourselves up to the voice and lead of our ancestors, we can experience Okinawa in a more deep and fulfilling way. We need to share and understand the suffering and tragic times our ancestors faced, both in Okinawa and Hawaii. By connecting to the past and understanding what our ancestors went through and the importance of continuing their stories, helps us to better understand our identity. We can see that within Okinawa prefecture, there is a definite line between areas, which defines the various cultures and languages within Okinawa prefecture. We in Hawaii are presuming when we group everyone under “Uchinaanchu”, as there is great pride in the separate towns, villages and regions that make up Okinawa.
These differences and customs are what makes Okinawa so interesting and beautiful. Regular tours do not go into this kind of explanation, but also group Okinawa as one body.
Okinawa is calling out for the help of Ryukyuans outside of the islands, to help them to revitalize and come back to their identity and traditions. When those of this purpose meet, the connection of hearts breaks the barriers of language and location, to bring everyone together as one to understand and share, thus making a stronger bond and exchange. I truly hope that one day more and more young generations will have the guts to challenge themselves to find their roots and help Okinawa stand up for their rights to live and teach their language, culture and arts. We must set that vision into motion, so that the wheels turn forward for the
true revitalization of our homeland, like the revitalization of Hawaiian culture, language and arts have made it so common for us in Hawai`i. Its our turn to take back our identity and culture. Its our time to stand up to demand our rights to practice our language and culture freely within the schools, politics, and lives. If we just talk about it, thats all it will come to. It will just be talk and the lack of action will lead to the eventual demise of our core identity, and all that will be left is a shell. Namaya hana sachuru, iru chimuni sumiti, kumu hariti tidaya, uyafwa urishya. The flowers now begin to bloom, stain your hearts with its colors. The clouds have parted and the sun has appeared, our ancestors are overjoyed.
please click on the above link to see video clips of the tour. Ippe Nifwedebiru to David Miyashiro of Young Okinawans of Hawaii.