Preview to Okinawa and Celebrating Okinawa Obon

—Courtesy photo

Traditional song and dance are part of Okinawan fundraising event

Hawaii is being looked to as an example to help with the revitalization of the indigenous Okinawan culture.

At this weekend’s Okinawa lunar Obon observance and fundraising concert, “Revitalization of Our Issei Heritage,” look for traditional Okinawan song and dance, performed by local group Ukwanshin Kabudan: Norman Kaneshiro, left, Eric Wada and Keith Nakaganeku.

Artistic director Eric Wada said, “What we’ll be performing is a preview of what we’re doing in October in Okinawa” at the Fifth World Uchinanchu Taikai.

When the group goes to Okinawa, members plan to lead symposiums and discussions to show how traditional performances such as those by Ukwanshin Kabudan help sustain the country’s own arts community.

Wada said Okinawa and Hawaii had parallel experiences after colonization, when native culture and language suffered. “Identities became very diluted or changed altogether.” After being annexed to Japan in 1879, the immigrants from Ryukyu (now named Okinawa) also struggled with prejudice within the Japanese plantation community in the islands.

“But most of us have seen what has happened with the Hawaiian cultural resurgence from the 1970s to now, with the rise of immersion schools and teaching of the native language,” Wada said. “Contrast that to Okinawan self-esteem, which is low because of the continuing loss of native language and culture. …

“We’re bringing the realization that both can be saved.”

Using the Native Hawaiian model, Wada emphasizes that Okinawans both here and back in the home country “must go back to remembering our ancestors, our kupuna. It not only helps with our culture, but others like Okinawa. In our fast-paced life, the value for older people has been diluted, and we can go back to focus on what elders can offer. They’re the ones that went through all the hardships for us.”

Where: Jikoen Hongwanji, 1731 N. School St.
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $20 donation, includes mini-bento
Info: 294-9152, 292-8862 or