Young shimanchu with red shirts of eisaa design and the words “Requios” on the back stand in line for immigration clearance with us in Narita. Some of the members are with family and their faces are full of excitement and anticipation. They look like any of the others you would see at the Okinawa festival in Hawai`i or other gathering. However, their chatter is in Portuguese, and gives away they have come almost 24 hours travelling from Sao Paulo Brazil, the largest diasporic population of Shimanchu. A group of English speaking men and women, some with guitars, approach us and ask where we got our T-shirts from. They are form Seattle and will be attending the festival. We tell them the shirts are our original and they ask if there’s some way they can get some. The Brazil youth are all trying to read our shirts too and keep on pointing at us. Other elderly and young alike have come from other far away places to attend the taikai. There is energy in the air. I everyone returning has brought with them a part of their ‘uyafwafuji”, the spirit of their ancestors, to return home and celebrate the connection we all have as Shimanchu.
Finally touching down in Okinawa, we gather our bags and can hear the cheers and applause of family and others who have come to greet everyone arriving back. In the arrival lobby as we exit the baggage claim, people hold signs and banners to greet, whether it be friends relatives or strangers. This reminded me of the words to Kudai Kuduchi, ” Sudiyu chiraniti muru fwitu nu nkeeni njitaya Miigushiku” (Standing arm in arm, so many people waiting at Miigushiku to welcome friends, relatives, loved ones, or just other shimanchu)
Our schedule begins with an early morning visit to Tamaudun to greet the spirits of our kings and queens, and ask permission to return home and bring the spirit of our ancestors back to travel with us on our 12 day mission. We look forward to whats ahead and have hope that our ancestors can help to restore and revitalize our Shimanchu traditions, culture and language through their influence. We were apprehensive about coming during this big event and with all the thousands who have come back, but I think the energy here will help to lift us up to be able to try and do our best. Those of our Shimanchu in Hawaii who have supported us for this trip, the well wishes, prayers and aloha is what got us here. Thank you everyone. Chibariyo! This is not our travels, but the travels an work of our Uyafwafuji. Keep posted for updates while we are in Okinawa.!