The Lunar New Year is more commonly referred to as “Chinese New Year”, and was observed on January 23rd. Most of Asia still retains the Lunar New Year as their larger celebration to welcome in the Chinese zodiac representative for that year, as it also traditionally was also linked to prayers and thanksgiving for the
new year and hopes for prosperity, health and good fortune. LooChoo/Okinawa, also observes the lunar new year, as the lunar calendar is still a very important part of life, especially when choosing a good day for
celebrations, moving, weddings, burials, etc. However, within the past 60 years, the celebration of the lunar new year has decreased to a handful of places in the countrysides, neighboring islands, and the fishing village of Itoman. The cultural genocide that continued after the war is part to blame as well as Western influence.
Ukwanshin has tried to revive the observance here in Hawai`i from last year, as the Lunar New Year is part of our culture, tradition, and identity as well. This year’s Sougwachi event brought over 230 people together at Jikoen Hall in Kalihi. Reverend Shindo Nishiyama offered prayers in the temple prior to the main event, and was so suprprised to have the temple filled to capacity. “This is so wonderful to have so many people here to celebrate and remember their ancestors”, said Reverend Nishiyama after the short service. The celebration continued in the main hall of Jikoen, as people gathered to talk story, and enjoy
some Okinawa style food, including shoyu pork, and saata andagi. As dinner was winding down, traditional Okinawan entertainment was presented. The program opened with a special Kajyadefu, using the words of an auspicious new year. The dance was done in the original Ryojin, or old man style to represent the presence of the ancestors there to also celebrate. Also on stage was young men Aaron Hoo and David Jones, doing Meekata. The program continued with more traditional dances that would have been done in many of the villages for such an occasion, such as Sho Chku Bai, and Shishimai. The evening ended with everyone dancing Acchame to the Kachashi music.
The year of the dragon symbolizes great strength for the year as the dragon itself symbolizes auspiciousness and prosperity. Those born in the year of the Dragon however are cautioned to be conservative with finances and to take care of their health. For more information on the prospects of this year, you can look up information on Feng Shui outlook for 2012, or visit Chinatown to speak to a very humble expert on Feng Shui, Michael Wu at Feng Shui Arts and Gifts in the Maunakea Marketplace next to the elevator. Feng Shui has also been practiced in LooChoo/ Okinawa for centuries, and can be seen in the influence of architecture, such as Shuri Castle, graves, and spiritual consultations for events. We wish all of you a safe healthy and auspicious year of the dragon in 2012, and thank you for your support in revitalizing Okinawan traditions and identity. Ii Sougwachi Debiru. Kutushen Yutasarugutu Unigesabira!
Ippe Nifwedebiru to Carole Yonamine and Keila Santaella for the photos.