Today we headed for the north end to Ogimi son, to the area of Kijoka, which is known for the revitalization of “basa” or banana fiber. The National Living Treasure, Toshiko Taira, met us and gave us a tour of the place, along with an explanation of the process. We then thanked Taira sensei for her hospitality by having Brent and Mana do a hula, and also Hatoma Bushi. We then sang Tinsagu nu Hana. Taira sensei cried and said the night before she was watching a program about the pigs that were sent to Okinawa. She saw how much work it was and the dedication of the people who were involved and was so grateful and still feels the thanks. She then looked at the back of my Ukwanshin T-shirt with the Mamuti words and ran to get a paper to copy it down. She cried again as she told us thank you for our love for Okinawa. I told her we are thinking of Okinawa daily, especially in this dark time that Okinawa is in. She gave us pieces of banana fiber thread for each of us, and said, with this token she would like to symbolically have us forever connected over the vast sea that separates us. She also said that although that there is this separation, we are connected through who we are. As we were leaving she ran to the back and came back out with an envelope. I told her we couldnt accept it, especially since we are the ones who should be thanking her for all what she has done. She said, she wanted to do this for us as we always come to visit her and that she knows we support Okinawa in its problems from the past to the present. She made everyone cry. She said that she wanted to give this to us since she doesnt know when she will leave this world, and that we would like us to promise to visit her everytime we come. She said that she would wait and be strong anticipating out return. This was something that no words can explain and that showed the true heart of what it means to be Uchinaanchu. She is truly a living treasure.
After that emotional morning, we had lunch and left for Motobu, to see how indigo dying process is done. Mr. Maeshiro showed us the process and preparations. What was so powerful about this visit was seeing the kimono that his father made right after the war. There was nothing left after the war so he gathered scraps of rope and undid threads from socks thrown or left by soldiers. He got the blue dye from carbon paper, yellow from Malaria medicine, and red from melting lipstick. It showed the fight to continue life and the will to live. It was really something to see.
After that we continued through Motobu mountain area and visited friends from long ago who do Okinawan pottery. Yonaha san explained the use of the Okinawa style kiln and how the items are placed in it.They prepared some great snacks for us. We had fresh squeezed shiquasa juice, jiimami dofu, saata andagi, kuzumuuchi, and fresh baked kuruzato cookies. Before we left we thanked them with hula and Hatoma Bushi.This was I think, the most emotional and thought provoking day yet. So far, this tour had really been a learning experience for everyone I think and the unexpected happenings and emotions are really what strengthens our foundations of being Uchinaanchu.