Our last day together for activities today was hosted by the Hands On NPO group. They came to pick us up and took us to historical places, as well as locations mentioned in local folk tales. We passed by the American gravesites where some of Commodore Perry’s crew is buried, and then went to the shrine of Akainko, who is believed to be the person who brought the sanshin to Okinawa. Norman’s voice was not at its best as he had gone out the night before, and also had caught a cold. He tried his best to offer the uta sanshin music at the shrine, and while we were doing the music, another group appeared at the area. When we were done with the song, we turned around and saw it was a group of sanshin, odori and taiko sensei and others who we knew from before. They came with the Okinawa Times Newspaper tour and were making their rounds to places connected with music and dance. The were so happy to see us and asked us to join in the gassho of sanshin. It was like the ancestors had sent them to help Norman make a good offering of music with the help of this group from the Nomura Ryu Hozonkai. It was such a nice surprise.
We then continued to a sacred place in Kadena, where folklore has it that a giant serpent lived in the lake there. It is here that once upon a time, a boy was to be offered up to the serpent so that there would be no trouble in the village. However, his sister decided to go instead, and as she was about to be sacrificed, a saint came down from heaven to save her. This area is also said to have been the birthplace of Amawari
What was so interesting and great about this tour was that it was being conducted in Uchinaaguchi by young Uchinaanchu from this NPO group. They are striving to help grow interest in Uchinaaguchi among the students, and to offer programs as well as assistance for academics, especially to students of single parent families. It was so amazing and heartwarming to see the dedication and passion of this organization.
Our last stop was the symposium at Okinawa International University, where we discussed the importance of Uchinaaguchi and how it is connected to us through our roots. Everyone also presented the current programs which have been started to try and revitalize. It was the first time in Okinawa that numerous organizations were gathered in the same place to share and discuss this issue. There were over 100 people in attendance. Ukwanshin also did a mini concert at the end which also included hula and eisaa demonstration from Ryuku Kajimaya of the Okinawa International University. Brent and mana from our group did Ulupalakua, Hatoma and Meekata. The Parents and children of the Ninufwa immersion school joined inwith Tinsagunu Hana, and Akata Sundunchi, and the Hands On students presented a Kami Shibai, folktale in Uchinaaguchi. It was a great event.
The night ended with the Hands on group taking us to dinner, and at the end, the tour members shared their emotions and experiences of their visit to Okinawa. Tears flowed again as everyone shared, including the Okinawa staff of Hands On. Although we only spent a day with them, we felt we knew them for a log time, and we promised each other to work together and create an exchange with Hawaii and Okinawa.