Keep your dates open! March 22-24 2019 is the next LooChoo Identity Summit. We will be returning to the University of Hawaiʻi Windward Campus, Hale Ākoakoa. The theme for this summit is “Washiraran, Mai Poina”, “Never Forget”, as we look at the importance to look at the past as we go into the future. Stories and events from our past, especially from the experiences of our issei, first generation immigrants, are being lost and it is important to remember and pass them on to appreciate what we have now and passion into the future.
We will be posting the details soon for pre-registration. Please make sure to mark your calendars . Special guests this year will be from the Yaeyama Islands to share their music and dances, as well as how it passes down their stories from their islands and history.
Spaces are limited. If you would like to already reserve a space, please email email@example.com and we will send you the details soon.
Please excuse our website and blog as we are reworking our website after very busy schedules, and will be updating pages and postings. We will continue to post events and announcements on our blog as we work on our website. Stay connected for more on culture, language, entertainment and news.
Last May Ukwanshin Kabudan visited the Los Angeles Okinawa community for a workshop and performance focusing on connecting back to cultural roots and history. Although we were all the way in Southern California, it felt like home with the warm hospitality of the community and great home cooked food.
The Los Angeles Okinawa community is blessed to have great facilities which service the people with workshops, social and cultural gatherings, and classes for music, dance, food, etc., as well as hosting visiting guests. They are also very lucky to have 2 energetic young bodies working at the organizations office. Both Joey and Yuka bring such great power to keep their busy schedule going. Than you to all for such a great time. It was great to have a standing room only event. Looking forward to visiting again.
We have just returned form a very hectic but successful and once again humbling journey back to our ʻnmarijima” of our ancestors.
We travelled along with members of the Young Okinawans of Hawaiʻi, family that now lives in Boston, and members from Hilo, Hawaiʻi. We were also joined by other Hawaiʻi participants who wanted to join our “tours”. Although this wasnʻt supposed to really be a “tour” for us, it was great to be able to take around participants to some of our favorite and inspiring places that you cant experience on a regular tour.
The theme of our journey this year was “ʻImi”, which means “dream” in the native Okinawan language, and coincidently, “to seek”, in the antive Hawaiian language. To dream and seek is exactly what we are doin in our work in the communities both in Hawaiʻi and Okinawa, as we move to realize our traditions, connections and language connected to our uyafwaafuji. It was very interesting that many of the events planned by our connections in Okinawa also expressed a “dream” as they work towards the same goals. It was a revelation that our ancestors are steering us in the same direction as we continue their work.
Upon our arrival, we were already greeted by the media at the airport, and who followed us through most of our visit to document our engagements at symposiums, discussions, shows, and visitations to local historical places. We were so blessed to be in the news almost every other day, as they covered our exchange and dialogue with local Uchinaanchu on language and identity.
Highlights however, was the various symposiums, and also the exchange with Okinawa Hands On NPO, which has been one of the groups in the forefront of Shimakutuba revitalization. Words cannot explain the emotions and hope that we have seen in the youth of this group and the young leaders who are inspiring the students to take pride in their identity and language.
Another highlight was the Hawaiian language experts from UH Hiloʻs Ka Haka ʻUla Hawaiian Languguage College. We were blessed and himbled to be able to have taken these members to inspire the Okinawa people to take a more serious stance in revitalizing the language by looking at the Hawaiian models and struggles as Okinawa moves on to hopefully bring back Shimakutuba to normalcy.
The impact of the events and visits will only be measured in the actions taken after we have left, but we are very hopeful in a boost in work and movement to seriously bring Shimakutuba into the homes and schools.
As we digest our experiences in Okinawa this past journey, we also look towards next yearʻs Loo”Choo Identity Conference which will connect to the “ʻImi” while we seek to deepen our understanding of who we are and where we come from.
The first LooChoo Identity Conference (LCIC), was held on Moku O Kahekili/Maui, from March 20-22. Over 100 Delegatesand volunteers from O`ahu, Maui, and Moku o Keawe/Hawai`i Island, as well as participants from as far away as Okinawa and New Mexico attended this event, hosted by the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai, and Maui Ryukyu Culture Group, and produced by Ukwanshin Kabudan. From Friday through Sunday, the conference was filled with discussion, sharing, learning, thought, emotion, and fun.
The first day opened with registration by the participants, and getting to know each other as everyone was introduced to their groups. “It was like a family reunion “, said Gary Oshiro from Waiakea. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, and honor the war survivors living in Maui, the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai and Maui Ryukyu Culture Group presented an emotional and awesome display which greeted everyone as you entered the Maui Okinawa Culture Center. There was a mock replica of a cave which the Okinawa people hid in during the war, with sound effects of the bombing in the background. Inside and out, were real stories and interviews of women who had lived through the horrific events, and now reside in Maui. Many revisited the display more than once to take in the stories shared by these women. Mrs. Kiyabu, a survivor, went up to one of the conference’s younger members ,(Alex Abe),from Honolulu’s Young Okinawans of Hawai`i, and told him, “I don’t have much time on this earth. It’s up to you younger ones to pass on what we have. Thank you for coming to this conference and learning.”
The conference continued the second day at the Rinzai Zen Mission in Paia. This temple was built by the first generation Okinawans from the Paia plantation town, and is still a gathering place for Okinawan groups. This is also the location of the only ALL OKINAWAN bon dance in the state, and possibly the country. It seemed so appropriate to have a conference to connect back to roots at this temple with a deep Hawai`i Uchinaanchu history, and with the graves and remains of many of the first generation housed there. The day opened with the original oratory “Who Am I” which brought back memories to many of the connection to the first generation and what we have lost. Tears flowed as many realized what they missed form the past and also some expressed regretting not having connected more with their first generation while they were alive. Everyone then broke into small discussion groups to discuss “who am I”.
The next introduction to another group breakout for thought and discussion was given by Keith Nakaganeku Shinshi, who shared his experience of realizing who he was after losing his job in the corporate world. His presentation led many to realize that who we really are is what we can be stripped down to. The second breakout saw a change in thought of “who am I”. Presentations in a panel discussion by individuals representing various organizations. gave everyone a look into the problems and struggles the community was facing in a new generation. We got to see that many are similar although we may think other clubs or organizations are better off. We are all facing loss of membership, volunteers, monies, participation, young interest, and purpose. It gave everyone a feeling of being in the same boat and that we must work together to support each other and share so we can move ahead together as we try to pass on our Okinawa culture in our communities .
The evening brought everyone back together again at the Maui Okinawa Cultural Center as groups shared their talents in what they have learned in Okinawa music and language . We also can’t forget the “maasan”, onolicious Tiibichi Jiru/pig’s Feet soup specially made by Mr. Nazo for that evening. The best pig’s feet in the state! The Shimakutuba/ Okinawa language skits by Maui and Honolulu brought laughter and enjoyment with the clever creativity of the skits they presented. Hawai`i Island was represented by Troy Sakihara and Gary Oshiro playing some Okinawa folk music and joined by Ryota Kokuba, from Okinawa, who did an impromptu hatoma Bushi for them. Jason Hondo represented the Maui Afuso Ryu group with “Nmu nu Jidai”, that brought back memories of the hardship and famine in Okinawa’s history. The program ended with a short concert by Ukwanshin leaders joined by Terry Higa Shinshi helping out on shima deeku. Everyone left that evening with a lot to think about and looking to the next day.
The third and last day of the conference opened with protocol welcoming out esteemed Hawaiian language panelists. We were honored to have Dr. Keiki Kawae ae`a, director of Hawaiian Language Center Kahaka `Ula Ke`elikolani, University of Hawai`i Hilo, Dr. Kahele Dukelow, University of Hawai`i Maui, and Emiko Joy, Punanaleo o Maui Hawaiian Immersion teacher. For many of the participants, it was the first time they got to hear first hand about the struggles and hard work of the Hawaiian community to revitalize their language despite their minority status in their own islands. Also, everyone got a very strong message of empowerment and the realization that we need to “do it” if we are to succeed in any revitalization. We learned that we must claim our identity and be able to stand up and be proud of who we are if we are to succeed. In the discussion, we also realized that we have an obligation to our ancestors to which we are connected through our language and culture. Without language there is no music and culture will die. Our Uchinaanchu community, especially in Okinawa is far ahead and at an advantage compared to where the Hawaiians were 30 years ago, as Okinawa has a 90% majority in both population and political positions. Uchinaanchu in Okinawa need to be decolonized and realize they can revitalize the identity and language if they really want to. Another problem realized that related to Hawai`i Okinawa language education is the discrimination of Okinawa language in the University of Hawai`i system which requires a Japanese language prerequisite to be able to take Okinawa language and culture course. Okinawa language is the ONLY language with another language prerequisite and this causes discouragement as underclassmen and undergraduates cannot take these courses. There is also no lower level Okinawa language course being offered at this time. The morning continued with another panel discussion with the previous day’s panelists from the different Okinawan organizations, but this time they presented their success and services they provide to the clubs or community. It was interesting to see that one of the smallest and newest organizations shined with what they have been doing and with their work for revitalization in the Maui community. The Maui Ryukyu Culture Group has been a valuable resource that works along side the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai. Congratulations to all the groups who presented in this panel!
Finally after lunch, we shared in general discussion about what the conference brought to individuals. It was clear that the conference brought many to think differently about their Okinawan Identity and culture, and to feel a stronger foundation on which to stand on to stand up and not be afraid to protect language, culture, etc. Participants voiced their eagerness to help in any way possible, and support such things such as the current emergency situation in Okinawa, language issues at the University, and wanting to join language, music history and genealogy groups to deepen their understanding of who they are and make a stronger connection to their roots. We then joined in a circle to sing the theme song of the conference, “Tinsagu Nu Hana”, and bid everyone farewell and safe journey, with the chanting and singing of “Danju kariyushi”.
This conference was a success in helping to deepen the understanding and hunger of who we are as Uchinaanchu, and where we currently stand in our own place as an Uchinaanchu. It created bonds that hopefully will continue, and a network of people and groups who already have committed to helping each other in any way possible. We look forward to the next conference next Spring which will be held in Honolulu!
Much Thanks goes out to the Maui Kenjin Kai and Maui Ryukyu Culture Group , for their hard work in hosting this momentous event! Ippe Nifweedebiru!
Ukwanshin now has available our “Identity” ” sports bags. :LooChoo: is the Okinawan pronunciation for Ryukyu, which is the name of our kingdom and inclusive of all islands from Amami to Yonaguni. The kanji characters going down reads “LooChoo nu Kwa” (child/descendant of Ryukyu). In the highlighted area we have the words in English and Okinawan, “Protect Our Language, Protect Our Culture, Protect Our Land, Protect Our Life.”
As we look to further our mission and not only help those here in Hawai`i to have a deeper understanding of our roots, we also commit ourselves to help Okinawa and take on the responsibility to carry on our traditions, learn and educate.
The bags are for a $7 donation or more each, and have free shipping within the US. You can contact us via our email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send your donation through our secued paypal donation link in the sidebar. If you wish to send a check, please make it payable to Ukwanshin Kabudan, and mail to PO Box 892725 Mililani, Hawaii 96789. Please write “LooChoo bag” and make sure your mailing address is included and correct zip codes.
O-RI TO-RI！Our third day in Okinawa had us flying out to the Yaeyama Islands of Ishigaki and Taketomi. These beautiful southern islands of the Ryukyu chain holds some of the worlds most beautiful beaches and traditional images. They love their culture and it shows in the surrounding and its people.
We landed at the new Ishigaki International Airpot and toured the island, focusing on the minsa a textiles of Okinawa. Our members took their time looking at the beautiful work and time it takes to make such pieces that has a long tradition in these islands. They also spent equal time shopping for omiyage to bring back, as well as gifts for themselves. After doing some sightseeing, we found a folk arts store which specialized in Yaeyama goods, and where the owner makes “saba” , lauhala slippers. This art is quickly dying due to the younger generation not wanting to spend the time in making or learning this art.
We then went to the Yaeyama High School to visit with the students who will be visiting Honolulu and presenting a Yaeyama music and dance concert. They have placed numerous times in Okinawa and All Japan performing arts contest. They have also taken the overall titles numerous times and will once again be representing Okinawa in the finals at the all Japan National contest. Watching these young students, you could feel and hear their love for the culture and music of the island, as well as their passion. Although almost half of the students who helped to win the all Okinawa title had just graduated, the younger members have stepped up to the plate and are giving it their all.
After watching the practice we went back to our hotel and had dinner with the Yaeyama High school teacher, Nagahama. He arranged for us to go to a friends place and try yakiniku featuring Yaeyama beef, which is supposed to be comparable to Kobe beef. Its from Ishigaki anyway that matsutake and Kobe beef started. The marbling of the meat was amazing, and the tenderness and taste was more than what I expected. くぬ牛や椅っぺマー細微異端。This beef was amazing! It melted in your mouth! There was so much food and the other things we did this day was amazing. I’m looking forward to the next day.
We started our first day with our traditional visit to Shuri and by first paying our respects at Tamaudun Royal Tombs. We begin here to represent our ancestors and ask permission to begin our visit to the birthplace of our ancestors.
Our next stop was Kwannundo which is an historic sight for us as it connects us to the story of the Edo Nobori as mentioned in the song “Nubui Kudichi”. There were so many people coming and going to offer their prayers on this day since it was the February 15th on the lunar calendar.
After some of our members got their good luck amulets, our next visit was to Shui Gusuku. We were able to see the new addition to the castle, which contained the residence of the queen and her assistants, as well as the head priestess. Continuing construction could also be seen to more additions.
After Shui Gusuku it was lunch time at Shui Dunchi. Traditional Okinawan food, such as fu-champuru, muzuku,and inamuruchi while surrounded by a beautiful Okinawa style garden and traditional atmosphere.
After lunch we had a detour in our schedule. Matayoshi Kanjeeku, who is the 7th generation of silversmith in Okinawa, invited us to visit again. He is a national living treasure for the art of Ryukyu metalwork focusing on the beautiful silver accessories of jifwa and yubiwa(hairpins and rings). It was sad though as we listened to him speak and explain to us that he is probably the last remaining true Ryukyuan silversmith as he has not been able to train an apprentice that can continue his work. He said his greatest wish is for the sound of his hammer, the art and beauty of jifwa, and the soul of what is put into this art, lives into the next generation. However, student and student has come and gone, giving up on this art which demands time, skill and dedication. Matayoshi san is 82. I put in and order for the Ryukyuan fusa yubi, and he was happy to accept and told me,”I am happy to be able to make it and leave it so that I will have something of mine left in Hawaii….but please call before you come back to pick it up later in the year, as I may note be here, but will leave instructions for someone to give it to you”.What did this mean? I asked. He said, “well, i am old and we never know when we will leave on that eternal journey. Thank you for coming today. It makes me so happy to have been able to share my words with this group and hopefully leave that to continue in their hearts..” This was so sad to hear, I didn’t know what to say,except to “please take care and see you in November!”
The visit to Matayoshi was more valuable that all the things we could have seen in the museum that was scheduled. This detour was meant to have happened ……as so many things on our tours. Sometimes we just need to listen to our hearts and follow that voice.