Haisai gusuyo! It was such a nice flight this time around, as compared to last June on China airlines. United had all the senior citizens working on the flight, but siting in a spacious seat was great, and even to Okinawa on ANA. The service and food on both were nice. Anyway, Okinawa is HOT! Deeji achisanyaibindo! There is a breeze though so its still bearable. Today I’ll be going to the taikai rally in Ginowan. There are posters and huge banners all over as well as the newspapers filling the pages with articles and commentary. It seems like this is going to be very big. I went this morning to Shuri to pay respects to the royalty and ask to watch over the events for today. I also went to an exhibition of the Sho royal treasures which is on display at Pallet Kumoji’s new Naha City Historical Museum. It was awesome to see the treasures of our royal past, especially the symbol of out LooChoo kingdom…the crown. These artifacts have been given by the current descendent of the royal line to the city of Naha and a decision has been made not to take it to the new National Museum when its opened in a few months. Thats a relief. Anyway, I will post as I can. Time to get ready to go to the taikai. Mata atu hanase usagaimisebiri!
On September 29th, a rally and protest will be held in Ginowan City near the convention center in Okinawa to protest the Japanese Governments latest attempt to wipe out Batle of Okinawa attrocities from the history books and say those things never happened. This issue is the second attempt by the Okinawans to preserve their history, as they lost the first round. It is the obligation of all shimanchu to suppport this movement since at least one of our family connections suffered during the war. for anyone not to support this means denying what happened at the hands of the Japanese. It is expected that over 50,000 will attend, supported by the various city mayors.
The evening started with chants in both Okinawan and Hawaiian inviting the ancestors to join us in recalling their cultural legacy, followed by a musical performance of “Tinsagu nu Hana”, a favorite Okinawan folk song that reminds people of all ages to treasure the teachings of their elders and always hold them close to their hearts. After a few remarks by Eric Wada, the stage was set for our presentations. Eric, Keith Nakaganeku, Derek Fujio, Terry Higa, and I were the primary presenters for the workshop. The following is an outline of the evening:
I. history of Ruuchuu — Norman Kaneshiro
II. religious customs and rituals — Eric Wada
III. presentation on uta-sanshin — Keith Nakaganeku
IV. presentation on kutu (koto) — Derek Fujio
V. presentation on teeku (taiko) — Terry Higa
VI. introduction to Okinawan dance and dance types — Eric Wada, assisted by Takako Miyazaki, Hitomi Takahashi, and Keith Shimabukuro
VII. slideshow and narrative reading — Eric Wada and Jamie Oshiro
IX. Eisa led by the Young Okinawans of Hawaii
Probably the most powerful presentation for the evening was the narrative reading and slideshow. With images of people places from Ruuchuu’s distant and not-so-distant past, Eric and Jamie read a scripted exchange between a young Okinawan man and the spirit of his deceased grandmother who has returned to help him to find his roots and understand who he is. While the warm exchange between the two characters provides insights into core values in Okinawan culture, it also carries a strong emotional appeal to younger people to start finding their identity and for our elders to start telling their stories.
The evening was appropriately capped with audience participation in an eisa dance led by the Young Okinawans of Hawaii. The workshop participants of all generations seemed to genuinely enjoy the dancing as an expression of respect for both their ancestors as well as their culture.
The workshop was, for us, both extremely rewarding and a good learning experience. Much of the comments we have received from both attendees and volunteers have been very encouraging. We will definitely continue to do more workshops and similar activities to provide deeper insights into Ruuchuu history and culture.
Of course, we owe thanks to many people. First of all, to the Young Okinawans of Hawaii for agreeing to co-sponsor and support this event and for providing all of the volunteers. A big mahalo also to Jikoen Hongwanji for welcoming this event with open arms, especially Rev. Shindo Nishiyama and President Lily Horio. Thanks to Donna Shiroma-Nakasue and Shari Kawamura for filming the entire event for ‘Olelo public access television. And last but not least, to all of the attendees who made the time to spend with us. Nifee deebiru.
(photos courtesy of Toshimitsu Matayoshi)
1. One of the earliest preparations for the evening was making refreshments for workshop participants. Eric Wada, Keith Shimabukuro, and Takako Miyazaki shown working in the kitchen.
2. Hitomi Takahashi washing dishes in the kitchen.
3. A serving of kandaba juushii, a traditional Okinawan rice gruel made with potato leaves.
4. Saataa andagi (a deep-fried sweet batter) was also made available.
5. Eric prepares kimonos for display while Takako and Hitomi prepare the traditional hairstyle displays.
6. Christina Liu and Norman Kaneshiro making preparations for the audio-visual presentations.
7. An early-comer presents Eric with a lei as a token of her appreciation.
8. Keith Nakaganeku sings “Unna Bushi” as part of his lecture on uta-sanshin (“song and sanshin”).
9. Participants look over parts of the sanshin which were passed around for a closer look.
10. Derek Fujio demonstrates scales and techniques during his presentation on kutu (Japanese: “koto”, 13-string zither).
11. Terry Higa gives insights into the teeku (drums) and its role in Okinawan music.
12. Eric Wada explains the significance of various textiles and motifs in Okinawan dance.
13. Garrett Kam inspects the kankara sanshin, a type of sanshin that was used in the midst of the poverty of World War II.
14. A view of the almost 150 workshop participants.
Here is an article on our workshop that appeared in the “Island Life” section of the Honolulu Advertiser the day before the event. Thanks Zenaida!
This year’s Maui Rinzai Zen bon dance attracted more than last year, and the food was again “ippei maasan”. This was also the first time that Maui members performed the Shisa Mo-i, or lion dance. The costumes were borrowed from the Young Okinawans of Hawai`i, and after only a few rehearsals, they did an excellent job, especially the “warabincha” or children. The people seemed in awe. The taiko group also grew with 6 eisa daiko and 8 shime daiko. Dancers came out in force as this year’s circles around the stage came out to be two and a half…almost 3. Ultimately, this bon dance is the grandest of them all in the state, and the only 100% Okinawan. Passed down from the time of the issei, the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have kept this tradition going at the temple that the first Okinawan immigrants built in this former sugar plantation of Paia. No wonder the island is also known as Maui no ka oi. It reminded me of the Jikoen bon dances before the Japanese groups and modern dances came in. More and more people seem to be coming every year to eat, dance, and enjoy this tradition. Whoever thinks that too much tradition won’t attract the young, should come to this bon dance. The young Maui Okinawans are eager to pass on and learn the treasures of their grandparents and ancestors.
Since both of the main musicians of the Kabudan are also students of Nakasone-sensei, we’re posting this. Though Nakasone-sensei has the highest national honors in both the US and Japan, he has a very poor web presence. Hopefully this post will help others who want information on the master.
Uta nu michi – “the path of the singer” – is an endless road to musical perfection. The longer one travels, the farther he realizes he must go, perpetually encountering trials and obstacles, but always discovering new insights into his art and, ultimately, his soul. Few have treaded this path as long or as faithfully as uta-sanshin grand master Harry Seishō Nakasone. Through a career that continues after more than eight decades, Nakasone-sensei’s journey has earned him countless commendations and a following of faithful cultural enthusiasts. More importantly, he has built a legacy that future generations of Okinawan musicians can proudly build upon.
Harry Seishō Nakasone was born in He‘eia on the
He always wait for the rainy day…when it’s good day, clear day, nice day, you cannot stay home and play music [or else] the neighbor[s] will [say] you [are] lazy…so he wait for the rainy day. He so happy, he come home and he start plucking the samisen and singing.
All of the memories of his early years in
By the time he was nine, Nakasone had taught himself to play the sanshin by ear. Whenever his uncle stepped out of the house, Nakasone would sneak and play the prized instrument he was forbidden to handle. Though he would berate young Nakasone for playing his sanshin,
Life in Hawai‘i was not much easier for Nakasone upon his return. Like most Okinawan families in the 1920s, the Nakasones struggled to make ends meet. Nakasone, now in his teens, became a delivery boy for a plantation store in Waimanalo. As the oldest son, he was obligated to contribute to the family’s income, but at the price of his education – unfortunate circumstances that Nakasone regrets to this day.
The family fortune eventually improved and by 1938, Kamasuke and Naeko opened a produce store in
Even after returning to Hawai‘i, Nakasone continued to be surrounded by music. His mother was an Okinawan koto instructor and his father was a founding member of their village club, Goeku Sonjinkai. The Nakasones’ Mō’ili’ili residence was often used for club parties and was frequently visited by well-known musicians from
My mother was cooking in the kitchen and when she heard somebody playing samisen she thought it was okyakusan (guest) came so she ran out to the palour, she look and I was playing.
Pleasantly surprised at his interest and prowess, Naeko introduced her son to his first teacher, Ryōkin Nakama, and thus Nakasone’s formal study of Nomura Ryū classical music began. Over the next 20 years, Nakasone-sensei would supplement his study under several great Nomura Ryū masters including Seisei Okuma, Sōjirō Nishijima, and Kīki Ikemiya.
In 1954, Nakasone sponsored the renowned master Kamechiyo Kōchi to live with him for six months of intensive study. Of all of his teachers, Nakasone cites Kōchi-sensei as his greatest mentor and inspiration. “He treated me just like his son,” Nakasone often remarks when fondly remembering Kōchi-sensei. Even after Kōchi-sensei returned to
Sensei told me just before he died (in 1973), he said he was so happy I was better than him now… [I told him] “Please sensei, don’t say that.”
Today, a picture of Kōchi-sensei hangs in a high place of respect in Nakasone-sensei’s studio.
Indeed, Nakasone lived up to his mentor’s praise. His diligent study and remarkable talent earned him the distinction of being one of the most celebrated uta-sanshin masters in the world. In 1952, Nakasone became the first non-Japanese citizen ever to be awarded an instructor’s license from the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai. Six years later, he was presented the title of shihan or “master”. In 1963, Nakasone earned Okinawan music’s highest honor, the Ryūgaku Saikōshō.
In recognition of his top honors and contributions to Okinawan music, five of the top traditional music organizations in
Nakasone-sensei’s recognition would not cease at the borders of the Okinawan performing arts circles. After more than four decades of study, mentoring, and performing, the uta-sanshin master received national recognition in both the
In spite of his national and international recognition and countless commendations, probably the greatest legacy Nakasone-sensei has built has been as a teacher. Shortly after receiving his teaching credentials, Nakasone founded his own school, the Nakasone Seifū Kai in 1953. In 1966, he extended his teaching to the
Nakasone-sensei’s legacy goes beyond his own students. In 1967, he played an integral part in founding the Hawai‘i chapter of the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai to organize the many scattered schools of classical Okinawan music in Hawai‘i. He became the first president for the organization and is today its only remaining founding father. Since its formation, the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawai‘i Shibu has played a vital role in preserving classical uta-sanshin in Hawai‘i, especially for the latter-generation descendants of the original Okinawan immigrants. On
Harry Seishō Nakasone’s journey is truly remarkable. Indeed, only a few pages of text cannot fully do justice to the achievements of this great musician and his importance to the community. His own words probably describe the journey best:
Koten [music] is hard…You may think you get ‘em already, but you don’t. You have to go and then go some more. Everyday I’m learning.
 State Foundation for Culture and Arts audio interview, 1993 (
 Video interview by Koki Tamashiro and Andre Ajimine, September 2001 (
 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article,
 SFCA interview, 1993
Since both of the main musicians in the Ukwanshin Kabudan are members of the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Shibu, I figured we’d post this history of the organization in Hawaii….
Of all of their cultural treasures, Okinawans have always held a special place for music in their lives. Through political upheaval, economic depression, and World War II, uta-sanshin (“song and sanshin”) music has continued to be the lifeline to the hearts of the Okinawan people. In their songs, they have carried their history, their thoughts, their emotions, and most importantly, their identity.
This musical heritage has even survived the long journey over turbulent seas to far away lands, and finally, through time to the present day. The resilience of Okinawan music is evidenced in the survival of one of Hawai‘i’s oldest Okinawan music organizations, the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Shibu. Now in existence for forty years, the association has become a pillar in Hawai‘i’s Okinawan cultural community and an exquisite flower in the islands’ lei of musical traditions.
The Roots of Nomura Ryū Music in Hawai‘i
The seeds of the Nomura style of classical Okinawan music (Nomura Ryū) in Hawai‘i were planted by Ryōei Nakama. Nakama began learning uta-sanshin from the age of twelve, and by sixteen, he was employed by the Okinawan royal family and placed under the tutelage of the great Nomura Ryū master Ryōshin Kuwae. In 1906, Nakama immigrated to Hawai‘i and brought his musical knowledge with him to a growing Okinawan immigrant population that had started to arrive six years earlier.
In 1921, Nakama summoned his son, Ryōtarukin, from Okinawa to join him in Hawai‘i. Ryōtarukin had been playing music since he was a child and had won awards for his musical proficiency by the time he was in his teens. In Hawai‘i, Ryōtarukin (later renamed Ryōkin) furthered his study of music under his father alongside, among others, Eikichi Miyagi. Together, Ryōtarukin Nakama and Miyagi would be instrumental in establishing the foundations for the current Nomura Ryū organization.
By 1933, both Eikichi Miyagi and Ryōtarukin Nakama were actively teaching. Miyagi had formed the Miyagi Gensei Kai and his leading students were Shinsuke Yamashiro, Seikō Ikehara, and Kanyei Izumigawa. Nakama formed the Nakama Ongaku Kai (later changed to Nakama Kinpū Kai) and his leading disciples were Kōsuke Nakaganeku and Seishō Nakasone. All of these students would eventually go on to form their own schools which would later become the basis for the Hawaii Shibu.
The Establishment of the Hawaii Shibu
Okinawan music was becoming increasingly popular in Hawai‘i and by the 1950s, several schools and clubs had emerged. In 1954, six classical music schools organized themselves into the Hawaii Ryūkyū Ongaku Kyō Kai. This early organization’s main purpose was to perpetuate classical Okinawan music by sponsoring recitals and forming partnerships with other performing arts groups in the islands. Four years later, in 1958, three of the schools reorganized with six other music groups to form the Ryūkyū Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Honbu.
In 1967, the Hawaii Ryūkyū Ongaku Kyō Kai and the Ryūkyū Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Honbu merged to form the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Shibu. To commemorate the formation of the new organization, a two-day recital was held at Farrington High School auditorium from September 22, 1967. The program featured both local musicians and dancers, as well as artists from Okinawa including the renowned Nomura Ryū master Kamechiyo Kōchi.
It would be ten years before the Hawaii Shibu would sponsor another major event. In October 1977, the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Shibu gathered its membership along with more than thirty guest performers from Okinawa in a special concert commemorating its ten-year anniversary. This would be the last self-sponsored event for the Hawaii Shibu for the next three decades.
The Hawaii Shibu in Changing Times
In the interim, the Hawaii Shibu has participated in numerous local events such as the annual HUOA Okinawa Festival, as well as dance and music concerts by both local and visiting artists. Along with the Ryūkyū Sōkyoku Kōyō Kai Hawaii Shibu, the organization has sponsored annual combined recitals. While these recitals were once done twice a year in spring and fall, it was made into an annual event from 2002.
In 2002, the Hawaii Shibu filed a petition with the U.S. federal government for official recognition as a non-profit entity. The 501c license was granted on June 3, 2002, and the current Board of Directors and officers were instated. The organization is now eligible for grants and other funding free of taxation.
While the Hawaii Shibu has been become well established in its four decades of existence, it faces several challenges. The first and main challenge has been the recruitment of new membership, especially among the younger generations. With the passing of almost all of the first-generation immigrants from Okinawa and the aging of the second-generation, Hawai‘i’s Okinawan community is now largely comprised of third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation descendants of the original immigrants. Generation gaps and language barriers continually present challenges to the preservation and propagation of traditional culture. With the passing of each generation, these schisms only seem to deepen.
A second major challenge the Hawaii Shibu is facing is the general dwindling interest or lack of awareness of Okinawan classical music. Even among Hawai‘i-born Okinawans, few people know of the existence of a classical music tradition or the difference between classical and folk repertoires. People who are marginally familiar with classical Okinawan music generally veer away from its study, deeming the music as boring or too difficult. For younger generations, there are many other more popular forms of music to study such as Hawaiian or western music. In general, there are only very few outlets for Okinawan classical music to be exposed. Often, these outlets are for small groups of people and do not often extend outside of the Okinawan community.
Now under third- and fourth-generation leadership, the Hawaii Shibu is seriously studying these problems to create viable solutions. To increase membership and awareness of the music, the organization has been very active in participating in community events. While most of these events have been through the local Okinawan clubs, the Hawaii Shibu has also become involved with other cultural organizations such as the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and Arts and TRADEX. Through partnerships with other organizations, the Hawaii Shibu has been able to participate in community lectures and concerts that reach out to people of various generations and ethnicities.
The Hawaii Shibu has recently started to actively reach out to neighboring islands as well. The Honolulu-based organization now has members in Maui and also participates in events on Hawai‘i-island and Kauai. In the near future, the Hawaii Shibu hopes to be able to send instructors regularly to all neighbor islands and be able to offer aid in flying members to Honolulu to participate in group events.
Despite the challenges that bear down on the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai Hawaii Shibu, the organization clings to its legacy of preserving one of Okinawa’s most treasured cultural assets. Nourished by the roots of its forefathers, the Hawaii Shibu will continue to grow and extend its reach out to the larger community in Hawai‘i, the US, and the world.
赤犬子 Akainko. Akainko was a well-renowned traveling singer who lived during the reign of King Shō Shin (1477-1527). Born on the
湛水親方 Tansui Uwēkata (1623-1683). Tansui Uwēkata, known also as Kōchi Kenchū, is often referred to as the “father of classical music” because he is credited with formalizing uta-sanshin music into a serious art form in the royal court. All subsequent styles of classical uta-sanshin music find their roots in his style. Tansui is also credited with composing the musical pieces “Tsikuten Bushi”, “Janna Bushi”, “Shuyi Bushi”, “Shudun Bushi”, “Akatsichi Bushi”, and “Hai Tsikuten Bushi,” which are all still played in varying forms today. Though only a few songs survived, his original style is today preserved as Tansui Ryū.
屋嘉比朝奇 Yakabi Chōki (1716-1775). Yakabi Chōki was a student of Terukina Mongaku and inherited the music style created by Tansui Uwēkata four generations earlier. Trained in Noh, Yakabi introduced elements of this Japanese art into uta-sanshin music. He is most noted for leaving behind a collection of 117 sanshin transcriptions—the oldest known sanshin scores in existence today. These scores would serve as the basis for later transcriptions, including the ones used by all uta-sanshin players today. Yakabi is also known for composing the songs “Nubui Kuduchi” and “Kudai Kuduchi.”
安富祖正元 Afuso Seigen (1785-1865). One of the two dominant styles of Okinawan classical music, Afuso Ryū, is based on the music style of Afuso Seigen. Afuso studied under Chinen Sekkō alongside Nomura Anchō and is said to have retained his master’s style. One of Afuso’s most noted works is the “Kadō Yōhō”, a primer on the proper conduct and performance of a classical musician.
野村安趙 Nomura Anchō (1805-1871). Nomura Anchō was a student of Chinen Sekkō alongside Afuso Seigen and Ōnaga Peichin. He served as musical director at the investiture ceremony for the last Ryūkyū king, Shō Tai. Under the king’s orders, Nomura worked with his students Matsumura Shinshin and Yamauchi Seiki to compile and edit song scores which would later become the basis for the Nomura Ryū scores. While former scores were written freehand, Nomura introduced a system of blocks to clearly demarcate the rhythm. This is the format that is universal to all sanshin scores today. Nomura also revolutionized classical music by introducing a singing style that was simpler and more natural than the predominant style at the time. Today, Nomura Ryū is the largest
伊佐川世瑞 Isagawa Seizui (1872-1937). Isagawa Seizui inherited the musical style of Nomura through Kuwae Ryōshin. In 1924, Isagawa founded the Nomura Ryū Ongaku Kyō Kai (“The Association for the Nomura Style of Music”) and became its first president. The association has since grown to be the largest Okinawan classical music organization in the world with branches in Hawai‘i and the
IDENTITY – LOOCHOO NU KWA: CHILDREN OF LOOCHOO
WORKSHOP ON OKINAWA’S MUSIC & DANCE CONNECTED TO HISTORY AND CULTURE
Date: August 25, 2007 (Saturday)
Place: JIKOEN HONGWANJI HALL
REGISTRATION: 4:30PM – 5:00PM
WORKSHOP: 5:00PM – 9:00PM
SUPPORTED IN PART BY YOUNG OKINAWANS OF HAWAI`I
FOR INFORMATION, CALL 292-8862 OR 294-9152
$5 donation at the door
Through this workshop, we hope to provide an understanding of the importance of music and dance in the history and culture of Okinawa. You will also hear the urgency to preserve and perpetuate the Ryukyuan legacy of tradition as presented by Norman Kaneshiro, Eric Wada, and the Ukwanshin Kabudan members who have just returned from an emotional visit to Okinawa. If you have ever wondered about what it is to be Okinawan, or how you can strengthen your identity, this presentation will help you to understand.