Uchinaa Haru Gakumun nu Tabi


1743721_843603422323106_1573092145_n Although we have been doing our November Okinawa Gakumun Tours for the past 6 years, this is the first time we are adding on a spring tour. Since this one is led by a single tour guide, we kept it small (12) and welcome participants from not only Honolulu, but from Moku o Keawe and the bigger island, California.

Our flight on Delta to Narita left on time, and it was really comfortable in their new airbus. The economy comfort seats also helped to make the 10 hour flight easier to handle. After arriving in Narita, it was a short one hour wait to board our flight to Okinawa. However, Narita is notorious for delays on take off and long taxi to the runways. It was quite a distance to board the plane since we had to take a bus to the plane. Narita doesn’t have enough gates to handle the flights. The nice cool 55 degree air was refreshing though . After boarding, it took us over 30 minutes taxi and waiting in line to take off. This caused our arrival in Okinawa to be 20 minutes delayed, but it was all good!

We got our luggage, boarded our bus and checked into the hotel. Everyone was tired, but we had bento and briefing then finally returned to our rooms to get some real rest. Tomorrow begins our journey in Uchinaa. It should be especially great for the four members who are here for the first time. By the way….nice COOL weather here in Okinawa too. Tonight its a crisp 1911622_843975605619221_1648982330_n57 degrees! I love this weather!


imagesUkwanshin Kabudan is pleased to announce the upcoming concert “Yuntanzaa nu Hana” (Flowers of Yomitan), featuring Okinawa guest artists Deigo Musume.  The Higa sisters of Yomitan have been bringing Okinawan folk music to audiences for decades.  They began as children, with the encouragement of their father, and travelled around Okinawa to help ease the struggles of communities emerging from the war.  They are well known for the songs “Kubagasa Gwa”, and “Kampo nu Kweenukusa”.

The concert will bring songs and stories from Yomitan, as well as Okinawa shima deeku (taiko), and Okinawan dances. It will be held at the Mamiya Theater on Saturday November 30th at 2pm.

Ukwanshin continues to provide the community with these events in hopes that it will connect the younger generation to our Okinawan culture and heritage, while also providing an opportunity to share with others in our community.  Donations and proceeds from these events help to provide scholarships, workshops, and to help assist the neighbor island Okinawa communities with their events.  We also are currently working with Okinawa in their revitalization projects for their language, history and traditional culture.

Presale tickets are available now and can be bought through this website.  Click the donations button in the side bar which will take you to a paypal secured window.  Please add 2.5% for charge service fee.

You may also write to us at to order your tickets.  Please make checks payable to Ukwanshin Kabudan and mail to PO Box 61307, honolulu, Hawaii 96839

Presale tickets are $30.  Ticket prices on the day of the show will be $35.  Seats are limited.

We are forever grateful to the many donors and supporters who make these events possible.  Through your generosity we are able to continue the work of our ancestors.

Here is a link to a clip of the Deigo Musume


Katsumi Shinsato Sensei
Katsumi Shinsato Sensei


Living in a humble home in Kalihi, Shinsato sensei is like a father and grandfather to all his students.  He started utasanshin at age 20, while struggling to make a living in Honolulu. He said, hearing the voice of the sanshin made him remember his time in Okinawa with his mother. Because he wasn’t the oldest son, he was left to fend for himself and work hard to support his wife. He learned from two well know utasanshin masters of his time, Eikichi Miyagi and Shinsuke Yamashiro of the Nomura Ryu Style of utasanshin . He also played shimadeeku, Okinawa taiko, and danced along side many other well known Okinawan performing artists, such as the late Katsumi Hokama, Seiko Ikehara, Kanyei Izumigawa, and many others.

Shinsato sensei is one of the best examples of what a teacher of the arts should be. Many people nowadays don’t know who this grand master is. This is because he has never wanted to be in the limelight or has never solicited his name and accomplishments to get recognized and awarded prestigious honors, like so many Okinawan performing artists do nowadays. He actually said that he used to get scolded by his wife. She used to say to him,” You should go out and show face so that people don’t think you stuck up.” But his answer to that was that he saw so many other sensei going out to show off and make themselves known that he didn’t want people to think of him that way. If they didn’t know him, he was okay with that. He also was scolded by Miyagi sensei when he kept on skipping practice. Shinsato sensei told Miyagi sensei that he was busy with work and other things, but Miyagi knew that Shinsato didn’t have much money and was probably skipping cause he couldnt pay for lessons. Miyagi sensei encouraged him and told him that if he loved it then it didnt matter to him if he could pay or not. Shinsato sensei remembers this well and always took it to heart to treat his students the same and to cherish them as his own children. When talking to him, he encourages others like us who teach, to do the same.

Other Okinawan teachers of the performing arts and students can learn a lot from Shinsato sensei and his “Magukuru” Shinsato sensei explained “magukuru” as being steadfast….standing firm to traditions and what you believe in, sincere , courteous, honorable, humble, honest, generous, and nurturing. He said we should take care of things like how we would take care of a plant, baby, or favorite pet. He said,” There is no doubt that there will be a tomorrow. The sanshin is the soul of the player. Together it makes beautiful music because it exposes the heart. If the heart is not clear, then the music will not be beautiful. Its the same with dance,” Shisato said. He explained that this is part of our Okinawan identity.

At 91 years of age, he is truly a great treasure. He doesn’t have such honors and recognition as some other teachers, but his wisdom, talent and “MAGUKURU” makes him priceless and above any honors any man or organization can give. His humbleness and love for his music, culture and students puts him on the highest pedestal, deserving to be honored May 26th at the Hawai`i Convention Center.


-from the song Agi Tsikuten

Okinawa Hands On NPO Group Bringing Language and Culture to Radio

IMG_0181A young group of Okinawans, directed by Mr. “Tuba Kachin” Agena, have been creating and working hard in Okinawa to promote Okinawan culture, language and history through the airwaves in Uchinaa.  “Okinawa Hands On” is a non-profit organization that first started out to give English language support to students that needed to study more for school or testing in Okinawa’s middle and high schools.  They have now grown to focus on the need to also educate the students in Okinawan language, culture and history while incorporating English and having the students get involved in radio program hosts and “kami shibai” or story plays.

The Ukwanshin tour met up with the leaders and some students, and we were also lucky to be hosted by them for a day with a Shimakutuba Tour.  This was one of our highlights to actually hear our native language being used live and for education.

Hands On hosts various radio programs such as Shimakutuba news and talk on FM Yomitan, FM Yambaru, FM Nirai, and a comparative cultural talk show on “The Roots”.  The organization is supported by sponsors and is always looking for help.  If you would like to support this great work please let us know.

Here is the schedule of radio programs.  If you would like to watch live, adjust the time and remember that we are 5 hours ahead, one day back.  You can also access their recorded programs if you can’t make the times.

Tuesday:10am-10:50 Yanbaru shimakutuba news at FM Yanbaru(nago:FM77.6Mhz)
(radio personalities are Paru”,Seibin shinsii, Jinkichi shinsii and Naoko shinsii)
※paru” is haru but nago area, some uchina-guchi sounds are changed.
ex:Hiijaa(goat in uchina-guchi)→Piijaa. Hago-san(dirty in uchina-guchi)→Pago-san.

Tuesday:6pm-7pm Chimuganasa shimakutuba news at FM Nirai(chatan:FM79.2Mhz)
(radio personalities are taruga-ni Kishimoto , Nakamura nu Yocchan ba-chan and Fumiko shinsii)

Thursday:2pm-2:45pm Yuntanza shimakutuba news at FM Yomitan (Yomitan:FM78.6Mhz)
2:45-2:55pm Sadako Tamaki’s Iyasassa Kurashiki kara (coordinate okinawan folk singer)
(radio personalities are Haru”, and Yoshiko sinshii or Sei-san or Yomitan’s guest)

Friday:4pm-5pm The roots at FM Nirai(chatan:FM79.2Mhz)
(radio personalities are Maki Nakamura, Tuba Kacchin(Mr.Red Agena) and kathryn)
※tuba kacchin is Mr.Agena’s grand’pa’s nick name.
Maki-san exprain in Japanese, Mr.Agena using uchina-guchi, and Kathryn speaks in English.


Deigo Musume Raising Money to Put Words In Stone

On our visit to Okinawa, we were lucky to spend time with some friends who are from the Okinawa folk music group Deigo Musume.   These four sisters of the Higa family of Yomitan made popular, a song written by their father, about the war.  Its vivid description and heavy emotions are overshadowed by the up tempo beat that disguises the song’s true story.  The song is titled “Kanpo nu Kwe-nukusaa”(Leftovers of the Warship), and refers to the surviving Okinawa people being the scraps of leftovers after the war had eaten their parents and islands.  Its been around for decades, but now, Deigo Musume, along with Yomitan Village and many other supporters, are raising money to put the words into stone as a memorial to the war, and so that the story will not die and to always remember how bad war can be so that we can always strive for peace.  The group has produced a 5 song CD to help raise money for the cause.  It’s a fairly reasonable amount at 1,000 yen.  The words are in Uchinaaguchi.  When you hear it and listen to the words, you can look at the English translation, but the power of the Okinawan language comes out as no other words can describe how the nuances of the language affects the song and meaning.  Ukwanshin will support this cause and if you would like to order CD’s please let us know so we can get them from Okinawa for you.  We will also be collecting donations to send back after Christmas, for the building of this peace memorial in Yomitan.

Here are the words and translation to the song…

This up tempo song sounds happy, but when listening to the words it brings tears and makes us think about the horrible suffering Okinawans experienced during the war. This group Deigo Musume sings this and their father wrote the song. It tells his story and experiences of the war. Their father was later killed by an American military serviceman who ran him over.
This song also stands for what Okinawa is experiencing today as Okinawans are still fighting for peace that has not come as the war still continues for Okinawa. We were told that you can see the people in this video holding back tears and being strong as they need to in everyday life so they can continue with life among the discrimination, bases and other things. That is why the song was written in an up tempo so as not to be so depressing and to remember what happened, but be strong to go on with life.
The title of the song is “Kanpo nu Kwe-nukusa”(leftovers of the Warships). The song says…

Wakasaru tuchine ikusanuyu, wakasaru hanan sachi yu-san
`yan, gwansun, uyachoden, kanpo shageki nu matuninati
Chirumun, kwe-mun, muru neran, su-ti chya kadi kurachanya.
I was young when war came, our youth was interrupted. Our houses, grandparents, parents and siblings, the rain of bombs and artillery from the ships destroying and making the land unrecognizable and hard to look at.Our clothes, food, everything gone, we had nothing so we ate the poisonous seigo palm.

*Unjun Wannin, Iya-n Wannin, Kanpo nu kwe-nukusa.

Kamin, hutukin ayuraran, haruya kana ami jin naran.
`Ya-gwa ya kaji nu uttubacchi, senkwa katamiti subikatti.
Ucche, hicche mutabacchi. Chimuya makutu du yatashigaya.
To the gods and to our ancestors, we couldn’t even cry for help, the fences came and our land taken away, we lost our money and livelihood. The tent houses we lived in blew away from the typhoons, we scrounged for food and stole war rations and got caught. They beat and dragged us, but our intentions were not of malice, we were just trying to survive.

Duru nu nakakara tachiagati, chine-matumiti tuji tumeti.
Nashigwan nmariti me-nin nashi, jinan, san nan, chinan bi
Awarinu nakanin warancha-ga, warai gwi-chichi, chimutumeti
From the dirt and rubble we stood back up, I looked for my parents, children and wife, but they all perished. Later, I had other children, oldest, second, and others. In all the despair the laughter of children”s voices brought comfort to my heart.

Heiwa nati kara ikutushika, kwanucha-n magisa natiwushiga.
I-yan rataru yama shishi nu, waga ku umuyurugutuni.
Usumiji matatu ndi umure-, yuru nu yunagata mikufayusa.
When peace comes, how long will it last? The children have all grown now. I remember how we hunted the wild boar for food, but also now think about how it must have been for it’s babies that were left to fend for themselves when we killed the mother. I don’t want my children to taste that bitterness. The thought keeps me up at night.

Wa uya kwattaru anu ikusa, Wa shima kwattaru anu kanpo.
Namari kwatin, washirariyumi, Ta-ga anu jama shi-njachaga.
uradi-n, kuyadin, akijaran, shisun machide igunsana.
My parents were eaten by the war. Our islands were eaten by the warships. For the future generations we cannot forget this. Who caused and started this problems? Nothing can compare to the suffering and sadness we experienced, so we must make sure that this story is told.

Click this link to see and hear the song.

Ukwanshin Tour: Last Activities Day

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.


Norman Performs At The Nomura Ryu Kochi Kamechiyo Concert In Urasoe

Tonight we were hosted by the Nomura Ryu Ongaku Kyoukai at the Tedako Hall in Urasoe.  This was the 116th anniversary of the birth of Kamechiyo sensei.  Norman is the grandchild student of Kochi sensei.  The show had a cast of 1000, and Norman was chosen to have one of the solo songs in this performance, as he represente Hawai`i.  He did a great job and promised to continue on the legacy of Kochi sensei.  Thank you to Norman and Nomuraryu Kyoukai for this nice evening.

Ukwanshin Tour: Day 8

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.  

Ukwanshin Tour Day 7

Today we started our day at Shikina En, Royal Gardens.  This area was heavily damaged during the war, but was reconstructed to its splendor.  The quiet gardens and pond gave the feeling of going back nto time as you could imagine the royal family relaxing and entertaining their guests with the court music playing int the background. It seemed as if this was a much needed visit as it took us away from the hustle and bustle, and just gave our minds and spirits time to reflect and relax.

We then went to one of the highest points in Shuri.  Bin nu Utaki is a sacred site that is mentioned in many songs and dances, such as Kudai Kuduchi.  This Utaki was visited especially after returning from a journey.  Here we came to pray and give thanks for having a safe journey back “home”, and to also look at the restored gate and walls that was done through the help of Uruma seinenkai of Hawai`i.  This was another connection to our Hawai`i ancestors that helped us to realize the concern and love for Okinawa by our issei, although they were separated by the vast Pacific Ocean.  It made us think of how we need to keep our connection like them.

We then left for a special visit to Matayoshi Kanjeeku.  matayoshi san is the only silversmith left that makes traditional LooChoo accessories through his lineage of 6 generations. He has been designated as a National Living Treasure, by the Japanese government, and strives to preserve and pass on his knowledge of his art and the history and stories behind it.  He is very concerned that he does not have a apprentice that will continue his work. He is 81.  Matayoshi san gave us very good insights and heartwarming stories, as well as a message to keep our traditions alive through passing things on and remembering our past.  This was one of our most valuable visits which connected us to LooChoo’s great art of making hairpins, “jifa”, and jewelry.

After lunch we continued to a wholesale folk craft shop and then to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum where we saw exhibits on history and traditional arts.  Our day ended with a performance at Naha Tenbusukan, given to us by Atsuko Tamagusuku Sensei and her students. Norman and Eric also participated in the performance, but the highlight was when we called up Brent and Mana from our group to dance Hatoma Bushi.  The crowd went crazy and the heeshi from everyone was almost deafening ad the boys danced.  Many of the Okinawa audience cried as they watched, and said that they could see the love for the culture and how much the boys want to do the best they can to represent Okinawa.  Couple of the audience we met after, said they were embarrassed that Okinawans here don’t give off the kind of energy and dont dance form the heart like Brent and Mana.  It was really something to experience and also a great experience for the guys.