Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Governor Nakaima Traveling to Promote Participation in the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival

The 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival is now on the horizon and Okinawa's Governor,  Hirokazu Nakaima, is traveling to promote the participation of Uchinanchu from around the world. I recently received correspondence from Akira Kobasigawa, a fellow Okinawa Goodwill Ambassador. He informed me that the Governor was traveling in support of the Uchinanchu Taikai and sent me an article about the Canadian leg of the Governor's trip. Here is a copy of that article.

Governor Nakaima and His Caravan Visit Two Canadian Okinawa Kenjinkais in Preparation for Uchinanchu Festival

To propagate the Executive Committee's exciting plans for the forthcoming 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival, the caravan group led by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima from Okinawa arrived in Calgary, Alberta on June 1. The group visited Lethbridge on the following day.

On the first day, the caravan group held their Festival Information meeting at the Japanese Village Steak House with 24 representatives of the Calgary Okinawan Club (the President is Seiichi Yamashiro). On the second day, 50 members of the Lethbridge Okinawa Cultural Society (the President is Yoshitaka Kinjo) attended the information meeting held at the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel. At these meetings, Governor Nakaima made a strong appeal for Kenjinkai members' enthusiastic participation in the Festival.

To rouse the attendees, the caravan group indulged in enjoyable recollection of various aspects of the 4th Uchinanchu Festival held in 2006. They explained that the logo for the 5th Festival represents a combination of the famous Okinawa Kacha-shi dancing and the Chinese character 「」meaning “heart.”

Mr. Daiichi Hirata, Director of the Department of Culture, Tourism, and Sport, played an Okinawa lullaby on the flute for the attendees. The inclusion of the Kacha-shi Dance literally brought the meeting to its feet.

Of the four Okinawa kenjinkais' in Canada, the Lethbridge is the largest with approximately 400 members. They plan to send 50-plus members to the Festival. Statements made by some attendees clearly indicated that they could hardly wait for October 13, the day the Festival begins.

Governor Nakaima responded with an emphatic tone: “I will liven up the Festival just as you are expecting.” A reporter of the Okinawa Times, Rinko Sadoyama observed: Governor Nakaima expressed his amazement about the many Okinawans who had achieved apparent success in placing themselves in radically different societies from which they originally came. These dispersed Okinawans adapted and took on important roles, confidently blending into their new cultures.

According to Sadoyama, one of the ideas that Governor Nakaima presented for the forthcoming festival was to hold an engaging discussion on the topic of the many and varied ways in which people live. One would imagine that such an exchange among the residents and those who had travelled away, as well as those newly introduced to Okinawa, would draw high interest and participation.

Believed to have been one of the first settlers in Canada from Okinawa is the individual Yasuanno Makishi. When interviewed by the Okinawa Times reporter, Mary Nago (89 years of age and the daughter of Mr. Makishi), reminisced: “I visited Okinawa only once while attending the third Uchinanchu Festival. Still, that experience in which I saw my father's hometown, has stayed with me as a very happy memory.”

Additional coverage of Governor Nakaima's visit has been noted locally via the Lethbridge Herald. After Lethbridge, the caravan moves on to New York and then Los Angels. Their final stop is Hawaii. The caravan's “mission” in North America ends on June 10.

After Calgary the Governor headed to New York so I researched the visit and found the following.
During his stay in New York, Governor Nakaima attended a meeting of the Okinawa American Association of New York (OAANY). The non-profit organization is comprised of native Okinawans and people of Okinawan descent living in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

At the meeting, Governor Nakaima personally shook the hands of each person in attendance and his delegation, casually attired in traditional Okinawan Kariyushi shirts, appealed to OAANY members to join their fellow Okinawans from around the world and visit their ancestral homeland this October. They told of the ceremonies, parades, tours, educational outreach, and camaraderie that would happen during the festival and shared a promotional video from the most recent festival, in 2006. Traditional eisa and dance performances, karate demonstrations, and the chance to meet and mingle with Okinawans from other countries are a few of the highlights.

The Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival however isn’t simply about parades and dancing. Festival attendees have the sobering opportunity to visit World War II battle sites and other historic landmarks such as the World Peace Park in Itoman. Exhibits trace the history of the Okinawan diaspora, which stretches worldwide, especially in North and South America.

The Governor’s associates also treated the OAANY members to a live performance. Led by Daiichi Hirata, Director General of the Department of Culture, Tourism and Sports, the delegation gave a rousing rendition of a traditional Okinawan eisa dance.

When the Governor left New York he and his delegation headed for California where they met with 70 representatives of the Okinawa Association of America (OAA, Kimiko Goya, President) at their Center in Gardena, California. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Rinko Sadoyama, the Okinawa Times)

At the informational meeting, Governor Nakaima made a strong appeal for Kenjinkai members' enthusiasm to participate in the Festival. The OAA members welcomed the caravan group by performing Ryukyu dances. Here is a photo of a couple dancing a traditional folk dance called Tanchame.

 (Photo: Courtesy of Rinko Sadoyama, the Okinawa Times)

At the welcome party, there was also a performance by Mr. Daiichi Hirata, Director of the Department of Culture, Tourism, and Sport.  The performance was of an eisa folk dance, performed together with the members of the Los Angeles Branch, of the Ryukyu Kokusaidori Taiko. It was truly a delight to watch.

(photo: Courtesy of Rinko Sadoyama, the Okinawa Times)

The Governor also made a stop in Redondo Beach where I found the following about his visit.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima of the Okinawa Prefecture is the highest ranking official from Japan to ever visit Redondo Beach. Nakaima, was greeted by Mayor Mike Gin and officials from the Beach Cities Health District and the Redondo Beach Unified School District. The governor was told of a program there called the “walking moai” program that has been launched as part of the Vitality City public health initiative.

Governor Nakaima was surprised to learn that "moai" is a term from his homeland of Okinawa and that Okinawa has become particularly relevant to Redondo Beach and the rest of the beach cities in recent months. He was told of the ambitious three year program that intends to create a national model for implementing community-wide healthier living – based in part on research from Okinawa.

National Geographic explorer and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner studied the island of Okinawa for lessons in human health and longevity. Okinawans, he discovered, reach the age of 100 at a rate three times higher than Americans, live seven healthy years longer, and suffer one-fifth the rate of heart disease. Women live an average of 86 years, and men 78. According to Buettner’s research, the difference lay less in genetics and more in lifestyle.

Mayor Gin, in his remarks, referred to two key concepts from Okinawa: “ikigai” and “moai.” Ikagi is an Okinawan term referring to a sense of purpose, or reason for getting up in the morning; moai means “meeting together for a common purpose” and refers to a practice in some parts of Okinawa in which a group of children is bonded together for life at the age of five.

“A sense of purpose and a sense of connection to our community – these are the types of things we want to learn from the program” Gin said to Nakaima. “So we are particularly excited to have you here today.” Gin, who visited Okinawa as part of a city delegation a few years ago, also noted that Redondo hopes to form a “sister city” alliance with an Okinawan city.

A third Okinawan concept was also discussed as part of the principles for longevity: “hara hachi bu,” a Confucian-based adage that means one should eat only until one is 80 percent full. Governor Nakaima spoke proudly of Okinawa’s lessons in longevity, but also said that things are changing – women still live long lives, but men are tending to die younger with the increasing influence of more Western diets and lifestyles. “After the end of World War Two, we had a relationship with America because we had bases in Okinawa,” Nakaima said. “And we have now learned to eat McDonald’s and Big Macs…so I think we may need to improve this lifestyle, and we can do it together.”

Nakaima said Okinawa would watch the results of the Vitality City initiative closely and try to learn lessons about how to reintroduce its people to healthier lifestyles. “I believe we have a lot in common, the people of Okinawa and the people of this city. We have a lot to learn from each other.”

The Governor's Caravan finished up their promotional tour on June 8th 2011 at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, Legacy Ballroom. Their trip was a sucessful one and got the juices flowing for many who are now looking forward to an exciting trip come this October. If you would like more information visit the english link for news about the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival coming the 12th through the 16th of October.

The festival which is held on Okinawa’s main island is only held every five years. It’s a celebration of Okinawa’s rich culture and history and dating back to when Okinawa was a kingdom and not part of Japan. The culture at that time was heavily influenced by China at that time because of the robust trade relationship the kingdom had with the Chinese.

Here is a promotional Video for the 5th Uchinanchu TaiKai

Special thanks to Akira Kobasiga who helped in gathering information about the Governors Visit.

1 comment:

  1. Tom Corrao - BloggerJuly 25, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    JapanCulture•NYC was the source for much of the NY content. Thanks go out to Susan Hamaker who organized the site and took the pictures.