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