Pages

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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 2011 CHICAGO OKINAWA KENJINKAI PICNIC

Well yesterday was our annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai Picnic. After a week filled with rain the day finally came and there wasn't a rain cloud to be seen in the sky. The weather was hot with temperatures nearing the 90 degree mark. What a perfect Okinawa type day for our picnic. I estimate there was about 120 people present at the Robinson Woods picnic groves. The food was great as always and there was plenty of activities to fill the day. Our new Kenjinkai president Paula Schmidling did a wonderful job organizing the event and all of the officers were involved in some aspect of the preparation. Here are a few videos to let you know what you missed out on if you weren't there. Maybe we will see you next year at the picnic. Ashibi nu chura saa ninju nu sunawai! It means the more the merrier!







Saturday, July 30, 2011

Renting a Car in Okinawa For the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival?

Hello everyone! Today is the annual Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai picnic so I will have to make this as quick as possible, there's plenty to do do do! Ya know!

Probably the easiest was to get around while visiting Okinawa for the 5th world uchinanchu festival is by rental car. It's definitely not going to be your cheapest mode of transportation but it will provide you with a tremendous mount of flexibility. My wife and I rented a car during the last Taikai and it was a wonderful experience. We were able to go wherever we pleased and were able to assist others we knew also when changing venues or events. One thing to remember is that gas is extremely expensive in Japan and has to be factored in to the cost as well as the price of the actual rental. If your retired military however gas on base is usually much more reasonable than off base.

This is an example prices may vary!

Okay then here's how to rent a car in Okinawa

Most of the car rental companies in Okinawa are located at the Naha Airport or in very close proximity to it. They send shuttles buses to pick up customers and bring them to their shop locations near the airport. Just follow the rental car signs in the airport there in both English and Japanese if my memory serves me correctly. There's also a number of car rental companies near Omoromachi Station in the Shinto shin shopping area by the Duty Free Shop.


The procedure for renting the car is quite simple. First just go up to the counter and choose the class of car you wish to rent and let them know for how many days. The cars are different than the ones you know in the states so ask questions about the models to find the one best suited for your needs. The rental company will ask you to show your international license or Japanese license and another form of ID such as a passport or alien registration card. International drivers licenses are easy to obtain through AAA and you don't have to be a AAA card holder to get one. I will provide a link to the application that you can fill out to take with you to your local AAA agent. Once they are satisfied you are who you say you are you will be asked to sign a rental contract and the staff will take you to your car for a brief inspection.


Some car rental companies in Okinawa include The Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) in the price and others add it as an additional fee. Generally it costs around 1,600 JPY per rental and must be paid up front. The LDW is mandatory by car rental companies, please remember it is not insurance. Its purpose is to free renters of financial responsibility if the car is damaged or stolen while under rental contract. Using the vehicle in violation of any of the user restrictions listed on the rental agreement could void LDW and leave the renter fully responsible for any damage to the vehicle. You should check with your car insurance company in the United States to see if you will be covered in Okinawa under your current insurance. If not then you would want to purchase the offered insurance through the rental company.


Driving in Okinawa is not like driving in the USA, The side streets as well as some of the main roads on the island are incredibly narrow and can be tricky to navigate at times. Also they drive on the left and you must be constantly vigilant . It is not uncommon for a new driver on Okinawa to have a flash back and turn into oncoming traffic. But if you remain alert and think about it you should be able to handle driving on the left.

Japanese law requires small children traveling in a vehicle to be safely fastened into a child seat. Most car rental agencies on Okinawa can provide child safety seats for any children traveling with you so it is not necessary to bring them with you. Be aware though the they will charge a small additional fee for the use of the car seat..

Most rental cars in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan come with GPS / Navigation systems, however in Okinawa most are only equipped to operate in Japanese. If you own one in the states you may be able to download the maps for Okinawa and Japan for your trip. I used the Japanese one even though my Japanese is not that fluent. My wife entered the information and I followed the directions on the screen which weren't that difficult to understand visually.

In Japan you must be 18 years old or older to rent a car according to Japanese law. You will also need your credit card just like you do when renting a car in the USA. Be aware that your credit card will probably charge you a foreign exchange fee for purchases overseas and the charge will be made at the rate for the conversion rate for the day the charge is actually processed. This date as well as the exchange rate may be different than it was on the day you actually rented the car. Just something to keep in mind.

My recommendation would be to rent the smallest car that can possibly serve your needs. My wife and I rented a subcompact and it could easily hold 5 people. Of course we didn't have the trunk storage space of a bigger car but we had relatives that came to the airport to meet us that helped get our bags to where we stayed.

Before you start driving in Okinawa, on the left hand side of the road, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the vehicle's equipment and operation, including heat and A/C, radio, lights, windshield wipers, spare tire, seat belts and door locks, and gas tank access. You may be surprised to find out they are on the opposite side many times from what you are use to. Oh yeah and the drivers side is on the right in a Japanese car. This may feel a little weird at first but you will quickly get use to it. I think it helps me remember to stay on the left because I think in my head "Hey the driver is towards the center of the road." if I find myself riding towards the outside of the road then I'm on the wrong side.

Getting distracted trying to figure out the controls while driving can be dangerous. Don't wait until the fuel warning light goes on to think about buying gas, especially if you don't know how far it is between gas stations. If, in the unlikely event that your car malfunctions on a major thoroughfare, turn on the hazard lights and, if you have a cell phone, call the police (110) and the rental company.

If you're involved in an accident contact the police to complete an accident report, then immediately contact the location from which the car was rented. You can find location phone information on your reservation confirmation paperwork.

The last thing I have to say is that parking in a pay lot in Okinawa is extremely expensive so try to park at public venues if possible. You may want to check with your hotel to find out about available parking and if they charge a fee to park at their facility.

Well that's about what I know about renting a car in Okinawa. Be careful and we'll see you in Okinawa.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Using the Bus while in Okinawa for the Uchinanchu Taikai

Probably the most convenient form of transportation for getting to all points on the island of Okinawa is the bus. Buses are surprisingly expensive on Okinawa but do run many of the main roads on the island on their routes. Fares depend on the distance you have traveled at the time you get off the bus. Fares start around ¥150 but vary according to the bus company.

When getting on the bus take a ticket from the ticket dispenser as you board. If the bus has two doors make sure you enter and exit from the front door.

While riding, there is an electronic voice that calls out the stops (in Japanese). When your stop is called press the button next to the window to signal the driver to stop. It's a good idea to know what your destination looks or a remember a landmark that can be seen several stops away. This can help ensure that you exit the bus as close to your desired destination as possible.


There is an electronic display at the front of the bus that has numbers and a corresponding fare that increases as the bus makes its way along its route. When leaving, match the number on your ticket to the number on the display. The fare next to that number is what you pay.

Drop your ticket and exact fare, yen only, in the fare box. There is a change dispenser at the front of the bus that gives change for 1,000 yen bills, 500 yen coins, and 100 yen coins.
 
Bus fare from Naha Bus Terminal to Nago is about ¥1740 (About $22.32 at todays rate) for the 70km ride. Children under six who are accompanied by a parent ride for free and children in the sixth grade or lower pay half fare.

Nearly all buses use the Naha Bus Terminal as a starting and ending point for their routes. Unfortunately, there are no bus schedules printed in English to show you and the buses do not always stick to their allocated times, so please allow plenty of time for your travels. The different bus companies servicing Okinawa can run the same route. Please look for the bus number in the window of the bus to determine its destination, not the color of the bus.

Here is a list by bus numbers indicating the buses departure city and destination as well as the bus company running the line. The first hurdle you will need to overcome is determining which bus to take. Just because there are no schedules or routes available in English, doesn't mean it will be impossible to figure out where you're going. At every bus stop there is a map of Okinawa with routes included and a list of the buses that service the stop your at and their schedules. Find a bus that goes to your destination and its next arrival time. Route numbers 1 through 17 are categorized as the City (Naha) Line and numbers 20 and greater are the Suburban Line.

Four different bus companies operate routes in Okinawa. Because more than one bus company operates each route, it is best to signal the bus you want, otherwise it may not stop to pick you up.


Naha Airport Limousine Bus

On the Okinawa Main Island (Okinawa Honto) there is an extensive network of Airport Limousine Buses that operate all year long. This service is one of the best ways to get to almost all of the resort hotels on Okinawa at a fraction of the cost of taking a taxi. The pickup point at Naha Airport for the Airport Limousine Buses is located outside the Arrivals lobby on the 1st floor of the main terminal building.

During the high season of late July to the end of August more buses operate and on a more frequent schedule but there are also many more visitors using the Airport Limousine Bus service.

When leaving Naha Airport the Airport Limousine Buses use the first come first serve system and cannot be booked in advance. Make sure the bus you get on goes to your hotel by asking the driver.

When departing hotels and on the way to Naha Airport it is important to check your flight time and the travel time of the bus before leaving. Please remember that travel time of the Airport Limousine Buses may be longer than shown on the schedules due to traffic. Ask hotel staff where the pick-up point for the bus is and double check the schedule with them.


TOUR BUS INFO

There are also tour bus companies on the island that offer package tours which range from 6 to 10 hours. Prices are about $40 to $50 but may not include entrance fees to all venues.

Ryukyu Bus 098-863-3636

Okinawa Bus 098-861-0083

Naha Bus 098-868-3750

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taxi use in Okinawa - Expensive but Convenient in a Pinch


Now that we’ve talked about using the monorail system let’s talk about getting to other areas of the island both in Naha and everywhere else. Probably the thing that struck me the most in regards to transportation while I was in Okinawa was the sheer number of taxi’s there are on the island. One of the primary industries on the island is tourism and being a service oriented economy there’s plenty of need for them.

Note the round red sign in the front window indicating the cab is vacant
Taxi cabs are easy to find just about anywhere on Okinawa. No matter where you are if you make your way to the main thoroughfare in the area, wave your hand in the air when you see a taxi approach. Look in the front window of the taxi on the passenger’s side and you will see a light up sign with some Japanese Kanji on it. If the taxi is empty the sign will be lit up in red. If the sign is green it means the taxi already has a passenger and is unavailable. When a taxi does pull over to pick you up it’s important to know that when entering or exiting a taxi cab anywhere in Japan, the rear left passenger door is automatic and controlled by the driver. The other important thing to know is recently all Okinawan Taxi’s became non-smoking.

The Left rear door is controlled by the driver. It opens and closes automatically.
Some taxi cab companies have set rates to resort hotels from Naha Airport and other main destinations. Pre-booking for these prices is necessary and can be done through most travel agents in Japan or by calling the taxi cab company if you or someone you know speaks Japanese. Many taxi cab companies on Okinawa also have sightseeing tour packages. This involves renting the services of the taxi on an hourly basis and being driven around to the sights of the island. The standard rate for this service is around 3,000 per hour; however for larger blocks of time it is common to negotiate the price. There are a few companies that operate with English speaking taxi cab drivers in Okinawa.

If you’re going to choose to use a taxi be aware that it isn’t going to be cheap. The basic fare for just getting in the door of a small sized taxi cab is 500 yen for the first 1.8km (1.1 miles). Then the meter will increase at 60 yen for each additional 359 meters (quarter mile). It adds up quickly and it is common to spend as much as $20 on the average cab ride. There are advantages to using a taxi sometimes though because they will take you to exactly where you need to go and not just to the general vicinity.

If you’ll be traveling with other people it may not be such an impact on your wallet when using a taxi in Okinawa. The truth of the matter is you can afford a taxi ride if you are willing to plan ahead and carpool with a few of your friends. A taxi ride can be an affordable, relaxing convenience if shared between yourself and a few friends. There is no need to miss many of the events being held on island and, more importantly, there’s no need to drink and drive. Don't let your transportation woes force you to miss some of the best that Okinawa has to offer.

I suppose a few of you out there may be planning to partake in some Awamori or Orion beer after attending some of the events. If you arrived at your drinking establishment by car and suddenly realize that Awamori is a bit stronger spirit than you expected then there is an important service that I should make you aware of. It’s called Daiko, and it’s a safe way to get you and your car home when you’re too tired to drive or have had a few too many alcoholic beverages.



How it works is when a customer calls to request the service, two drivers and a taxi will be dispatched to the location requested. One driver will provide the customer with a ride and the other driver will drive the customer’s car to the final destination. If an individual uses a Daiko service they will be required to ride in the taxi, verses their own car due to insurance reasons. Here is a video that covers what Daiko service is all about.


In Okinawa there are a few taxi companies you can call that speak English. These companies will come to you if you give them a ring. Taxi Company Okito has been at work training its drivers in English conversation to raise their level of service for English-speaking customers. This eliminates much of the difficulty of trying to explain your destination to drivers who cannot speak English.
Note the Authorized on Base sign on this Taxi
Also, if you are commuting to or from a military base, please make sure that your cab has a written sign on the side that reads "Authorized on Base." The following taxi companies provide pick-up services on Okinawa and have taxis that are authorized to go on military bases.

Okito Taxi   (0120) 21-5005 English Available (Toll Free)


                     (098) 946-5005 English Available


Meiho Taxi (098) 937-2467 English Available


Sanyo Taxi (098) 936-7027 English Not Available


Futaba Taxi (098) 898-2028 English Not Available


Toho Taxi (098) 936-6393 English Not Available


Higashi Taxi & Co. Naha: 2682604


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Okinawa Monorail Yui Rail ゆいレール

Going early to Okinawa so you can attend the Otsunahiki? Are you going to have free time between otsunahiki and the uchinanchu festival? If you’re going to be in Okinawa you’ll need to know how to get around and know what to do during the down time between festivals. Transportation is expensive in Okinawa and you’ll need to have a plan if you’re going to maximize both your budget and your time. I’ve decided to help you out a bit here on the blog by explaining your options.

I lived on Okinawa for nearly ten years during the eighties and nineties but things were a lot different back then. For one thing the yen rate was between 150 to 200 yen to the dollar at that time not the 78 yen per dollar you’re going to get during the festival this year. By knowing your options you may be able to save yourself a little money.

There are several forms of transportation on the island and I will cover them in the next few days. Your choices will include rental cars, buses, taxies, and a monorail system that runs between the Airport and Shuri right through the heart of Naha city. Today I’ll talk specifically about using the Monorail.

Okinawa Monorail Yui Rail  ゆいレール
I like historical things so let’s begin with a bit of history about electric rail in Okinawa. The first electric railway was established in 1911 by Saiga Tokichi the operator of Saiga Electric Company of Kyoto. He created the Okinawa Electric Railway which linked Naha to Shuri with a trolley line. The trolley line did well until the introduction of buses on the island. It lasted until 1933 when the line ceased its operations due to the loss of passengers brought about by the competition with buses. In Okinawa it’s really hard to find old photographs but thanks to military photographers on island after the battle for Okinawa I was able to find a picture of a trolley car on Okinawa that had been there prior to the war. I believe therefore that this must have been one of the Okinawa Electric Railway Trolley cars.

Okinawa Electric Trolley Car (1945)
The Okinawa Toshi Monorēru a Monorail called the Yui Rail (ゆいレール)


The Yui Rail Travels Above the Street Level
 Today’s monorail system is about as far from the original trolley design as one can imagine. Construction on the line began in 1996 and the when finished in 2003 the new Okinawa Monorail system gave the Okinawan people and tourists alike an alternative to the bus once again. This state of the art monorail was designed to overcome the severe congestion in the capitol city of Naha. The line runs for 13 kilometers from the Naha airport through Naha city all the way to Shuri. It really is the perfect form of transportation for those staying in Naha.

Conductors are Available to Assist You

When the wife and I visited for the 4th Uchinanchu Festival in 2006 we rode the monorail and it was a very affordable alternative to using a taxi. To ride the monorail you will need to purchase a ticket up on the platform. The cost of the fare is relative to the distance from starting station to destination station. Distances are rounded up to the nearest 1km. Children’s fares are half of adult's fares and are rounded up to nearest 10yen. The rates I found online are between 200 and 300 yen or about $3.85 to ride the entire distance. Not bad for a 13 Km ride.

Purchase Your Ticket on the Platform

Put your Ticket in the end of the Turnstyle

Your Ticket Will Pop Out the Other End


Your now Ready to ride the Monorail.
Have Fun and enjoy the Festival!
 Here are the stops along the line.
There are 15 stations on the line.


Station name       Japanese        Total distance Location

Naha-kūkō        那覇空港       0 km Naha, Okinawa
Akamine            赤嶺               1.95 km
Oroku               小禄                2.71 km
Ōnoyama-kōen 奥武山公園    3.68 km      This is the stop where the festival will be held
Tsubogawa        壺川               4.52 km
Asahibashi         旭橋               5.33 km
Kenchō-mae     県庁前           5.91 km
Miebashi           美栄橋           6.63 km
Makishi             牧志               7.61 km
Asato                安里               8.2 km
Omoromachi     おもろまち   8.95 km
Furujima            古島               9.96 km
Shiritsu-byōin-mae  市立病院前  10.88 km
Gibo                  儀保       11.84 km
Shuri                 首里               12.84 km

Other Okinawa monorail Yui Rail ゆいレール Information
The monorail is a business venture between the prefecture and a private enterprise.


How to ride the Yui Rail
The following describes how to buy and use a regular ticket (Futsu Joshaken) on the Yui Rail, monorail in Naha City Okinawa.

Once you arrive at a monorail station, the first thing you'll need to do is buy a ticket. Find your destination on the fare table located above the ticket vending machines, this will be listed in Japanese characters (kanji) and Romanized (English) letters, it will also show the cost to that station. Put the fare (coins, bills, or card) into the ticket vending machine. Then comes the challenge, match the English station name with Japanese character (kanji) on the ticket machine. Press the button for your destination and the machine will dispense your ticket. If you need a ticket for a child make sure to press the children button before you press the destination button as children fares are less expensive. If you have any problems with this process each monorail station in Naha has staff that can help.

After you have your ticket you can proceed through the station’s gates by placing your ticket in the slot on the right side of the gate. Be sure to grab it as it comes out on the other side as you will need it to get out at your destination.

Next, head toward the platform, following the sign for the train heading the direction you need to go. You can either go North toward Shuri or South toward Naha-Kuko.

Lastly, when you arrive at your destination station exit by inserting your ticket as you go through the opposite way as you did when entering. Regular ticket will disappear in to the slot but if you purchased an all-day pass, do not forget to pick it up on the other side. If you travel further then the ticket purchased, the gate will close and station staff will come to collect the remaining fare or you can pay the difference at the fare-adjustment window.

Operating times
- The first train starts each day at 06:00 and the last train departs at 23:30
- During rush hours 08:00 – 09:00 trains arrive at stations at 6.5 minute intervals
- The rest of the day trains arrive at station at 7.5 – 15 minute intervals

FARES

Regular Ticket (Futsu Joshaken)
The cost of fares is relative to the distance from starting station to destination station. Distances are rounded up to the nearest 1km. Children’s fares are half of adult's fares and are rounded up to nearest 10yen.

Pre-paid card (Yui card)
Pre-paid cards are a convenient way to use the monorail as you don’t have to think of the cost to each destination or take the time to use the ticket vending machines every time you go somewhere. Cards are available in 1000 yen, 3000 yen, and 5000 yen increments.

To buy a Yui Card simply put coins or bills in to a ticket vending machine and press the button showing "Card" and then the fare button. To use the card simply put it in the ticket slot when entering a gate the same way you would a ticket. Don’t forget to grab it on the other side when both entering and exiting a monorail station.

Multi-ride Ticket (Kaisuu Joshaken)
Multi-ride tickets are another way to save a bit of money on monorail fare. These passes are good for 6 month after the date of purchase.

To buy a multi-ride ticket put coins or bills (Yui cards can’t be used) into the ticket vending machine and press the "Kaisuuken" button and then the station button. Muli-ride Tickets are good for 10 rides.

Open ticket
If you are traveling around Naha for the day and plan on using the Yui Rail to see the sights, an open ticket might be your best option. These tickets allow for unlimited use of the monorail for one, two, or three days for a set price.

To purchase these tickets simply press the button on a ticket vending machine labeled "One day open ticket" and then the "1 day" “2 days” or “3 days” button.

If you have problems purchasing an open ticket and need to ask the station staff for help here are the Japanese names for them:

One day open ticket: "Ichinichi Joshaken"
Two days open ticket: "Futsuka Joshaken"
Three days open ticket: "Mikka Joshaken"

God Luck and Have Fun!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Narai no Kanata Chosen as the Theme to the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival

I just found out that the theme song Nirai no Kanata has been chosen as the official song representing the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival. Here is the article I found in the Ryukyu Shimpo yesterday while looking for news abouth the festival online. Look for Hello Kitty in the side bar.

Borrowed from the June 30, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo
Nirai no Kanata (Beyond Nirai) was selected as the theme song for the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival, which is scheduled to be held over four days starting on October 13th 2011.


Composer Katsushi Arakaki wrote the music and lyrics and Natchy (Whose real name is Nanami Yamada) sings the song. Natchy is a second year student at Okinawa Higashi Junior High School in Okinawa City. The song was picked from a total of 18 entries that had been submitted for the theme. Submissions were received both from home and abroad.


A press conference and award ceremony for the selection of the theme song was held at the Kenmin Hiroba in Naha on June 29. Natchy gave it her all when she sang at the ceremony.



Hidenobu Chinen, the head of the Executive Committee for the festival, delivered a congratulatory speech, saying that Nirai no Kanata was head and shoulders above all the other entries.

Katsushi Arakaki (on the right), who wrote the music and lyrics of Nirai no kanata, the theme song for the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival and singer Natchy at the Kenmin Hiroba in Naha City on June 29, 2011.
 Arakaki said, “Uchinanchu went abroad in search of their dreams and hopes. I wrote this song in the hope that the feeling for Okinawa from people in foreign countries and that of overseas immigrants’ for Okinawa could be brought together, giving a tremendous boost to the festival.”


Natchy said, “I would like to sing this song to help convey all that is good about Okinawa.”





The lyrics of the song say, “Echo the soul of this beautiful island like a smile taught by a red flower. Bring a prayer from this beautiful island. Beyond Nirai, a prayer for peace for all eternity.” Nirai is the place beyond the oceans which ancient Okinawan people believed was the world of gods.


(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)Tweaked a little by me.








Sunday, July 24, 2011

Okinawa Has Multiple Festivals During October

Multiple Festivals will take place in close proximity to one another this October in Okinawa. As everyone probably knows, that is when the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival will takes place. But don't just go there to participate in the Uchinanchu festival. Go a few day early and catch the fun at the Naha festival as well.



If you arrive in Okinawa prior to the Uchinanchu festival you should try to be in Naha on the 8th and 9th of October. There will be the Naha Festival which is the lead up to the annual Otsunahiki (Tug of War). This year will be the 41st year for the event which welcomes all to participate by pulling the rope either for the East or the West. The choice is totally up to you. The best part though is that its free and is really a great time.  Here is a video I took in 2006 the last time I attended the Otsunahiki. It's kind of low quality and a little bit too long but it gives you the idea of what you'll be in for.


The fun begins on Kokusai street in downtown Naha with a parade of banners, hung from huge bamboo poles. All throughout the parade route various members of the teams take turns balancing the poles in the air single-handedly. It is a show of strength and when the balancing member gets tired he must hand off the pole to another team member without letting the pole hit the ground. The banners represent the seven districts of the east and the seven districts of the west. The teams carry the banners escorted by eisa drummers and and other traditionally garbed people.

You will see and hear many things during the parade with loud traditional finger whistles peircing the air as well as the sound of firecrackers gongs and drums. The parades route leads to Komoji Corner on Highway 58 where the highway will be blocked off for the huge tug of war.  Many young men wearing the black special uniforms called  "Mumunuchihanta" participate in this parade. There are 14 committees and the flags represent symbols of good-luck to the areas where they live. It is very difficult to walk and hold the flags. So the young men are very proud to participate in the parade by holding the flags of their districts.

During the festival the busy Kumoji intersection of Route 58 will be completely cleared, with the road divider removed for the event. They do this to make way for the gigantic rope used in the tug of war. It's a Guinness World Record holder, measuring 200m (656 feet) in length, and weighing more than 40 metric tons (44 American tons)!

This event definately needs more than 15,000 people in order to pull the rope, and that means we need you too! So come join in the fun. It will become a lifelong memory for you. Then after the tug of war is over, don't forget to take home a pieces of the rope as it is believed to bring good luck for the rest of the coming year.


So that means we can attend the Otsunahiki (Naha Festival) on October 9th and then move into the week of the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival (WUF) which begins with another parade on Wednesday evening. I discovered something interesting about the festival today when reading the Ryukyu Shimpo. I discovered that another festival called the Worldwide Eisa Festival is being combined with the WUF on October 15th. Here is the article I found.

Worldwide Eisa Festival to be held on October 15

In the afternoon of July 6, at the Prefecture Reporters Club, singer songwriter Kazufumi Miyazawa (center) talked about the Worldwide Eisa Festival.

July 7, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011, which aims to establish a new style of “participatory Eisa” as a world standard, is scheduled to be held at Onoyama Stadium in Naha City on October 15 and 16.


While the festival has been held under the name “The National Eisa Festival” until last year, it has changed its name in association with the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival scheduled to be held at the same time in October.

The Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011 includes a “Creative Eisa Contest,” which invites various groups from within the prefecture, other prefectures and overseas to compete to impress and energize the audience and deliver something creative, “Traditional Eisa,” in which 18 groups of junior troupes from the prefecture are scheduled to participate, and “Chimdon Stage," (Get Excited Stage) in which the groups that want to exhibit Eisa and drum performance strive to entertain the audience.


At a press conference held on July 6, Daiichi Hirata, a member of the Festival Executive Committee and the head of the Department of Culture, Tourism, and Sports in the Okinawa Prefectural Government, said, “While we respect traditional Eisa and think that creative Eisa does allow young people to more easily participate, we want to create a new style of Eisa, one that is even more participatory and interactive, a style through which people will be able to start new friendships.”


Singer songwriter Kazufumi Miyazawa, who composed and sings Shinkanucha (Fellowship), a song for the “Creative Eisa Contest,” said, “There are many people like myself living in other prefectures and other countries of the world who love Okinawa and are concerned about its future. I wrote this song in the wish that those people’s hearts would be united.”

For further details and for applications, call the Worldwide Eisa Festival 2011 Executive Office at 098 (867) 2622.  For the official website for the festival, access


Then if your still around at the end of October you can attend the Shurijo Castle festival on October 28-30 2011. At this festival you can feel the pleasant autumn breeze, and visit Shurijo Castle to travel back in time to the Ryukyu Kingdom era! The festival will feature Ryukyu dance performances and recreation of Ryukyu King Coronation Ceremony by Chinese envoys.

The highlight of the festival, magnificent Ryukyu Dynasty Procession, will take your breath away, as a cast of 1,500 performers parade down the vibrant Kokusai Street in colorful and gorgeous costumes. Meet the dignified King of Ryukyu, elegant Queen, and numbers of Kingdom officials and entertainment parties. It is more than just a dress-up. It is a revival of the prosperous Ryukyu Dynasty into the present!







Friday, July 22, 2011

The 5th World Uchinanchu Festival is coming! Here's the Scoop.

The first World Uchinanchu Festival was held in 1990 to promote cultural awareness among Okinawans and their friends and relatives scattered around the globe. It has since become a tremendous promotional event for Okinawa Prefecture. Each time the festival is held it seems to attract more and more overseas participants which are wonderful for the Okinawan economy.
The planning that goes into this event is tremendous and the Okinawa prefecture really goes all out to welcome back uchinanchu people who many times have been long removed from their Okinawan culture. This year’s festival will take place on October 12th through the 16th and includes many cultural events.
It all begins unofficially on the eve of the actual event October 12, 2011 from 4pm to 6pm on a street called Kokusai Dori. Okinawa Kenjinkais from around the world converge on Kokusai Dori a downtown street in the capitol city of Naha for a festival eve parade. These groups form up with their associations and parade from one end of the two mile stretch to the other in garb that is representative of the areas around the globe from where they came. It is a joyous occasion and is quite a sight with both tourists and Okinawan relatives alike lining the sides of the street to catch a glimpse of the spectacle their returning loved ones in the parade.
In the past the event has been mainly focused on these uchinanchu visitors returning from abroad to their homeland. This time though I have heard there will be an effort to bring the more members of the general public to the festival grounds to participate. This is probably the reason they picked the Okinawa Cellular stadium as one of the main venues for the event.

There are a number of events that will take place during the festival at different venues. Some are exclusively for visitor from overseas and others are open to the general public. My wife and I attended the festival in 2006 and it is simply amazing the amount of effort that the Okinawan people put into this event.
There will be a champuru exchange festival and a world bazaar which runs from Friday (10/14) through Sunday (10/16) at the stadium in Naha. These are two of the events that will be open to all including the general public. I particularly liked the world bazaar because there were booths of all sorts and one gets the feeling of a carnival atmosphere. There were plenty of cultural foods available including many from South America where many Uchinanchu emigrated at the turn of the 20th century. At the last festival the empanadas were my personal favorites as they were made fresh right there on the spot. Nothing like fried food Mmmmm! There is also an outdoor stage where continuous performers display their talents. Okinawan music abounds as well as other forms of entertainment.
There will be a dedicatory Karate and Dance performance on the 13th and 14th during the festival demonstrating how Karate and Okinawan Odori are intertwined. Performances are at 11:00am to 4:50pm on Thursday and Friday. Other events include a Soccer Tournament that is being hosted at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium on Friday October 14th from 10 am to 5pm and an International Gate ball Tournament which will be held in the same location the following day from 8:30 am to 5:30pm. A Karate and Kobudo Exchange Festival also takes place on Friday and Saturday at the Budokan Martial Arts Hall at Onoyama Park and there will be the NHK Nodojiman singing contest held on Saturday and Sunday at the Naha Citizens Hall.

Registered participants with overseas groups have a tremendous opportunity during the festival as there is a structured flow to the events they can participate in. Events include formal opening and closing ceremonies, and a special performance of King Sho Hashi - Dynamic Ryukyu. They can also participate in the world business fair to strengthen business ties around the world with Okinawan businesses.
The 5th World Uchinanchu Festival is being organized by the Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa International Exchange and Human Resources Development Foundation, and the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Support is also being provided by the Cabinet Office, Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, The Japan Foundation, the Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education, and cities, towns and villages across Okinawa.
The Festival Goal is to prepare the next generation of Okinawans to carry on the achievements of previous generations and maintain, deepen and enrich the network of Uchinanchu around the world.
Organizers for the 5th World Uchinanchu Festival say it has three specific goals for participants and spectators to take away: First to confirm the Okinawan identity, the core and essential basis of the Uchinanchu Network, second to nurture and prepare those upon whom the future of the Uchinanchu Network depends, and third to contribute to the continued expansion of all phases of Okinawa Prefecture's global relationships as we look to the future.

Our gracious hosts have done much to make your experience a memorable one. They have accomplished a great task in your honor so let's help them make the event successful! Also, please be gracious and thank the representatives and organizers you meet during your stay. For once we meet we are all brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nuchi du Takara - Live is a Treasure

I have a friend in Northern California whose mother is Okinawan and whose Father is American. She is one of many children brought into the world as a result of Americas occupation of Okinawa after WWII. She is a recent Berkely University Graduate and has been working on grant to produce the following film. Here is the email I received from her recently.

Hey family and friends,
For the past 6 months or so, I have been working on a very short film project documenting the stories of Okinawan women in Northern California who survived the Battle of Okinawa with the support of a major grant. The film was co-produced by: Wesley Uenten, Keiko Yamanaka, Daisuke Miyake of Crosswater Productions, and myself. Our team of two prominent professors, a professional filmmaker, and myself collected many stories and whittled those many hours of interviewing down to 15 minutes to be put into a video for high school and college students in the US. It was a long and painful process (we wanted to include so many stories, angles, issues-- but they just wouldn't fit into the 15 min format required by the grant). The video is being shared temporarily on youtube (link below). I narrated the film and interviewed some of the women featured. It's still going through a few transformations (clarifying the narration) before it's made into the actual film to be distributed to schools and universities.

My mom and my auntie Aiko is shown at the very end in the form of a quick picture in the collage. I hope you all enjoy it. It's only 15 minutes. Please wait for the full length version after my return from Okinawa!

love,

mitzi

Well I asked and was granted permission to use the film on Youtube to coincide with my project site as Uchina Goodwill Ambassador. I hope you all enjoy it as it is a great piece of film to help future generations remember the horrors of war.

Here's the film

Friday, July 1, 2011

Goya Trellis in my Garden

Yesterday I spent my day building a trellis for my garden. I already had some trellis from last years Goya crop but because I expect good results in the garden this year and the fact that we are not only growing Goya but also Lufa gourds which are a type of gourd from Okinawa that is good for soup. We are not sure that they will grow here in our northern climate but we are hoping! Anyway here is a short video of how I spent my day yesterday. Enjoy!!