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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2007

Group is preserving Okinawan traditions

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

From left, Norman Kaneshiro and Eric Wada play lutes called sanshin. The instruments will be at an Okinawan music and dance workshop tomorrow.

Christina Liu

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Workshop on Okinawa's music and dance as connected to its history and culture

5-9 p.m. tomorrow (registration begins 4:30 p.m.)

Jikoen Hongwanji Hall, 1731 N. School St.

$5 donation suggested

Details: 292-8862 or 294-9152; www.ukwanshin.org or http://ukwanshin.seesaa.net

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ukwanshin Kabudan member Eric Wada performs a classical court dance in June at the Uruma City Performing Arts Theater on Okinawa. Wada's costume, made of banana fiber, will be at a workshop about Okinawan music and dance tomorrow at the Jikoen Hongwanji Hall.

Tarumi Kengo

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There are certain things Eric Wada wants people to know about Okinawans, including the significance of their traditional songs, details of their royal past, and similarities they share with the plight of Native Hawaiians.

Wada and other members of Ukwanshin Kabudan, a performing arts group, will present these topics and others at LooChoo Nu Kwa (Children of LooChoo), a workshop tomorrow at the Jikoen Hongwanji Hall, in Kalihi.

"The Okinawans used music and dance as a connection to pass down oral history," said Wada, one of the event organizers.

The event emphasizes the importance of preserving the Okinawan identity and the traditions of Okinawa Japan's southernmost prefecture that consists of scores of islands. Young Okinawans of Hawai'i is one of the supporters of the workshop.

Presenters will discuss perpetuating the "Ryukyu traditional legacy," said Norman Kaneshiro, another event organizer and member of Ukwanshin Kabudan. "We use 'Ryukyu' instead of 'O-kinawa' to refer to all of the cultural groups that were governed by the Ryukyu kings based in Okinawa.

"By using this reference, we would like to remind people of Okinawa's royal past, when it was a sovereign nation, and that they are not just an annex of Japan," Kaneshiro said.

The workshop will include a history presentation and panel discussion with Okinawan cultural experts. There will also be demonstrations with traditional dance costumes and instruments, including the sanshin, a three-stringed snakeskincovered lute.

"I think my big concern is that ... we're forgetting about our roots," Wada said. "We need to realize who we are, where we come from and that way, we appreciate other people."

Presenters will discuss similarities shared between Native Hawaiians and Okinawans people of a kingdom overthrown, then subjugated by outside rulers.

"Like any colonized people, or island people, the culture and their identity is very, very vulnerable," Kaneshiro said.

Organizers will also share their experiences from a trip in June to Okinawa, where members of the performing arts group met with Okinawan elders.

"We realized when we went there that that generation that connects us to the past ... (is) going to be gone within the next few decades," Wada said. "And if we don't do something to preserve (the traditions), ... Okinawa is going to be gone and it's only going to (exist) in name."

The workshop is so much more than a lesson on history and culture, Kaneshiro added.

"I hope that (participants) walk away with a stronger sense of self and what they need to do to contribute to the world," he said.

Organizers welcome anyone interested in learning more about the history and traditions of Okinawa.

Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com.