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World Uchinanchu Day Oct.30 (What it means to be Uchinanchu)

(The main stage in front of Nago city hall )

【Introduction】

When I was studying in Tokyo at my Japanese language school my teacher asked me why I

chose to go to a university at Okinawa, the south most of Japan to live there for 4 years. Well

many people said a lot of negative things about Okinawa. Like very inconvenient

transportation system, having less entertainment facilities, and the one I cannot tahan the

most, they’re not part of Japan and they kind of look like southeast Asians. Before I get into

the explanation of it, let me clear up something first. Don’t get me wrong Japanese are NOT all

racist, and some of them are the nicest people I’ve met and they really helped me out a lot,

especially when I was working part time in Tokyo. But really, sometimes they can say pretty

offensive words when they communicate with another culture without even realizing it

themselves. I’ve been asked many times do we watch tv or have car or even dress properly in

Malaysia *srsly* *rolls my eyes* *facepalm* (when they see a mat salleh even worse). But all in

all they didn’t mean it in an insulting way, they just asked the questions because they’re

curious about it. Don’t say in Japan, even in Malaysia we say racist things. (trust me, being

Malaysian Chinese, having curly hair and darker skin I know). From all my encounter with

Japanese, I made a conclusion that they just have less understanding and knowledge of

another country or their culture, (just like I don’t understand how they eat raw eggs lol) and

most of them never encounter people with another culture, thus leading to misunderstanding

and discrimination on other races like Nikkeijin (Japanese emigrants from Japan and their

descendants that reside in a foreign country) Ainu (an indigenous people of Hokkaido and

Russia) and Okinawan (orウチナーンチュUchinanchu as the call it in Okinawan language, ウ

チナーぐちUchinaaguchi).

Many Okinawans fled the Battle of Okinawa during World War 2 to find better lives and work

for their children. Most of them went to countries like Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Hawai’i.

Some of them came back after the war and some stayed there and build families and

communities. For many years Okinawa prefecture has funded Okinawan nikkeijin students

from Brazil, Argentina, America and more to come back to Okinawa to learn about their roots

and culture. I’ve made friends with them and each one of them has their unique stories about

how their ancestors immigrated to other countries and the hardships they faced there. The

most touching thing I felt through everyone’s stories is the love they have for Okinawa and

how they make sure to pass it down to their children and grandchildren. Even though most of

the second and third generation of Okinawan nikkeijin doesn’t understand Japanese, they still

try to learn more about their roots.

The Uchinanchu Day is to celebrate the meaning to be an Uchinanchu, no matter where you

are, where you come from and what your skin color is. (sounds like semangat satu Malaysia

riiiiiiight). Since 1899 Okinawans had emigrated to many countries, and now the estimated

population of Okinawans living abroad are 420 thousand people. During last year’s 6th

Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival, the establishment of World Uchinanchu Day has been

decided at October 30th. Their motto is as below:

Today, we want to say something to the Uchinanchu of the world.

We Uchinanchu have it all.

We have the power to shape the future.

We have hope for the future.

We have the valor to set off into the world.

We have the generosity to forgive each other.

We have the spirit of mutual aid to help each other.

We have a rich traditional culture.

We have the fortitude to overcome difficulties.

We have gratitude for our ancestors in our hearts.

We have love for our families in our hearts.

We have love for all those we meet in our hearts.

We have love for our ancestral home in our hearts.

We have a love for peace in our hearts.

We Uchinanchu are proud to be Uchinanchu.

And we Uchinanchu are one.

As we do every five years, the Uchinanchu of the world have gathered once again, and once again our hearts have become one.

Let us celebrate the fact that we are all Uchinanchu.

Let us celebrate today, October 30th, as the day when the Uchinanchu of the world came together, and let us call it “World Uchinanchu Day.”

Let us establish today, October 30th, as “World Uchinanchu Day,” and let us engrave it with pride on our Uchinanchu souls.

I am proud to stand before you to declare this day “World Uchinanchu Day.”

This most auspicious of days will forever be known as “World Uchinanchu Day.”

Congratulations to all the Uchinanchu from all over the world!

Ippee nifee deebiru.

(From the left, Higa Andres, Governor Onaga and Isa Tadashi Andres )

The World Uchinanchu Day is established by Higa Andres and Isa Tadashi Andres who are

both descendant of Okinawans that came back to Okinawa and is declared by the Naha City

Governor Onaga, and organized by Nago City International Association. (fun fact: Tadashi

Andres graduated from Meio University and is now one of my professor in Meio University

lol). The aim of this event is to reunite the scattered Okinawans from all around the world, and

fight the stereotypical meaning of being an Uchinanchu. It is very important to let the world

and especially the Japanese society know the identity of Uchinanchu. Uchinanchu is the

protector of Okinawa, of its culture, of its beautiful flora and fauna, of its beautiful seas and

most importantly the spirit of Uchinanchu.

【The event】

The event started at 6 o’clock with a presentation slide show about last year’s World

Uchinanchu Festival.

After the slide show, a group of primary and junior high schoolers run into the stage from the

streets. They have been running 2 hours before the event from 聖火宿泊 (a torch

accommodation monument built to remember the Tokyo Olympics in 1984 at Higa city) to

pass over a sash to the Nago City Mayor.

This is a tribute for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This ceremony symbols how the

Olympic flames never extinguish, the spirit of Uchinanchu never perishes too (but because the

ones running the relay are junior and primary students so they replaced the flames with a

sash).

(The mayor receiving the sash from the students )

The next performance is the かぎやで風 (kagiyadefuu dance). It is a traditional dance passed

down from the Ryukyu era and is performed during special ceremonies. This time, the dance

is performed by a group of 7 trainees that are actually also descendants of Okinawa from other

countries. (They are actually my kawan doing an exchange program for 6-12 months in my

university so we live at the same dormitory lol) .

(They look so cute in their traditional costume performing )

They’ve been practicing this dance almost every day for 2 months before this event. (I saw

them at the common room practicing a lot so I was so proud of them when they performed on

stage) (luckily they didn’t messed it up like they did at practice jkjk)

(The exchange students taking a group photo backstage in their traditional costume.

Later the mayor gave a speech but I was feeling a little hungry so I went to hang out at the

food corner. (sorry not sorry) (lapar sangat ke kak). There are soooo many Okinawan food I

wanted to introduce like taco rice and Okinawa soba but I’m just gonna stick to the stick to the

food they sold there that day.

【Food】

   

From the left : あんだぎー (andaagi) Okinawan style brown sugar donuts, pumpkin flavoured

andaagi, peanuts flavoured andaagi)

   

From the left: ニューハーフ(new half)an Okinawan street food (deep fried minced fish,

chicken wings and vegi) kinda looks like corndog, ジューシー(juicy)Okinawan cooked

flavoured rice with pork ribs and mushrooms inside (mmhmmm), takoyaki, andaagi.

Me posing for this シークヮーサーstall commercial a type of fruit that looks and taste like

citrus. They gave me a free sample afterwards so it was worth it.

Had fun playing with the hat and taking pictures for more commercial

I gave up my image for this so remember to buy shiikuasa juice when you come to Okinawa har.

This burger stall. The only thing I bought from this convention The vegi inside it is 100%

organic and looks and taste awesome!!!

---------------------------

The next programme is the Eisa (Okinawan traditional matsuri dance) performance by pre-

schoolers!!! They look ABSOLUTLY CUTE in their little eisa and shii-sa costumes(okinawa’s

guardian god that kinda looks like Chinese 麒麟 QiLin). The little performers come from 3

different kindergarten and ranged from the age 3-5. They definitely stole the hearts of many

audience, especially the parents, and showed how young they start to learn Okinawan culture.

(They look so happy performing!)

(Roar!! We are scary and we ward off bad spirits to protect Okinawa!!!

The children dressed up as shiisa)

For the next programme they closed the lights of the area. It was projection mapping on a tree

directly opposite to the stage. This was the time I saw a projection mapping on a tree and it

was breath-taking. The picture is very blur (I’m sorry) because it was too dark to take any

pictures. The story starts with lots of insects and wood creature crawling on the trunk. There

were butterflies, grasshoppers, ladybugs, woodpeckers and squirrels that lived on the tree. But

then everything changed when humans attack (lol avatar reference). The colors of the tree

started to fade into greyish black and the trunk poisoned from chemical fertilizer. But then,

one day a man showed up to protect the tree and it lived for another 300 years! After that the

tree lived as the color of its leaves changed from green, pink, orange for years and years and

years. The colors, shading and the narration of the whole story really tells the importance of

taking care of our ecosystem. It also shows how much the Okinawans love their nature and

surrounding. How they portray the tree itself as a Uchinanchu is really an important reminder

to children that our surroundings are also a living thing and is part of us as who we are.

Right after the mapping projection was a choir performance by the Nago Junior Chorus,

formed by students from 7-18 years old. They sang 4 songs, which is 今日から明日へ(kyoukara

ashita he)、てぃんさぐぬ花 (tinsagunu hana)、だんじゅかりゆし (danjyukariyushi)、and the

famous 島唄(shimauta). My favourite song was the last shimauta, which Fish Leong (梁靜茹)

covered in Chinese as 不想睡 (BuXiangShui). I heard this song before in Malaysia and I was so

excited when I found out it was actually a classic song from Okinawa. (srsly go listen to it).

The last programme for the day was cheerleading performed by the Meio University

Cheerleading Squad (yay!! Go meio go!!). Naturally, the guys were weirdly excited and were

wooing when the girls came out. *rolls my eyes at them* The cheerleading team did many

awesome splits and fancy flips. At the last moment, we all cheered for Uchinanchu together

and yelled “UCHINANCHU” 7 times (lol merdeka ke?) with the mayor and the two Andres.

For the closing ceremony, everyone danced the Ryukyu Buyou (everyone waving their hands

in the air to the sanshin music)

(The two Andres giving a speech before the closing ceremony.)

(The foreign exchange students taking pictures with the two Andres on the stage after the ceremony.)

Me taking a picture with the two Andres and my two Japanese friends. I’m the one with the

awkward thumbs up pose. My favourite pic of the day

【Closing】

I really had fun participating this event and is really honoured to write an article about the

first ever World Uchinanchu Day in history. Through this event I’ve experienced the warmth

of Uchinanchus. Though the understanding of Okinawan culture is less known compared to

the mainland Japan culture, people like the two Andres are really taking effort and raising

awareness for those who identify themselves as Uchinanchus. I want to be part of the people

spreading this positive message and I really hope this article will trigger those who are reading

this, especially Malaysians could come to Okinawa and experience this feeling. In the end of

the day, we all became one as Uchinanchu. Thank you so much for reading this I hope I

offended no one. Here’s a potato.

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SITA留学生取材チームの他のメンバーの記事を読みましょう~

 

英語記事:http://si-ta.com/world-uchinanchu-day-max/

 

韓国語記事:http://si-ta.com/world-uchinanchu-day-kim/

 

ポルトガル語記事:http://si-ta.com/world-uchinanchu-day-bianca/

 

中国語(繁体)記事:http://si-ta.com/tw/world-uchinanchu-day-yang/