Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
“Okinawa is such a beautiful place, not just the ocean and scenery and culture, but the people. I’ve been treated well and taken care of by many people here in what has become ‘My Hawai‘i.’” — Colin Sewake
Last month, my good friend and fellow Okinawa-Hawaii Kyoukai member Masaji Matsuda invited me to the Yuibuyou Yomitan Group Ashibi’s dance practice in the rehearsal room at the Yomitan Bunka Center. Kiyoshi Miyagi — in the yellow shirt — leads the overall group. The Yomitan area leader is Mitsue Oshiro — she’s wearing blue jeans and the navy blue T-shirt with the navy blue and white tenugui around her neck.
The group has been practicing their dance routines every Monday night for an hour and a half in preparation for their performance at this year’s Okinawan Festival in Honolulu. They’ll leave for Hawai‘i in a few weeks. I hope you’ll catch their performance at the Hawai‘i Convention Center on Labor Day weekend. They’re scheduled to perform on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 1:45 p.m. Go say “Aloha!” and tell them you read about them in The Hawai‘i Herald! They’ll be thrilled!
Location: Nagahama and Takashiho in Yomitan-son, June 2018
In early June, I returned to Okinawa after having spent most of the month of May in Hawai‘i following my father’s passing. My first weekend home was spent unpacking and getting settled in. After catching up with my church friends at Sunday service and attending an afternoon meeting, I called my friend Masaji Matsuda to see if he had time to catch up about my Hawai‘i trip and the latest Okinawa happenings.
He was free so I drove to his house in Takashiho. Before going inside, he told me to follow him to his backyard, where he had already started growing this year’s crop of göyä (bitter melon) plants. Like his previous crops, they were magï . . . huge!
We went inside to catch up on goings-on in Hawai‘i and Okinawa. That’s when Masaji-san told me about the 2018 East-West Center Obuchi scholarship recipients. I knew that Hiroaki Hara from the Okinawa Prefectural Library had been selected as a recipient, but I didn’t know that Shiori Yamauchi was the other recipient.
Shiori was born and raised in Okinawa-shi (Okinawa City). Her father and grandfather were from Yomitan. After Shiori graduated from high school, her father moved back to Yomitan and built a house in Nagahama, on the other ridge.
Shiori had been working as a teacher at the Okinawa AMICUS International School in Uruma-shi. She lives nearby and had some free time, so Masaji-san invited her over so we could talk about Hawai‘i, the HUOA, Hawai‘i Uchinanchu and other subjects while enjoying some delicious dishes Masaji-san’s wife Etsuko had prepared such as göyä salad and göyä champuru (stir fry).
We assured Shiori that there would be lots of support from the Hawai‘i Uchinanchu during her two years in Hawai‘i. We also encouraged her to visit the Hawaii Okinawa Center and attend and participate in the Okinawan Festival — the Yomitan Club might have another volunteer for their booth this year.
Before leaving, Masaji-san gave Shiori his backyard göyä tour and explained how he documents in detail the growth of his göyä for future reference. When we returned to the front of his house, we checked out some of the flowers that were still in bloom on the hisuikazura jade vine.
Masaji-san is such a talented gardener — his plants always produce fruits/vegetables and flowers. I taught Shiori the phrase “green thumb” — and told her that it was an apt description of Masaji-san.
Colin Sewake is a keiki o ka‘äina from Wahiawä, O‘ahu, who was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa in December 1994 to fulfill his U.S. Air Force ROTC commitment. He met his future wife, Keiko, within a month and decided to make Okinawa his permanent home. Colin retired from the Air Force and, recently from the Air Force Reserves. He now works as a customer service representative for Hotel Sun Palace Kyuyokan in Naha. Colin and Keiko have two teenaged children and make their home in Yomitan.