Karleen Chinen

Out of space. Out of time. Out of energy. And, oh yes, the office A/C was off, which made us feel like we were working in a sauna as we worked on our annual Okinawan Festival edition three weeks ago.

Space really was the real issue. There was no more space in the issue to write the commentary that had been stewing in my head for several days. In a way, it all worked out, though, because feedback to the issue came in almost immediately. In addition to the festival information, readers were impressed with all of the feature stories because they enhanced their knowledge of the Okinawan community. One woman who identified herself as a longtime Herald subscriber emailed us that Friday night, asking if she could purchase extra copies of contributing writer Dan Nakasone’s story, “From Yaaninjyu to ‘Ohana,” about the 35th reunion of his now-five-generations-old Wahiawä Nakasone family.

I returned her email, asking whether she was a member of the Nakasone ‘ohana. She said she was not, followed by a sad face emoji.

“I envy the entire ‘ohana for having had that experience of keeping in touch in such a way and hope that they will continue to gather together for the younger generations, so they, too, will share in the experience and be proud of the ties that bind them all together,” replied Grace.

The Nakasone ‘ohana looks to its Issei ancestors, who planted the family roots in Hawai‘i in the early 1900s as that strong tree from which grew many family branches. Because those Issei remained a tight family unit, so did their children, and their children’s children. I hope the little Gosei Nakasones will grow up proud of their family and its roots in Hawai‘i. I hope they will grow up knowing that they are the new branches in this strong tree. I hope they get to know their cousins and aunties and uncles and realize their role in keeping their family heritage alive. I hope they take to heart the wise words of Nisei Uncle Jimmy Iha: “Keep the Family Together.”

And among those young ones, I hope there is a budding Dan Nakasone — a “curious George” of sorts and the collector and disseminator of family stories — who sees a photo on the family butsudan (Buddhist altar) as a youngster and never lets go of the image, always asking: Who is that young boy and why is his picture on our butsudan?

Family is one of the strengths of Hawai‘i’s Okinawan community. Not all, but most Uchinanchu, know their family in Okinawa, be it an aunt or an uncle, or a cousin of their mom or dad. Most Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei and even Gosei know the village that their Issei ancestors left to come to Hawai‘i to start a new life. They may never have returned to that village to live, but they never severed the ties with family back home and it became another source of pride and identity, another connection to the ancestral homeland for the generations that would follow them.

Connecting with family and one’s ancestral village in Japan or China or Ireland . . . anywhere . . . isn’t exclusive to Okinawans. It is there for anyone of any race or ethnicity to explore, discover, connect with and celebrate.


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