Dropping in on Nagahama roujinkai (elder neighborhood group) friends playing gateball recently, including friend Shimori Toma (on the sidelines wearing long-sleeved blue jacket)
Dropping in on Nagahama roujinkai (elder neighborhood group) friends playing gateball recently, including friend Shimori Toma (on the sidelines wearing long-sleeved blue jacket)

Colin Sewake
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

HAPPY 18TH ANNIVERSARY AND SLAB PARTY

Location: Nagahama, Yomitan, May 3, 2017

Happy 18th Anniversary to Keiko and me! No, it’s not our wedding anniversary — we were married Aug. 8, 1996, and celebrated 20 years last year.

May 3, 1999, was the day we moved from the Miyagi area of Chatan to Nagahama in Yomitan after our two-story house was completed. Of my 22 1/2 years of living in Okinawa, 18 of them have been in Nagahama.

Groundbreaking for our house was held on Dec. 3, 1998. A few months after the block walls with reinforced rebar steel were built up, three cement trucks came to pour the foundation, fill the holes in the blocks and fill in the form for the second floor. I remember the construction workers sloshing around in rubber boots, trying to control the huge hose that looked like an elephant’s snout when they were pouring the foundation. The house was boarded up for a week after the pouring was finished to allow the concrete to dry.

Once the house was closed up, we held a “sura-bu pa-tei,” (“slab party”) which, apparently, is done only in Okinawa, because houses in mainland Japan are built with wood. It is customary for Okinawan house owners to buy lunch and drinks for the construction workers, so we ordered a couple of “o-doburupüpü platter-type trays and I also bought a few pizzas from on-base. Keiko’s mom cooked some food and we bought sodas and beer, as well. We used plastic Orion Beer crates and wood planks to make the tables and benches and ate in the parking area. For some reason, I remember the Shimakutuba (another term for Okinawan language) word, “pi-tu,” (pee-tooh) that one of the workers taught me, which means iruka, or dolphin.

I can’t believe that it’s been almost two decades since Keiko and I moved to Nagahama. I thought you might find this write-up on slab parties interesting because it is a very unique experience to build a house overseas and to go through some of the cultural events related to the building process.

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Our 18-year-old family home in Nagahama, Yomitan. (Photos courtesy Colin Sewake)
Our 18-year-old family home in Nagahama, Yomitan. (Photos courtesy Colin Sewake)

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