Sharing Uchinanchu Aloha … In Fukushima!

Sharing Uchinanchu Aloha … In Fukushima!

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Akemi Martin-Sensei presents the senbazuru (1,000 origami cranes) to Takashi Ejiri, director of the Tourism Exchange Division for the Iwaki City Government, as the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii members (from left) Jonathan Loomis, Melissa Ching, Christine Kim, Katie Tokunaga, Nikka Kahalekulu-Nakama and Alex Au look on.
Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii members performing in the shadow of the Shioyazaki lighthouse (top, far right). (Photos courtesy Melissa Ching)

Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii members performing in the shadow of the Shioyazaki lighthouse (top, far right). (Photos courtesy Melissa Ching)

Melissa Ching
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Was it destiny, or simply chance that led to the unexpected connection between our Okinawan eisä taiko group, Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii, and an Iwaki City high school hula group from Fukushima Prefecture?

Last summer, Marian Moriguchi, who is involved with travel and tourism in Fukushima, arranged for a group of high school students from Iwaki City to visit Hawai‘i. The girls had won a hula competition in Iwaki and were given the opportunity to travel to Hawai‘i to share their hula and stories of their community’s recovery following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011.

RMD Hawaii member Christine Kim invites a Fukushima resident to hit her odaiko.

RMD Hawaii member Christine Kim invites a Fukushima resident to hit her odaiko.

As Mrs. Moriguchi, who also serves as a liaison between Fukushima Prefecture and the Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai, waited for the girls to get ready for their performance at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, she was surprised to hear another group performing to one of the songs the Iwaki girls had chosen to dance. Through a twist of fate, both our groups had decided to perform the song, “Umi no Koe” just an hour or so apart at the exact same location — the Iwaki girls to hula and our group to eisä taiko. Amazed by the coincidence, Mrs. Moriguchi approached our sensei, Akemi Martin, to ask if our group could stay to watch the girls’ performance.

While we definitely enjoyed and admired their award-winning hula, it was the stories the hula students shared about their hometown that left the deepest impression on our members. We were truly moved by their very personal recollections of that day when the tsunami came ashore and changed their lives forever. One student shared the loss and heartbreak of her grandmother having been swept out to sea. Other students spoke of their homes being devoured by the tsunami. We were amazed that in spite of the tragedy, the students remained remarkably optimistic. Rather than getting bogged down with the heartbreak of the past, they were focused on the future and the tremendous revitalization efforts going on throughout Fukushima Prefecture. They explained that it is safe to travel to Fukushima, adding that because the farmers hold their crops to the highest standard, produce from Fukushima is among the best in Japan. Inspired by the students’ stories, we began dreaming about visiting Fukushima and seeing with our own eyes how far they have come.

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RMD Hawaii member Jonathan Loomis invites a kimono-clad girl from Fukushima to make some noise on his shime daiko.

RMD Hawaii member Jonathan Loomis invites a kimono-clad girl from Fukushima to make some noise on his shime daiko.

RMD Hawaii member Nikka Kahalekulu-Nakama especially enjoyed visiting Azuma Farm and picking and eating a fresh peach right off the tree. (Photo by Yumi Sakuma Watanabe)

RMD Hawaii member Nikka Kahalekulu-Nakama especially enjoyed visiting Azuma Farm and picking and eating a fresh peach right off the tree. (Photo by Yumi Sakuma Watanabe)

 

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