The culture of Okinawa and the Ryukyus is different from that of mainland Japan. A long history as an independent kingdom, the influence of ancient China and more recently decades of American military presence have created a unique culture.
The Nippon Gallery in New York will hold “Okinawa Art in NY” Exhibition from June 20 – July 27th, 2012. Artists include renowned Seikichi Tamanaha (painting), Yoshiharu Higa (photography), Michiko Uehara (weaving), and other Okinawan artists living abroad. There hasn’t been anything like this before in the United States, and Okinawan Art is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.
Last year in early November, environmental artists Tim Collins and Reiko Goto were invited to the Ryukyu University to run a workshop on how art can visually express the importance of biodiversity.
Traditionally, Okinawans have worshiped nature. Holy grounds known as utaki are usually in forests and by rivers, sometimes an entire island. Approximately 400 to 500 utakis exist in Okinawa, including the upstream of Sembara pond behind the Ryukyu University’s Northern Cafeteria.
Workshop participants saw the Kyuyo bridge across Sembara pond as a gateway to the biodiveristy of Okinawa and creatively conveyed this message with a performance art using leaves.
For those with daring taste buds, toufuyou is a must-eat cuisine only loyal families ate during the Ryukyu Kingdom era. Fermented with jiuqu, moascus purpureus, and awamori, toufuyou is a reddish tofu delicacy, rich like urchin meat (meaning it’s creamy and thick). If you’ve ever tried Chinese fermented bean curd, you have an idea of what it might taste like.
Directed by Koichi Onishi, “Sketches of Myahk” is a documentary film about traditionally inherited chants in praise of God and sacred songs of Miyakojima vanishing in the time. The film received Special Mention by Semaine de la Critique of Locarno International Film Festival 2011.
Night rainbow, Lunar rainbow, Moonbow, space rainbow. There are many names you can call it. Gekkou （月虹）is a rainbow produced by moonlight, usually faint and appears white to the human eye. This incredible natural phenomenon which is believed to bring happiness was observed by the Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory on January 7th, 2012. What a beautiful start for the New Year!
Toumaiahkah is an Okinawan version of Romeo and Juliet created by actor Ganeko Yaei in 1911.
The Romeo of this story, Tarukani from Akajima (阿喜島), falls in love with Umichiru. Sprung, he writes poetry for Umichiru, but she burns them… Doesn’t Umichiru sound like a heartbreaker? What we don’t know is that she kept the portion of the letter because she secretly desires Tarukami (turns out she is a tsundere instead). Eventually, love grows between the two, and they become bonded by a special relationship. Continue reading →
Okuyama no Botan (English title: The Peony of the Deep Mountains) is one of the famous, tragic Okinawan Plays along with Iejima Handuguwa and Toumaiahkah.
Due to his father’s dissipated life, the son from a loyal family lived in the countryside where he fell in love with a woman named Chi-rah. They had a child together; however, their relationship was not approved due to class differences. Wishing a better future for her son, Chi-rah decides to let go of him go and disappears into the deep mountains. (It’s also said Chi-rah is separated from her son by the loyal family’s servants.) When her son grew older, he travels to find his mother. However, a tragic ending awaits the two…
The play was written by Inchiki Ihara (伊良波尹吉) who was born in Yonabaru-Cho in 1886.
Written by Yukou Majikina (真境名由康),Iejima Handuguwa (伊江島ハンドー小）is an Okinawan play considered as one of the three tragic love stories of Okinawa along with Okuyama no Botan (奥山の牡丹) and Toumaiahkah (泊阿嘉).
The story takes place 180 years ago in Iejima. A deputy landlord’s son, Kanah-hee, traveled to Hentona in mainland Okinawa where he falls in love with a beautiful girl named Handuguwa. However, Kanah-hee’s uncle forces him back to Iejima, splitting the two. Depressed and unable to forget Kanah-hee, Handuguwa travels to Iejima, but a boatman on board warns Handuguwa not to go and looks after her. Continue reading →
Founded as a part of Discover Okinawa Promotion Project for Island Tourism, DOR39 collects and displays photos, videos, and other media from voluntary participants with the purpose of sharing their island experiences and bringing more visitors to 39 islands off of Okinawa. For more information, here’s an article from Ryukyu Shimpo in English: http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2011/12/08/4034/