Ryukyu Shimpo – Roger Yamada (~ Fukuhara 普久原)

Based upon Roger’s interview for an article in Ryukyu Shimpo (an Okinawan Newspaper), and through the divine help of Google and Yahoo translation, along with some research, well, here’s my interpretation of how the article from the Ryukyu Shimpo should read if it were translated into English.  I also have added some information to help it flow better. The Japanese version can be found here.

Each Kenjinkai has a form of Okinawan culture inheritance to future (next) generation. In the Washington DC area, a young man is actively involved in the traditional performing arts of Okinawa very positively. His name is Roger Yamada (19). He is a prestigious sophomore at Virginia Tech. His Okinawan grandmother (who currently resides in Hawaii) was born in Saipan (war orphan) and at a young age relocated to Okinawa with only a few surviving siblings and mother.  Roger began learning sanshin a year ago under the influence of his mother (half Okinawan).   He acquired an interest and demonstrated a keen ability with sanshin quickly and thus become eligible to join and perform with the sanshin group in Washington DC.   In April 2011,  he performed at their Shin Shun Kai (April Festival).   Also, at this year’s New Year party (Shin Nen Kai), he performed with his family (Roger with his younger brother and sister, and mother) played sanshin to Asadoya Yunta.   Roger also plays sanshin at a restaurant with his mother during his college breaks as it is difficult to practice while away in school.   Additionally, Roger has studied Okinawan martial arts.   In high school,  he studied Okinawan karate and has continues his interest while away at college.  Roger currently lives in a college dorm which takes about five hours to drive from home.

Roger has always loved math, and this interest started at a very young age. He is a Mathematics Major and recently added a double major of Computer Science.  This was possible as Roger was accelerated in high school (dual enrolled at the community college where he earned an Associate Degree in Science with a Mathematics Specialization) upon graduation from high school. Roger was homeschooled throughout high school which gave him the flexibility of pursuing his interests academically, with extracurricular activities (i.e. math, science, chess competitions), with family assistance and with volunteering (i.e. math and chess).  Upon graduation,  Roger was awarded the Raytheon Bonus Scholarship of $20,000.  (This scholarship is for those pursuing degrees in Math or Science.)  This was made possible as Roger won the MathmovesU scholarship by the same company in middle school of $1,000 who matched this amount and gave it to his middle school at the time.   Additionally, Roger has won the Educational scholarship from the Okinawa Kai of DC that year and previously was recognized with a Cultural Award.

Roger explains his dreams of the future which includes obtaining a Ph.D. in Mathematics and to see how far he can get with Computer Science. He also says he has another dream which is to visit Okinawa with his mother and grandmother to see things he has heard so much about but not seen nor quite understands.  He also hopes to meet his Great Uncle (Chogi Fukuhara in Koza).

His mother says, it has been very difficult for her to find her own identity and frustrating and doesn’t want her family to face this situation.  Living on the East Coast, with a lack of family (especially Okinawan side), has been a challenge.  As she learns more she is able to share with her family. Yet, understanding Okinawa, Okinawan culture, and appreciation has been much harder for Roger and his siblings as it is intangible and can only be realized through the love (sanshin and odori/ryubu) his mother shares at home. He has always been proud and continues to be very proud of his Okinawan identity even at times when it is awkward and even sometimes a foreign feeling for him as beyond that there is still so much to learn to understand. Yet, as a young man he continues to be very proud to be Okinawan. He hopes that he will get to understand his roots one day. Roger continues to remain active in a number of extracurricular activities coupled with an aggressive course load.

In particular, Roger is the sophomore club representative (officer) of Math Club and competes in math competitions.  He adds:

“This includes planning math oriented talks by alumni or companies who are looking for those majoring in something math related. This also includes talks by professors covering topics which are of interest to them. Some of the previous topics last year were: Zeta functions (has to do with summing and infinite series), multidimensional spaces, and on Pi Day (March 14th) interesting/useful properties of the number pi among other things. No knowledge of the talk is required and each meeting is typically presented in a watered-down fashion.”

Roger adds about his other club called Programming Team:

“Programming team on the other hand is drastically more dictated by knowledge. There is no real requirement other than the ability to learn in a somewhat fast paced environment. We work on programming problems in which efficiency is extremely important and so, it is important to know or at least learn about certain data structures. One such example would be implementing a queue. A queue is a structure where the first piece of data input is the first one to be looked at or removed. This is typically what we experience as a “line” for grocery shopping, if you are going to be taken from the line before the person behind you. This is not always the case mind you, as sometimes it is important to do the reverse. Back on topic, we usually are looking for a way to compute some optimized value such as, given some lines of data, how would you pick out the ones that you desire based on some criteria. Keep in mind that hundreds or thousands or possibly more lines will be provided and we are looking for something that won’t take too long to run.”

Roger has been active volunteering since middle school (i.e. chess, charity, math). However, in high school, he actively volunteered teaching middle school mathematics (Mathcounts) and chess.  And at this year’s New Year’s party (Okinawa Kai of Washington DC), he was responsible for the sound and audio. Roger has demonstrated that volunteerism is important not just excelling in one’s studies. Also, at home he is also a family minded, compassionate, and dependable older brother to his much younger sister who requires care and brother. Roger is a young man looking forward to the future and with that brings hope for Okinawa Culture in the DC area.

Correspondent: Tamiko Suzuki ~ Ryukyu Shimpo

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About Tuigwaa-chan

Searching for my Okinawan identity through sanshin and ryubu (dance), and hope to inspire our younger generation to take a more active role. I also advocate education and when appropriate homeschooling.

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