An Okinawan Superstition….an example perhaps.
Welcome back. Its been awhile, and a new friend reminded me of this endeavor and I may continue. We’ll see. Anyways….its an opportunity to project some thoughts and share. With the new year quickly approaching, perhaps its time to rethink and revisit this site and other things in my life. The same probably holds true for you; the reader.
If you are a Rooster (I like to think of myself as the Phoenix as connotated in some cases though my kids think that is a bit boastful; akin to a rooster), this year was probably a very difficult year. And for those who don’t rely heavily on the zodiac, etc., well you probably should dismiss this article and go watch some CNN or FOX.
It is always fascinating to read and dwell lightly of course on articles about the zodiac…. or Farmers Almanac, or even biorythms… like, how scientific is this? Coincidence? Luck?
Like the song by Linkin Park, “In the End”, a great song by the way, does it really matter ultimately? i.e. if it is luck, chance, scientific if it is significantly true? At the least, its irritating a bit to know, and even more troublesome when things seemingly happen that way. Or did it happen to happen because of unconsciously happening? (lol, Matrix 1 – was Neo really going to knock the vase or was it because the Oracle mentions it? …did you figure that one out?)
I could go on and on, but I will spare you. However, I will share a very Okinawan superstition. Why Okinawan, well, my mother is Okinawan, and raised me, yup, with the stories, superstitions, and all that goes with it. Some still sticks with me, while others I have nestled safely away from remembering for awhile.
YUSHUSHO – 2nd level koto contest aka “challenge” – July 2017
Trying to incorporate a chapter into a few paragraphs will be a record for me, so let me try.
It was Father’s Day (June 18, 2017), and my daughter (inagungwa) had noticed something I already did but she is more animate about this, I already knew and processed it and feared it as well. There’s a baby bird on the grass not too far by the car. Then no. 2 son also recognizes this and takes interest. I knew that this was not chance. To an Okinawan, raised with the older generation and spiritual outlook and at times superstitions, well, it was more. I immediatedly made plans, and I took the bird in.
My family was astonished. How do you know so much about taking care of baby birds? I said; I have a past life that includes many things. (funny how the kids underestimated that homeschooling mom had a life before) Adding as a child how I had that experience in Hawaii raising a young cardinal that was shot by a bb-gun (wounded right wing so he was grounded) and also with baby sparrows over the years. So the intracacies of handling, feeding, etc was natural for me while they were overwhelmed and surprised with my ease and comfort. Ok, to the point….
Premonition? Chance? Coincidence? Okinawan superstition?
“Chirpy”, yes, the bird, was indeed happy and chirping. I was very anxious about leaving on my trip to Okinawa. There was a laundry list of reasons, not suitable here and now and at varying degrees of private. Anyways, not that far from the top was my concern for “Chirpy”. And a knowing…. (some dismiss the idea or notion of empaths, …. if you are one, then you understand what I am saying and dismiss this ignorance, as it is real and evident for those who are.)
So, with a host of issues and reasons not to take the test in Okinawa due to personal reasons, …. I had no alternative. Pass or fail, …. the trip was “on”. It wasn’t a matter of being ready, … Oh,…I was ready. And in fact, …. another story, but I was told I passed last year yet didn’t. So, …there you go, with so much going on…. (the stories, oh the stories I could tell- wow) just a host of bizarre things to deal with. Well, my outlook was this. To walk away with something regardless if the odds were against me, superstition or not, health or not, personal or not. *If I fail, I gained experience and made acquaintances and got to train with Master koto players, which is a wonderful opportunity in and of itself. And if I pass, well,… it was supposed to happen anyways, and one less thing on my “to do” list. So just go to Okinawa!
Sunday, July 3rd. Left on an early flight, 1st segment of the trip to Okinawa. Completely without any warning…. a Chirpy text.
“Chirpy” was great when I left, happy, active, and growing so well over the past 2 weeks under my care. I am now checking my messages at the Toronto airport, on board with only minutes to spare when 2nd son texts me,… Chirpy is not doing well, and he thinks is dying! (wtf) I told my daughter immediatedly and she could see my dispair. I go back and forth on texts and so upset as I felt there was lack of care and attention while I was gone (only for a mere few hours!) Until finally,….. sadly, I got the text, “Chirpy is in Heaven”. I looked at my daughter, we both cried and tried not to make a scene, it was so heartbreaking and so overwhelming not being able to do a darn thing. Helpless. It was our personal moment, and with that we both knew it meant one thing. My yushusho was already determined. We looked at each other later, we knew, it meant I would fail. Then it immediatedly began to rain to signify and magnify the saddness in heaven as well. We both were still crying, soo heartbroken and feeling helpless so far away. Already we were not happy with making the trip. (Afterall, things like this don’t happen on my shift!)
Ultimately the day came for the test. Prior to the test, I was not doing well in Okinawa health-wise. (Although my koto playing was very good and was told I was now at 100%, I was sleeping a lot and felt severe fatigue.) The allergist advised me and my daughter and even wrote a note indicating (I was indeed thinking of canceling the trip) that we should not go. So that coupled with personal things not being right back home, allergies, and being dehydrated in Okinawa – things were definitely stacked against me. I also always have trouble adjusting to the weather in Okinawa and my poor eating habits again only compounded the problems. It didn’t matter how talented I or anyone is, or prepared, that only gets you so far…. without proper health, the body can’t function.
Test day – I was now on stage and the lights are so bright that you feel as if you are being interrogated as seen on tv since; you can’t see anything beyond a few feet. The stage lights are also unusually hot. So wearing the formal kimono with the long sode/sleeves also become somewhat getting used to but that was not the issue. In the midst of the utter midnight darkness beyond the lights, papers rustling (judges), coughs, sneezes, etc the sounds from the audience are as loud to me as a speaker as I am normally hyper sensitive. …thinking…. It is paramount to now focus on one thing and one thing alone….playing these 2 songs properly – just one time, and its now….so I told myself over and over, … Helen, play them right! (you got this)
Well, I was lightheaded all morning….was it the lack of caffine or change in diet being overseas? Not sure, but it was real, and now suddenly my number is called and up I go. Another minute of self composure would have been nice,…nope….its “show time” and its on every screen – every floor of the Okinawa Times building in Naha, Okinawa.
I was now well into page 3 of a 6 page song (Rokudan), and had a “moment”, it was a micro moment of lightheadedness (the strong stage lights just got to me) before I knew it I just caught myself. But, it was too late; fatal. (as quick as a blink I recall) I ended up repeating a small section of p.2 (realized it) so I then finished and re-did page 3 properly to demonstrate that I (a) recognized the error and (b) to demonstrate that I knew what was wrong and fixed it. Looking back,..its weird,… I never had an issue with making that error so why it happened was indeed a bit frustrating.
The transistion in spite of the error I must add was done very well, and that to an untrained ear, it would have gone unnoticed but to a judge – now that’s different. However, I conducted myself professionally inspite of the fact that a part of me died, was dying all the way through knowing I commited the ‘fatal error”. With each passing miserable second I am wondering why I wasn’t asked to stop, why are the judges allowing me to continue if I have no chance at a recovery? And as each passing second went by, I also felt somewhat reassured that I could have grace, that perhaps if I execute the rest in perfection that it would be considered, and perhaps an exemption could be made. After all, continuing was no easy feat. Once I knew I did the error, I litterally felt like taking off the koto picks and throwing them in disgust to get up and then walk off the stage….I know that sounds badly but true. I was so mad at myself among other things. (These thoughts wonder and plague me as I play yet, I did not show it.)
So, this is all happening quickly and I am trying to focus. I mustered strength with each passing second, and did my best because I believe it is about showing, about demonstrating inner fortitude, about demonstrating my knowledge of the musical piece and ability to execute that would be more important regardless of a “pass or fail” as it would be an attestation and reflection of my character. So with confidence and composure, I continued and executed the instrumental piece and then moved on to the 2nd song (which contained lyrics). In all, its about 12 minutes, but each second after that error was like an eternity. (much like when I was working at the bank and we experienced a robbery or for others, any traumatic event in which every second is exaggerated) Again, a learning experience and I am grateful for the opportunity. I did learn much from the trip. I also recommend if folks have the opportunity/means to take a proficiency challenge, test, or visit their school (performing or martial) that they do so. There’s no place like Okinawa.
Needless to say, my daughter and I was not shocked at the outcome as I shared why I was prepared with “Chirpy’s story”. (Interestingly, a similar unusual event happend the year prior.) I was a bit disappointed with the judging. If I was not called out, meaning asked to stop playing, that signified a chance. In addition, my entire performance should have been evaluated and considered, especially traveling from America (not the doorsteps of Okinawa), the fact that I am traveling with my daughter and have her welfare on my mind and responsibility, the other reasons I mentioned….with all that, the challenge should, in my opinion be based on ABILITY. The question and evaluation to be for such an international contest should be: did the performer understand the pieces and execute it properly, professionally, and with proper grace? Based on that allocate points, and as such grade on “pass or fail”. Honestly its way too subjective which also means it depends on who were the judges that year.
So, ..of course, it doesn’t make things better, but I understood the sign; these things happen often to me.
A curse perhaps, or a gift? Still unsure but I grew up hearing from mom and her sister how I was “born different” in this context, and it was an “Okinawan” thing. Uggh. And how an Okinawan performing artist (master) also believed this belief along side with her. It can get to you afterawhile. (For further reading, look up a book called “Ancestor Worship – Okinawa’s Indigeous Belief System” by Matayoshi Trafton or what Okinawan’s call “yuta”. Note to share, some another time.)
So, in retrospect,… as you can understand,….. I am eager and looking forward to 2018.
Lastly, on the Chinese zodiac, I learned that I should have worn red this year. Apparently, one should wear red if it is your year because it helps (good luck). So I was on occassion faithful to this rule…. so if you see someone wearing red, it doesn’t mean it’s their animal year, but typically, if they follow the Chinese Zodiac, a girl may wear a beaded bracelet to signify such as I learned in class. Some folks are probably more dilligent than others in taking this seriously. (OMG, we will be late to Chinese class…… lil helen …we need to leave now!)
Let’s all make time to reflect on 2017, be thankful, and welcome 2018. Be safe.
As for me, I’ll look into being a bit more prompt in communicating overall…., catching up on other things that got pushed aside as 2018 approaches. Sorry, I got a bit lazy with FB.
Here’s to a great day, and a Happy New Year (soon to come 😉
Chirp Chirp ~
A private and personal matter of my family (and of any family) should be respected.
For example, in my case, my father’s memories should not be tarnished by a woman, even by his wife (my mother) or by strangers. I miss my father, and my children would have benefited tremendously if they had such wonderful person in their life. Mother wishes to publicize wrong doings of certain family members and details of family things, some are inappropriate in my opinion. A book should be for the family by the family or blessed by the family members, not contested. Nor should it share inappropriate details for money. If this book is to better society/humanity without causing an intrusion on family privacy, that would be beneficial, but to cause such controversy, accusations, and harm is inappropriate.
Aloha & Hai-tai mina-san,
It is especially enjoyable when family unites to practice and play together. It brings warm feelings of comfort for me (in such a cold place like Virginia during the winter) to know one day my children will have something to share among themselves as siblings and ultimately to share their cultural journey with their children. They will remember dad taking the pictures and video just as I do with fond memories. They will also know my struggle but hopefully continue my quest as theirs, to make more progress in learning about their heritage than I did as I feel I am at a dead end at times. Though I will do my best to get the answers so they won’t have to struggle like I am/have been. It’s just that as time goes by, it seems that the folks who have the memories of any relatives will no longer be around as well as pictures. I wish I knew my grandparents on both sides, but with respect to my Okinawan side, I do not have pictures of my mother’s parents as she has never had them, yet, my hope is that my journey will enable me to piece together as much of our family connections (pictures, history, etc) as possible.
Although I have yet to learn my grandmothers full name, I believe she also shares our experiences and joy. She is with my mother, I have told her, yet my mother doesn’t know what I am saying. My biggest fans are my family (Okinawan family like Tsuruko) who are not here but passed who support me through such difficult times though my Okinawan journey. It is difficult to explain and also very difficult for most to understand.
Well, my initial thought was that my daughter (inagungwa) would perform Asadoya Yunta dance. However, her interest and independence prevailed. She preferred and took a liking to 小浜節 Kumoma Bushi (also called Kubama) so I kept an open mind. She did much better in practice than on stage but that isn’t important to me, it is much more important that she had the chance and memory of dancing with her friends and 2 brothers playing sanshin and dancing for the first time with me. It was important for her to express herself and share the beauty of Okinawan culture.
Thank you to all who support us, and taking the time to read this note.
Slowly over what seems to be a very long period of time, I have been able to gradually learn more about my Okinawan Identity. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult if I lived near mom in Hawaii, perhaps if I spoke and understood Japanese I could speak with elders of the community, or perhaps if I was able to visit Okinawa and Saipan I could do the research I want to get the answers and resolution I seek. After all, I have also sought to one day visit my Uncle Chogi (Fukuhara) in Koza where my mom is from (grew up) and pay respects to all those who passed (due to the war) with my mom and my family. I want Uncle Chogi to know he isn’t alone and very much missed and loved by his sister (my mother) who hasn’t been to Okinawa since she left to get married (50 years?).
Learning has been a journey, a sad one especially for my mother to recollect events and her childhood. I am collecting these memories and information as we are working on a way to share this. I have found myself very sad to learn things I never knew growing up in Hawaii. (I wonder … Would knowing this back then have changed my life or the direction I took with respect to my Okinawan identity and if so how? Could I have changed anything and/or would I?)
How does then one write a book and share this? If I was a film maker, I would want to do this more from a documentary stand point as the result of the war which devastated Saipan and Okinawa. I wish to enlighten the younger generation as well such as my children or even my generation (my age) and share this background/perspective. Encouraging the younger generation to be proud and more involved (i.e. cultural community events) and to interact with the older generation more (i.e. their parents) with more love and understanding. Honestly, this applies not only to Okinawans. Being proud of one’s identity applies to all of us and we can all learn about ourselves by learning about others.
So, learning about my identity has honestly been overwhelming at times which has distracted me much not only from the radio show (Radio Okinawa by Tuigwaa-chan) which I enjoyed. Researching my Okinawan Identity has been very much emotionally draining at times. I also have been struggling with various health events which also makes doing the things I want a luxury so I try to find satisfaction in the little things I find I can do and take things one day at a time. Okinawan dancing and sanshin are two simple things I find I can do which ease my mind and not too difficult to do at any time of day. Recently, I have taken a deeper interest in martial arts and it’s origin (history) as well as styles. (I have always been interested.) However, Aikido in particular and the philosophy has helped me. Here’s an interesting Youtube link. Since I see martial art applications in Okinawan dance, I wish to learn all I can. Okinawa as an island nation naturally had an exchange of many things to include martial arts which is part of it’s culture.
Well, we live in a fast paced world and time flies so don’t forget to share love with your loved ones.
Give your parents (or even friends) a hug ~ even if it is a virtual one.
Cheers for now,
Chirp ~ Chirp 😉
Hai-tai and Aloha! Chirp~
Here’s what I remembered dancing in Hawaii. It will take me time to get back into actively performing, so here’s something I can watch to monitor my progress.
The next dance is a popular Okinawan dance called Hatoma Bushi. This is a young man’s dance which has some karate like movements and it is full of rhythm and spirit. The dancer proudly portrays the beauty and pride in his island of Hatoma which is one of the outer islands of the Yaeyama Island group. This lively dance also portrays a good harvest and praise to the lush green trees, ample grain. Off in the distance are sailing ships which are being waved at. Here’s Hatoma Bushi.
Thank you for listening to my chirps and watching this small bird dance!
Hai-tai (Hello) Mina-san (everyone).
Yes, I know its been awhile since I have chirped. Due to personal events, planning for our local Okinawan activities here in Virginia which will occur later in April, and just a host of things, well, my chirps have been only whispers. Sorry about that. Over the summer, I hope to get back to flying high again and chirping. 😉
Here’s the latest… I recently had the opportunity to perform Okinawan dance again. While growing up in Hawaii, I danced extensively but that was some time ago. So here’s my 2nd chance at Okinawan dance which is such a blessing and gift.
Well, thank you for watching.
Chirp Chirp ~
Another nice song….hope you enjoy it too!
Tuigwaa-chan ~ chirp chirp ~
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
Chirp chirp this morning ~
This is such a great happy sounding song…but was so challenging. I still don’t quite have it down. Oh, well, here’s my progress with this song. I hope to one day look at this and smile… yet at times, these have been such frustrating days.
Both Japanese and Okinawan can be very difficult to pronounce for me as I strive for perfection in how I play the sanshin and sing.
My mom in Hawaii finds these videos enjoyable when I do send and I appreciate the comments and sharing how over time my playing evolved. Meaning…it will hopefully get better. Mom played a lot of Okinawan music growing up; after all she was homesick for Okinawa and isolated from her few surviving siblings among a host of other sorrows from the war. I can really hear her happiness when she hears me practice and has been so supportive enduring my sanshin over the phone.
So regardless of what you aspire, no one can support you if they don’t know you need it. And with more practice and time, the hard work will hopefully pay off. But also important is that one finds what they are doing enjoyable at the same time.
For me…although I get frustrated…I have to say that most if not all of my frustration..well at least a big part is that I tend to be a perfectionist and knowing I can’t get it perfect is irritating. I seek to learn and want to know so much but limited. However, I also know that the more I seek to do well, that again in time perfection will naturally come. (so knowing that perhaps balances it…hope that one made sense)
Ippe nifee debiru/thank you very much. Another chirp by Tuigwaa-chan. 😉
I just love this song and hope you enjoy it too.
Tuigwaa-chan ~ chirp chirp ~