Kariyushi Kai (http://www.kariyushikai.org/), the Okinawan Classical Music and Dance Society, is one of several interesting groups that will be performing and presenting at our 8th Annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Celebration in San Mateo on May 10, 2008. Norman Masuda is the Executive Director of Kariyushi Kai.
Here is our interview with Norman Masuda.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have been studying Uta-sanshin (Okinawan classical music) since July 1979 when I was introduced to and began taking lessons from my teacher, Harry Seisho Nakasone. Nakasone Sensei (Teacher) was the first American-born Okinawan American to attain the highest degree in the Nomura School of Okinawan music. Thanks to my teacher, I have learned Okinawan music and have been able to continue studying under him.
Tell us about Kariyushi Kai - what does your name mean?
Kari means "luck" and Yushi means "good," and Kai means "organization or society"= The Good Luck Society
What is your mission?
Our mission is to introduce Okinawan culture and music/dance (performing arts) to the community and also to help Okinawan-Americans to keep in touch with their culture.
How did it all begin?
A group of students of music and dance decided to start this group in 1984 and we have been doing it ever since.
What does Kariyushi Kai current do?
We have practices on Sunday mornings twice/month and perform for various functions. Last year, we performed at Los Gatos High School ( five evenings )for their production of "Rashomon."
During our first meeting, I learned a little about how Okinawan culture shared similarities with Chinese culture. This was completely new to me. I believe most Americans share my ignorance about Okinawa and might at most remember it for the WWII battle fought there. Please tell us a little bit about the history and culture of Okinawa.
Okinawa was an independent kingdom called Ryukyu until the 15th century. Later, Okinawa paid tribute to Ming and Qing China as a tributary and was also subject to control from Japan. In the late 19th century, Okinawa was annexed to Japan and has been so ever since.
Please tell us about Okinawan music and dance - the differences and similarities to other forms and its uniqueness.
Okinawan music and dance owe much to the cultures of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. The musical tonal system is similar to that of Indonesia, the costumes owe much to Chinese and Japanese clothes, and the themes of the dances have been influenced by those of China and Japan.
Okinawa developed its own music and dance and poetry that were set to music. Musical instruments include the Sanshin (from the Chinese sanxian) later transmitted to Japan as the Shamisen. The Kutuu (Japanese koto), Hanso (flute), and teeku (Taiko drums).
With issues of Tibet in the news and how many Tibetans are struggling for some autonomy and cultural freedom, do some Okinawans also wish for more autonomy and cultural preservation? Is Okinawan culture even being lost in Okinawa?
Okinawans, although citizens of Japan still retain an identity as Okinawans and have a language and culture that are unique and different from that of Japan.
Do you have some idea about the size of the Okinawan American population?
In Hawaii, Okinawan-Americans are about 10% of the Japanese-American population.
There seems to be a sizable population in the San Francisco Bay Area region. Are most Okinawans American concentrated in this area or where else?
The largest group of Okinawan Americans are first in Hawaii, then Los Angeles and San Francisco. San Francisco once had a large population of Okinawan American, but they moved south following the 1906 earthquake.
Are there any records about when the first Okinawans arrived in the US? Any idea as to when that might be?
The first Okinawans arrived in Hawaii in 1900.
Tell us about your appearance and performance at the San Mateo Asian Pacific American Heritage Celebration
Our music teacher: Harry Seisho Nakasone, honored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Japanese Government for a lifetime achievement as a career in Okinawan music
Our dance teacher: Mitsuko Toguchi, head of her school in Hawaii and part of the Ryusei Honryu Yanagi no Kai in Okinawa.
What will you be performing at our event?
Our group will be performing:
Kajadifu - Performed on all happy occasions as the first dance and music of the program.
The words are:
To what do I owe the happiness I feel today.
It is like the morning dew on the budding flower.
Musical Interlude - Tachiutushi and Aha-Bushi (a song of celebration)
Kayui buni - The ferryboat - about a ferry that traveled between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.
Nubui Kuduchi - A young man's dance about an envoy from the Ryukyuan court traveling to the Satsuma Clan in Kyushu.
Tell us about the discussion/demonstration that you will also be doing after the performance, in our in door demonstration area?
We will be showing the musical instruments and talk about the dances performed.