Guest Educator, Tom Ken Yamamoto, travelled on Peace Boat's 94th Global Voyage for Peace and Sustainability from Acajutla, El Salvador to Honolulu, Hawaii. A fourth-generation Okinawan who lives in Hawaii, he is a past president of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association (HUOA), an organization that preserves and promotes Okinawan culture, arts and history. While the 94th Voyage docked in Honolulu, Tom led a group of participants to Hawaii Plantation Village, where the group were able to view replica houses of those who immigrated to Hawaii to work in the sugar plantations, particularly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The houses contained artefacts such as furniture and photos that identified the different nationalities of those who came to Hawaii including people from Japan, Puerto Rica, Portugal and Korea.
Participants learned that people from Okinawa, because of their different language and culture, created a strong Okinawan community in Hawaii, and were recognized as hard workers. Participants also heard that the immigrants from different parts of the world brought parts of their cultures and customs to Hawaii, so the theme of the plantation village is a melting pot of different cultures - which is how Hawaii is now recognized.
The participants then travelled to the Hawaii Okinawa Centre in Waipahu, where they were warmly welcomed by staff of the HUOA with flower garlands made of kukui nut (the state tree of Hawaii). At the centre, participants learned about the organization and more history of the immigration of Okinawans to Hawaii. Participants could also make their own Sata Andagi (an Okinawan doughnut), and were taught about the techniques needed to perform shishimai - a dance involving two people working as a team in a lion-dog costume - which is performed during festivals in Okinawa.
Participants also heard about some of the history of Okinawa and Hawaii's relationship, including how after the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 there were a lot of relief efforts made by Hawaiian residents to Okinawa because they had relatives living there during that time. HUOA member John Itamora also shared details of one of the relief efforts that saw his grandfather with six other men bring 550 pigs to Okinawa as aid.
The meeting was also an opportunity for a few of the participants to show some of what they had learned at the hula, ukulele and sanshin (Okinawan three-stringed instrument) workshops Tom had been leading onboard the ship. The day finished with everyone joining in with the kachashi - an Okinawan folk dance that is usually danced at the end of banquets or parties. "I am in Hawaii and met some people with their roots in Okinawa. It was a very fun day", Hashimoto Mai from Hyogo in Japan said.