A Look Back at 2014

2014 Collage

Written by Joseph Kamiya
OAA Culture Committee chairperson

We know that this list doesn’t do justice to the wonderful year we had — what were YOUR favorite OAA moments of 2014? Let us know in the comments section!

New Year's Party 20145) The president’s song at the New Year’s Party
I may be wrong, but I don’t think there are many association/kenjinkai presidents who would be willing to sing karaoke in front of over 500 of their members at their organization’s annual installation luncheon! The OAA’s current president Shingi Kuniyoshi entertained the OAA New Year’s Party guests with a popular Okinawan love song, “Juku nu Haru.” The playful duet, sung with OAA Karaoke Club chairperson Setsuko Fujimoto, was definitely one of my personal highlights from the luncheon and a great way to kick off 2014! (photographed by Stuart Yamashiro)

El Marino Eisaa 2 El Marino Eisaa 1

4) Elementary school eisaa at the Bazaar
We were very excited to have several new faces performing at this year’s OAA Bazaar, including 25 students from El Marino Language School! OAA members have volunteered for the language immersion school’s Children’s Day Festival for the past three years, cooking huge batches of saataa andaagii for the students and parents to enjoy. The volunteers had great things to say about the students’ eisaa performances, so we were grateful that El Marino teachers Alice Horiba and Saori Sekiguchi accepted our invitation to play at the Bazaar. The third grade students (separated into groups of 12 and 13) drummed away to a crowd-favorite, “Ashibinaa,” with the second group also leading kachaashii/atchame at the end of the day! (photos provided by El Marino Language School)

Irei no Hi 20143) OAA’s Irei no Hi (Uchinaa Memorial Day) event
This year, the OAA held an Irei no Hi event to commemorate the end of World War II’s Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Organized by the OAA Bunka-bu (Culture Committee), the event consisted of two short documentary screenings (“Himeyuri” and “Typhoon of Steel”), a lecture by Ayano Ginoza (research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women), and a special Skype video lecture by Keiko Itokazu (Okinawa Representative in the Upper House of Japan’s national legislature, speaking live from Tokyo, Japan). Approximately 150 people attended the free event, including a couple of elder members who experienced the devastating battle firsthand. It was an emotionally-heavy afternoon, to say the least, and hopefully the beginning of an annual remembrance. (photographed by Joseph Kamiya)

Minyo no Yuube 2014 Minyo no Yuube 2014

2) Spontaneous dancing in the audience
Whenever Uchinaanchu gather, one thing is always guaranteed to happen: dancing! At the OAA’s biennial Minyo no Yuube (An Evening of Minyo) recital, I could remember at least three occasions where individual audience members got up and showcased their best atchame moves… and this was BEFORE the kachaashii finale where everybody was invited to dance together! Of course, the kachaashii finale was also a sight to be seen, with Yasuo Fuchaku (current president of the San Diego Okinawa Kenjinkai) displaying some of the most lively dancing I’ve seen all year! In a related note, here’s a great idea for a 2015 New Years Resolution: “I will enthusiastically dance kachaashii/atchame at the end of every OAA event that I attend!” (video frames provided by Joseph Kamiya)

1) OAA volunteers!
When I really think about it, my fondest memories of 2014 were made with the OAA’s amazing volunteers. The late night meetings and early morning setups were definitely stressful, but working with so many dedicated Uchinaanchu (and Uchinaanchu-at-heart) made it worthwhile! In particular, it was fun brainstorming new ideas for our 2014 Bazaar, which the OAA’s major annual fundraiser. Hiroshi Yamauchi once again did a great job as chairperson and we had many young Uchinaanchu helping to organize. Ippee nifwee deebiru (thank you very much) to all of the people who donated their time and efforts to the OAA, helping to make this another memorable year!

Check out our 2014 volunteers gallery:
Please note that not all volunteers are pictured in this gallery… we wish we could include all of you here!

Honorable Mentions:

  • OAA Picnic: For this year’s rajio-taiso (Japanese morning exercises), we played a recording done entirely in Uchinaaguchi (the language of Uchinaa/Okinawa Island) with members of the OAA’s Uchinaaguchi Class leading the exercises (photographed by Paul Bannai)
  • OAA New Year’s Party: Atsushi Gushi (traditional Okinawan drums) and William Logan (jazz drums) wowed the audience with an improvised “drum-off” with Yuki Shingaki on sanshin (photographed by Stuart Yamashiro)
  • Nisei Week Grand Parade: 27 dancers and 24 flag carriers represented the OAA at this year’s Nisei Week Grand Parade in Little Tokyo
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