The 2013 Wakamono Taikai, a gathering of Uchinanchu (Okinawan) youth from around the world, was held July 18 to 21 at the Ken Miller Recreation Center in Torrance. Among the countries represented were the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the Philippines. The festival included panel discussions, workshops, food and performances.
Above and below: Sanshin player and singer Byron Fija (Higa) gave a concert at Gardena Buddhist Church on Saturday night as part of a national tour. He was joined by Ryukyu buyo dancer Joseph Jones, and the entire audience was asked to get up and dance for the final number. Fija, who was also a speaker the conference, advocates the learning of Uchinaaguchi (the Okinawan language) as a way of understanding one’s culture and heritage.

Speakers included Wesley Ueunten, assistant professor at San Francisco State University’s Edison Uno Institute, who also performed on the sanshin. He is pictured with Yuko Yamauchi, a board member of the Gardena-based Okinawa Association of America.
Novelist and playwright Jon Shirota (“Lucky Come Hawaii”), pictured with his wife, Barbara, was part of a panel on “Uchinanchu in Arts and Entertainment” along with (below, from left) Janice Kinjo, makeup artist to such celebrities as Mary J. Blige and John Legend; Gena Hamamoto, independent film producer and assistant director at UCLA’s Center for Ethnocommunications; and Tamari Miyashiro, 2012 Olympic silver medalist with the U.S. women’s volleyball team. Other topics included “Uchinanchu in Leadership,” “Multiracial Identity” and “Okinawa and the Future.”

Above photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

Photo courtesy of Noriko Tokuyama Chung



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