Kempi students from Argentina, China, Bolivia, Peru, and the U.S. participating in the Grand Sanshin Gathering during the 2016 Worldwide Uchinaanchu Festival. (Photo courtesy of Maiya Gessling)

Every year, the Okinawa Prefectural Government offers scholarships for young Okinawans (ages 18 to 35) to study in Okinawa for one year (April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021).

Titled the Okinawan Emigrants’ Descendent and Asian Scholarship Program (or colloquially known as the “Kempi Scholarship”), “this program selects talented youths of Okinawan descent living abroad … to participate in exchange study at a host university or training at local businesses or traditional arts facilities. Participants have the chance to not only deepen their understanding of Okinawan history, culture, and customs, but also to grow into exemplary individuals capable of actively serving as a bridge between their home country and Okinawa.” (excerpt from the official application)

This exciting program offers three options:

• Study at one of Okinawa’s universities (including Japanese language)

• Six months at a university and six months training at a company

• Study a traditional art (e.g., sanshin, dance, textiles, lacquerware, sanshin or taiko making, cuisine, etc.)

Application requirements include, but are not limited to: basic conversational Japanese skills (higher proficiency required for certain programs and to train at a company) and a relative or family friend who lives in Okinawa to act as the applicant’s guarantor.

Applicants must be members of their local Okinawa kenjinkai (prefectural association) and apply through that organization. If selected, the applicants will be representing that organization and their home country. Current members of the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Southern California are asked to contact the office for the application form: (310) 532-1929,

The OAA’s application deadline is Sept. 27. Applicants are encouraged to pick up and read through the application as soon as possible because it will be a highly extensive process including an essay written in Japanese and an interview with the OAA’s selection committee.

It is highly recommended to attend the scholarship information session at the OAA Center on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 4 p.m. Contact the OAA office if you are interested in attending. The OAA Center is located at 16500 S. Western Ave. in Gardena. The information session will take place in Room 103 of the office building (the parking lot is located behind the buildings off of 165th Place).

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