CARSON — The Okinawa Association of America celebrated the Year of the Rabbit at its first New Year’s party since the pandemic on Jan. 15 at the Carson Community Center.
Nearly 300 people attended, plus 75 volunteers and approximately 70 performers.
Part 1, emceed by Emily Ishii, opened with performances of Okinawan classical music and dance — “Kajadefu Bushi,” “Unna Bushi,” “Guin Bushi” and “Udui Kuwadisa” — presented by Miyagi Ryu Toyomukai; Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai Los Angeles Shibu, Nomura Ryu Koten Ongaku Kyokai and Ryukyu Minyo Kyokai Hokubei Shibu (sanshin); Ryukyu Sokyoku Koyokai Los Angeles Shibu (koto); and Mitsufumi Ryu Taiko Hozonkai Gushi Atsushi Renjo.
A “Year in Review” video created by Ishii and Joseph Yoshimasu Kamiya was shown and a moment of silence was observed in memory of members who passed away over the past year.
OAA President Edward Kamiya greeted the gathering and presented certificates of appreciation to outgoing board members Helene Shimane and Yumiko Kyan and Fujinbu (Women’s Association) Chairperson Mieko Shima.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who was born in Okinawa, installed the 2023 Board of Directors: Brian Arakaki, Noriko Tokuyama Chung, Yoneko Nakamura, Vicky Oshiro Nishiuchi, Joan Oshiro, Michel Toguchi, Aiko Tokunaga, Yoshihiro Tome, Amy Oshiro Tran and Kristin Yamauchi.
The 2023 chairpersons are: Building, Edward Kamiya and Harold Kameya; Culture, Joseph Yoshimasu Kamiya; Computer Class, Cindy Arakaki Wicker and Violet Nishihara; Fujinbu, Joan Oshiro; Geinobu (Performing Arts), David Yoshimichi Shinjo; History, Yukikazu Nagashima; Kajimaya Seniors Club, Yoneko Nakamura; Karaoke, Vicky and Mitsuo Nishiuchi; Library, Monica Solis; Membership, Yuko Yamauchi; Scholarship, Noriko Tokuyama Chung; Seisonenbu, Yoshihiro Tome and Hiroshi Yamauchi; Uchinaaguchi, Chogi Higa; Young Okinawans of Southern California, Michel Toguchi.
After the introduction of past presidents and honored guests, including Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda, the kagami-biraki or sake barrel ceremony was conducted by Kamiya, Muratsuchi, Chihana Watanabe of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai President-elect Kazue Kitagaito, OAA Past President Chogi Higa, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California Past President Kitty Sankey, and raffle grand prize donor Tamiko Uyehara of Uyehara Travel.
Those who were born in the Year of the Rabbit were invited onto the stage for a karii or kampai (toast).
Mutsuko Uehara emceed Part 2, which began with performances of the buyo (classical dance) “Shoshun no Mai” by Miyagi Ryu Noshokai; minyo (folk songs) “Toshin Aratamati” and “Hana Ashibi” by Emiko Hanashiro Ryukyu Minyo Kenkyusho; and man’s classical dance “Katami Bushi” by Yoko Kono of Miyagi Ryu Toyomukai.
Masao Tobaru sang “Hashi” (Bridge); the musical ensemble of William Logan, Shigeru Logan and Kernan Weggler performed “Variations on Eisa Melodies”; Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate Kobudo Association gave a martial arts demonstration.
There were performances of the woman’s classical dance “Mutunuchibana” by Amy Ono Oshiro of Majikina Honryu Aigen no Kai; the minyo “Uchina” and “Shurei no Shima” by Nishikawa Atsuko Ryukyu Minyo Kenkyusho; and the man’s dance “Minatokuri” by Miyagi Ryu Noshokai.
With Harriet Furuya and Ken Furuya of Grace Ohana Gospel Ukulele Troupe providing music, hula dancers Angelica Thompson and the Verano Sisters, under the direction of Bea Thompson of Kawehi ‘O Napua, performed “That’s the Hawaiian in Me,” “Uluwehi O Ke Kai” and “E Lili Ue.”
The raffle drawing was held on stage, with round-trip airfare to Tokyo from Uyehara Travel as the grand prize. Tamiko Uyehara pulled the ticket belonging to Pearl Shoho, who was not present.
The program closed with Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Los Angeles Branch’s performance of “Kudaka Manjushu,” “Shima Uta” and “Mirukumanari,” and Kachaashii/Atchamee dance led by Yoshiaki Chinen and Tysai Hamagawa, with everyone in the audience invited to join in.
Upcoming OAA activities include:
Spring — Okinawa Craft Fair (April 29, OAA Center parking lot)
Summer — Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa (June), Picnic, Scholarship Awards and Okinawan Bon Dance (July)
Autumn — Keiro Kansha no Hi (Senior Appreciation Day) and Golf Tournament (September), World Uchinaanchu Day (October), general meeting and elections (members only) and year-end clean-up (November), annual fundraiser
Winter — “Tushu Washiri” Uyuuwee (“Forget the Year” Celebration) (December)
Monthly activities — Volunteer Day (TBA), Uchinaaguchi class (second Friday, members only), Karaoke Club (third Saturdays, members only), Nuchaashi Gatherings (last Thursdays)
Special events — Cultural and cooking workshops, senior gatherings, traditional performances, Young Okinawans of SoCal social gatherings
Activities subject to change. For updates, sign up for OAA’s email list (www.tinyurl.com/oaaemail) or follow OAA on social media (@oaamensore).
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo