GARDENA — On Sunday, July 9, at 5 p.m., the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host a special event with Hiromi Toma, an Okinawan-Brazilian artist visiting from São Paulo.
The event will be both in-person at the OAA Center’s Yamauchi Building and online via Zoom (hybrid). Admission is free for current OAA members and $2 for the general public. RSVP is required. Visit http://tinyurl.com/oaa-hiromi-23, call (310) 532-1929, or email email@example.com.
Toma, a third-generation Okinawan, will talk about the Okinawan community in Brazil, her identity journey, and becoming a hajichi artist. She started hajichi in 2021 and has since tattooed 96 Okinawan women in her home country using traditional techniques.
She is also the director of the Okinawa Association of Brazil (Associação Okinawa Kenjin do Brasil) and co-founded “Shimanchu nu Mōashibi,” an international Okinawa diaspora art exhibition started in Campo Grande.
Hajichi is a traditional ritual that was practiced by indigenous Ryūkyūan women for centuries before being banned under Japanese colonization. Young women would receive hajichi on their hands and wrists based on milestones, with specific symbols and patterns hand-poked onto their skin. Much like with languages and traditions, regions and islands have their own unique hajichi.
The July 9 event will feature research by Toma and Ava Kvapil, a fourth-generation Okinawan American hajichi artist in Long Beach, as well as a live tattooing demonstration.
Many Okinawans around the world have seen hajichi in photos of emigrant mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. There are also photos of women with their palms facing up, hiding the markings that had long been stigmatized in Japanese society. Toma encourages anybody with such family photos to share them at the event.
There has been a resurgence of interest among younger generations, including the publishing of Lee Tonouchi and Laura Kina’s children’s book “Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos,” and Okinawan women in the islands and throughout the diaspora getting hajichi themselves.
There has also been discord in Okinawan communities about traditional vs. modern perspectives and practices, as well as cultural appropriation by non-Okinawans in Japan using hajichi as decorative “tribal” tattoos.
With this event, the OAA only aims to share Toma’s own knowledge of hajichi and her experiences as a hajichi artist.
The OAA Center is located at 16500 S. Western Ave. in Gardena; the parking lot is accessible behind the buildings off of 165th Place. The in-person event will take place in the Yamauchi Building (south end of the parking lot). For the online event, the Zoom link will be emailed to registrants on that day.
OAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture. Formed by first-generation Okinawan immigrants (Issei), it has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year, including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities.
2019 marked the organization’s 110th anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena. Facebook/Instagram @oaamensore