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A Fun Gathering, the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai

• The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai’s 49th New Year Party took place at the Midwest Buddhist Temple on March 14, and all ages from children to the elderly enjoyed home-made food, Okinawan dance and music, and conversations.

• The Kenjinkai is an association of people from Okinawa prefecture and their families and friends. It has preserved Okinawa’s traditional performing arts, and the annual party is a big stage for the members to show their skills. They get together on weekends and practice music, dances, taiko drumming, and others for the day.
• On the stage, more than a dozen performances such as Dance Tinsagunuhana, Collaboration Eisa, Kudaka/ichubigwa, Hatomabushi, and Ryukyu-buyo Nubuikuduchi were displayed.
• Okinawa Shourin-ryu Karate was also demonstrated. After the members showed “kata” of karate, Yujiro Uza chopped multiple wood boards and hardwood bars by his bare hand and foot.

• A highlight of the party was introduction of Shisa, a pair of lion dogs. Shisa is a protectorate god and usually seen at Okinawans’ houses. With help of Keiko Yonaha and others, goodwill ambassador Ikuko Nicoles made it possible to bring the pair to Chicago. (The story was published in Shimpo’s 2014 October 21st issue and is available at ChicagoShimpo.com)
• Dance creator Yonaha visited Chicago from Okinawa and instructed the members how to dance with Shisa. Two people get into a Shisa and manipulate it as if it is alive. On the stage, two pairs of people performed Shisa dance for the first time in Chicago.

• The last piece of program was, of course, Kachashi. Special guest Deputy Consul General Keiko Yanai, JCCC’s Executive Director Tetsuo Mitani, and Japanese Club’s President Toshio Ogino joined the Kenjinkai members, and all enjoyed dancing Kachashi.

• Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and a special program has been planned.
• In Okinawa, Uchinanchu, a homecoming festival, will be held in October 2016. Kenjinkai’s President Paula Schmidling encouraged the members to save money starting now and make plans to go Okinawa.
• More information about those events is available at www.chicagookinawakenjinkai.com.