Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai Celebrates its 50th Anniversary
• The Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 28 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Schaumburg. To commemorate the special occasion, Okinawa Kenjinkai from North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, and Washington D.C. joined the Chicago group and performed Okinawa’s rich traditional dance and music.
• Paula Schmidling, President of Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai,
reminded the attendees of the time of 1966 when the previous body of the
Kenjinkai, “Okinawa Kyoyukai”, was formed. In Japan, Toyota Corolla was
first introduced, meanwhile a gallon of gas was 32 cents, and a stamp
was only five cents in the U.S.
• Linda Asato, former President, said, “It’s just amazing this organization has grown. We had a sanshin group, taiko group, dance group, and now we have a karate group. This is how to increase Kenjinkai membership, draw the number of people so that kenjinkai can continue in the near future. We are very confident,” and a big applause followed.
• As a special guest, Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado extended his congratulations to the Kenjinkai, saying, “You are bringing Okinawa not only to Chicagoans but also to Japanese nationals who are far away from home.” He also said, “Japan has welcomed President Obama and other G7 leaders. Our two nations are becoming even closer. Our two peoples are even better friends through cultural sharing, which we are doing today.”
• On the stage, the celebration started with traditional dance “Kajyadifu”. The piece was customarily performed as an opening number on festive occasions and had been only permitted in the Okinawan Imperial Court during the Ryukyu Kingdom era.
• One of the prime events was “Shishi Okoshi”.
• The performance continued, and “Kai no Hatoma” was
danced with sanshin music. The piece depicts the beauty of Hatoma Island
• Professional magician Bob Higa, an Okinawan descendant,
amazed the audience with his magic and illusion show.
• The 50th anniversary was closed with “Kachashii”, and all the attendees participated in Kachashii dance.
The History of Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai
• The history of Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai was presented
by Linda Asato during the celebration event.
• According to Asato’s presentation, the very first Okinawan
settler to Chicago was Kojun Aniya, a photographer, who came to the U.S.
in 1902 and settled in Effingham, downstate of Chicago.
The celebration starts with traditional dance “Kajyadifu”.
Shishi is a lion-like figure of saint doll and called as “shi-sa” in Okinawa.
Paula Schmidling, President of Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai
Ikuko Nicles (L) and Keiko Yonaha