Chicago Shimpo
Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai Celebrates Its Successful Performances at New Year’s Gathering

• The 53rd Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai New Year Party was held on April 6 at the Midwest Buddhist Temple, and a variety of the traditional Okinawa dance, music, and martial arts were presented. One of the best delights was Okinawa’s homemade dishes, such as tempura, simmered meats and vegetables, grilled pork, colorful sushi, curry and rice with pork cutlets, and more.

• The party started with opening dance of “Kajyadefu” with music played by sanshin (three string instrument) group.
• Okinawa’s traditional performance entertained all attendees including special guest Tetsuro Mitani, Executive Director of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC), Manabu Yoshiike, President of the Chicago Japanese Club (CJC); Toshiko Doi, long-time friend of the Kenjinkai; and the members from Indiana Okinawa Kenjinkai.

• This year, Linda Asato was elected as Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai’s President, and former President Paula Schmidling, who had devoted herself to serve the Kenjinkai for eight years, received a big applause. Other new officers were also introduced.

• Okinawa’s civilian ambassador Ikuko Nichols spoke about activities of the Kenjinkai. She said that they had three significant events last year and thanked the officers, members, and volunteers for their dedications to those successful events.
• The first event was 2018 Shinnenkai where officials from Okinawa prefectural government attended. The officials explained the Kenjinkai about a newly developed plan of “Worldwide Uchinanchu Day”. Nichols said, “At that time, nobody could imagine that such a small meeting with the officials would bring the Kenjinkan more opportunities.” Later the Kenjinkai was honored and chosen to host Worldwide Uchinanchu Day in Chicago.

• The second event was annual Japan Day. Okinawa was chosen as a main theme of the festival. Through the help of Mitani of JCCC, a significant amount of donation came from late the Al Kabeshita, then Chairman of the Ark Technologies, so that the Kenjinkai could invite a professional instructor Yasuhide Uezu from Okinawa to refine their performances. The Okinawa show at Japan Festival was very successful with an audience of over 1,500.

• The third event was hosting “Worldwide Uchinanchu Day”. Okinawa government chose Chicago as one of cities to receive special instructions from professional performers. After several month of practice with instructions from professionals, the members of the Keinjinkai’s performances were improved more than they had expected. They could share Okinwan’s arts and culture with more than 1,000 people at the show.

• Nichols expressed deep gratitude for Consul General Naoki Ito, who attended all the three events and participated in Kachasi dance with smile. She also thanked Mitani of JCCC, Yoshiike of CJC, Okinawa Kenjinkai of other states, and the Chicago Shimpo, whose article carried Okinawan culture not only to the Japanese community but also to the world.

From left: Minori Yamaki, Paula Schmidling, Linda Asato, Ikuko Nichols,
Yoneko Berenz, and Michiko Ishikawa

2019 Okinawa Kenjinkai New Year's Party

Densa bushi and Mensore performed by Sanshin group and Eisa

Karate demonstration by Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate

Many Attendees get together and dance Kachashi at the end of Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's New Year Party.