What is the Wakamono Taikai?

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The Worldwide Youth Uchinanchu Festival (Wakamono Taikai), a global gathering created by and for young Uchinanchu (Okinawans), is set for July 18~21 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center (Torrance, California). This one-time event offers the opportunity to connect with Uchinanchu from other states and countries as well as activities to explore our collective and individual identities. The 4-day conference includes international performances, socializing and networking, group discussions and projects, and insightful workshops featuring prominent Uchinanchu educators, artists, business leaders, and expert practitioners in Okinawan culture and traditions.

Conference registration has already begun with confirmed participants from Okinawa, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and various U.S. cities! The 2013 Wakamono Taikai will be the first of its kind in North America and will travel to Europe in 2014 and Asia in 2015.

MISSION

The conference’s program and guest speakers are planned around the theme of Uchinanchu Identity and will explore ways in which the current and future generations can keep alive the Okinawan traditions, arts, history, and languages. There will also be an emphasis on the Okinawan diaspora with the ultimate goal of expanding the global network of Uchinanchu and maintaining momentum beyond this conference.

SPECIAL GUESTS

The purpose of the workshops is to offer insights and contexts with which participants can explore the conference’s theme and mission. Workshop leaders and panelists include (subject to change):

  • Byron Fija, Okinawan language teacher and musician from Okinawa
  • Gena Hamamoto, assistant director at UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications and independent film producer (Typhoon of Steel and The Crumbles)
  • Jon Itomura, past president of the Hawai’i United Okinawa Association
  • Janice Kinjo, celebrity make-up artist (Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Braxton Sisters)
  • Scharine Kirchoff, textile artist and owner of Ryukyu Heritage Textiles (Houston, Texas)
  • Aiko Majikina, classical Okinawan dance teacher (master) in Los Angeles (Majikina Honryu Majikina Aiko Ryubu Dojo)
  • Tamari Miyashiro, U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, 2012 Olympic silver medalist (indoors volleyball)
  • Grant “Sandaa” Murata, sanshin teacher (master) in Hawai’i (Afuso Ryu Gansen Kai – Hawai’i)
  • Rene Nakasone, practice leader consultant at Kaiser Permanente – California, presenting with her daughter Mariko Green
  • Nancy Niijima, cooking teacher (Niijima Cooking School and Okinawa Culinary School), presenting with Noriko Shimoji Cuaron, RN, MPH
  • Annmaria Shimabuku, assistant professor at University of California, Riverside (Japanese Language, Literature, and Thought)
  • Jon Shirota, author and playwright in Los Angeles (Lucky Come Hawai’i and Voices from Okinawa)
  • Ken Uechi, restaurateur in Los Angeles (Katsu-Ya restaurants)
  • Wesley Ueunten, assistant professor at San Francisco State University (Asian American Studies) and musician
  • Eric Weaver, senior vice president, Social Strategy & Intelligence (Mediabrands Worldwide)
  • Ken Yamauchi, current advisor and past branch leader of Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko – Los Angeles

The Personal Interest Workshops will be conducted in two sessions with the following options: Uchinanchu in LeadershipUchinanchu in the Arts/EntertainmentMulti-Racial Identity (session 1 only), and Okinawa and Social Issues/Activism (session 2 only). These will be followed by one session of Cultural Workshops with the following options: Performing Arts (sub-categorized by sanshin, eisa, and dance), LanguagesTextiles, and Food/Longevity.

REGISTRATION

Participants in the 18-35 age range are encouraged to download our registration form and mail it along with the $150.00 registration fee to Okinawa Association of America, 16500 S. Western Ave. #203, Gardena, CA 90247. Please make checks payable to “OAA Wakamono Taikai.” Financial aid and limited volunteer discounts are available; please contact the OAA at 310-532-1929 for more information.

The participation fee covers:

  • daily lunches
  • access to all activities
  • souvenir bag
  • pre-order for the conference DVD
  • free admission to Byron Fija’s sanshin concert on Saturday night

Anybody outside of the age range (18~35) is welcome to attend the opening ceremony (July 18) and closing events (July 21) for a flat registration fee of $50. These events will feature performances, speakers, presentations, and networking opportunities.

HISTORY

The Wakamono Taikai is the first of its kind to be held in North America and aims to gather participants (ages 18-35) from Okinawa, South America, and domestically. It’s being planned and produced by the North American branch of the World Youth Uchinanchu Association (WYUA) – a grassroots organization headquartered in Okinawa with branches in Argentina, Brazil, Hawai’i, Peru, and the United States mainland – and will be hosted by the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Los Angeles, California. WYUA was formed at the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival (WUF)’s International Youth Conference in 2011, where young representatives from around the world gathered to discuss how the younger generations could preserve and carry on the Okinawan culture and languages. As a result of the conference, WYUA was formed and the organization’s missions and future activities were proposed to the Okinawa Prefectural Governor. One of the proposals was for different countries to host a Worldwide Youth Uchinanchu Festival for every year leading into the 6th WUF in 2016.