One more time, back to Okinawa
Naotaka Miyagi - 9th Grade, Kakazu Junior High School
Blue ocean, blue sky, white seashore. This is the image most people have of Okinawa. But is that really all? Okinawa, where I live, is studded with islands and sprinkled over 1,000km of ocean east-to-west, and 400km north-to-south. It's also the only semitropical area in Japan, so I think people have these images. Thanks to such a good positional condition Okinawa established the Ryukyu Dynasty. I've heard Okinawa boasted intermediate trade with many parts of eastern Asia. Our ancestors crossed the ocean in sabani (small traditional Okinawan boats) and had good relationships with other foreign countries as equals. Moreover, they created an unique culture with things such as the sanshin(traditional Okinawan three-stringed instrument), Ryukyu buyo(traditional Okinawan dancing) and karate. These are parts of our culture, which cannot be found anywhere else in Japan, and have been around since the Ryukyu Dynasty. People in the Ryukyu Dynasty handed down their culture even as the Ryukyu Dynasty assimilated various parts of other foreign cultures through their trade with eastern Asia. I'm proud of such an Okinawan culture.

I have studied the sanshin, but more than two-thirds of the students in my class are from mainland Japan. They praise the sound of the sanshin and the lyrics a lot. They're also sorry that there are less young people to observe the culture. They told me Okinawan people should understand and display their own culture more. I felt kind of embarrassed. Definitely, at Kakazu Junior High there are no research projects focused on studying our culture. I think young people don't get many chances to experience more of Okinawan culture. Since having studied the sanshin I realized how wonderful Okinawan culture is and I'm definitely proud of our unique culture. Born in Okinawa, the sound of the sanshin playing, elegant Okinawan dancing, dynamic karate and powerful shisa (the lucky charm of Okinawa) have been passed down in my blood as the Okinawan heart. However, if young people didn't have the chance to learn about Okinawan culture, if they weren't told how wonderful Okinawan culture was, I think it would be difficult to understand and to be interested in it. To hand down the Okinawan heart that our ancestors protected; this is the way for our great culture to develop in the future.

What is the Okinawan heart?

I mentioned that people in the Ryukyu Dynasty crossed the ocean by sabani and had good relationships and traded with foreign countries as equals, and had handed down their own culture while assimilating parts of others. It could be said that these things are the characteristics of Okinawan culture. It means that the Okinawan people have the flexibility, a so-called chanpuru bunka (mixture of cultures). In that I feel the spirit of the Okinawan people, and this is the Okinawan heart, I think. We shouldn't forget this Okinawan heart and just let the tourism be empty of any culture. Maybe tourists will come, but they will get bored soon. When you come here many times, you want to come back again, and everytime you'll discover something new. Having such a way of thinking, we Okinawans should provide younger people with the chance to study Okinawan culture to develop tourism. As a result, all of us will understand, love, and be proud of this wonderful culture. I think this is the best thing for Okinawa.

Today young people in Okinawa are craving to go out from Okinawa and imitating other cultures. We assimilate many things, but we maintain our identity of culture. I hope to have an Okinawan heart that represents chanpuru bunka. Also, the generation of grandfathers and grandmothers, who brought back the Okinawan culture that was almost lost in the war, will think to hand it down. Tourism with an Okinawan heart, tourism which is not accepting just anything; that will promote Okinawan tourism in the future. The bright future of Okinawa depends on us young Okinawan people. The best thing to develop the future of Okinawan tourism is to pour our Okinawan hearts into the wilting culture of Okinawa.