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News & Events

News & Events

Interview with Professor Akiko Mori

Professor Mori portrait

December 24, 2020

Okinawa Collection had the pleasure to interview Professor Akiko Mori, a leading researcher studying the repatriation experience of immigrants from Okinawa to Micronesia. Professor Mori is a member of the Global Studies Institute at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Interview in English / Japanese

Message to GW community from Professor Mori

Book covers of Ms. Mori's publications

The large migration of people from Okinawa to the South Seas (present-day Micronesia) was due to the proactive recruitment of lower class Okinawans by the South Seas Development Company, a semi-government company. They desired a battle-ready, inexpensive labor force to expand their sugar plantations. With the goal of establishing and reproducing their labor force, the South Seas Development Company encouraged “family immigration” by prepaying travel and living expenses. For this reason, in addition to the effects of a post-WWI decline in the value of sugar affecting sugarcane producing areas, lower class Okinawans were in between a state of life and death and the recession they called “Sotesu Jigoku” (Sago Palm/Cycad Hell) prompted them to immigrate to the South Seas. 

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Listening to the immigrants’ stories, unlike travel to Hawaii, Peru, Brazil or the Philippines, the South Seas was a colony under the Japanese empire so they did not need to prepare passports or travel expenses. Moreover, the climate was similar to that of Okinawa so the immigrants remarked that it was “easy to travel to” and “easy to live in.” Also, young men who were around 20 years old at the time explained that they went to the South Seas to escape conscription.  If you went, you could submit a “Notice of Temporary Exemption from Conscription” to the Government Office of the South Seas and avoid enlistment. The battle between the U.S. and Japanese forces in the South Seas forced the young men who tried to escape enlistment to mobilize as local conscription soldiers, breaking up families who had built a life in the area. Of course, we must also remember the people of Micronesia who also lived there. It is important to also capture the story of Okinawan people, immigration and war from the point of view of settler colonialism. Little is known in Japan and the U.S. about the immigration of people from Okinawa to the South Seas archipelago, the war in the South Seas and the colonial and wartime experiences of the people of Micronesia. Through this collection of testimonies, I couldn’t be happier that the George Washington University community will come into contact with the existence of the people who lived at that time and participate in the historical exploration of Okinawa and the South Seas archipelago.

Akiko Mori

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沖縄から南洋群島(現在のミクロネシア)への移民が特に多かったのは、南洋興発(株)という準国策会社が製糖プランテーションを広げるための即戦力・低廉労働力として、沖縄の特に下層の人びとを積極的に募集したためです。 南洋興発は、労働力の定着や再生産を目的として「家族移民」を奨励し、渡航費や入植にかかわる費用を前貸ししていました。 このため、第一次世界大戦後に世界中のサトウキビ生産地を襲った糖価暴落の影響を受け、「蘇鉄地獄」とも呼ばれた不況下で生死の境界線上を彷徨っていた沖縄の下層の人びとが南洋群島へたくさん移民したのです。 移民した人に話を聞くと、南洋群島は日本帝国の植民地だったため、ハワイ、ペルー、ブラジル、フィリピンなどと異なり渡航費やパスポートの準備がなくてもよく、また沖縄によく似た風土であったため、「行きやすかった」「暮らしやすかった」と言います。 また、当時20歳近くの青年だった人々は、南洋庁に「徴兵猶予届け」を提出すれば徴兵されずにすんだため、「徴兵逃れのために南洋に行ったのだ」と語ります。 南洋群島を舞台とした日米両軍の戦闘は、この様に徴兵から逃れようとした青年まで現地招集兵として根こそぎ動員し、そこに暮らしを築いていたたくさんの家族を引き裂いていきました。 もちろん、そこにはミクロネシアの人びとの暮らしがあったことも忘れてはなりません。 沖縄の人びとの移民・戦争の語りは、セトラーコロニアリズム(Settler Coloniarism)の観点からも捉え返される必要があるものです。 沖縄から南洋群島への移民や南洋群島を舞台とした戦争、またミクロンシアの人々の植民地経験・戦争体験は日本でもアメリカでも、まだほとんど知られていません。 この証言集を通して、ジョージワシントン大学のみなさんが当時を生きた人々の存在に触れ、沖縄・南洋群島(ミクロネシア)の歴史探究に参加して下さるのであれば、これ以上の喜びはありません。

森 亜紀子

 

Digital Okinawan Folktales with Okinawa International University

December 21, 2020

The Gelman Libraries’ Okinawa Collection is happy to present a collaborative project titled "Folktales from Okinawa in English-language." Students from the Okinawa International University (OIU), Department of Japanese Language and Culture translated the Okinawa folk stories from Japanese to English as part of a class project assigned by Professor Shinya Yamaguchi. After translating the works, the students then created digital picture-story shows, and distributed them to local community centers, schools and local libraries in Okinawa. Since 2010, videos of the digital picture-story shows have been available on their YouTube channel. The project of creating English-versions of Okinawan folktales, as seen on the digital bookshelves left, started around 2017. According to Professor Yamaguchi, Professor Shoji Endo, a renowned Okinawan folktales researcher, once told him that folktales are said to be "literature of hope of the common people," and after reading the simple wishes and spirituality of Okinawan ancestors, one must hand the stories down to next generations.

The Okinawa Collection always endeavors to collect materials in English, but It has been very challenging to locate folktales in Okinawa in English language. Working with Professor Yamaguchi, we have made the translated stories available as flipbooks.  We are lucky to be able to provide OIU’s students’ works to the GW community and beyond.

Interview with Dr. Natsu Onoda Power

July 9, 2020

Okinawa Collection had the pleasure to interview a renowned theater professor from Georgetown University, and a multi-talented director, designer and playwright who has created numerous theater productions in the DC region. Her next stage play is set on Okinawa, and she talks about what inspired the idea, her experiences during her recent trip to Okinawa and a little taste of her next project!

Interview in English / Japanese

Interview with Dr. Natsu Onoda Power

Dr. Natsu Onoda Power portrait

July 9, 2020

Okinawa Collection had the pleasure to interview a renowned theater professor from Georgetown University, and a multi-talented director, designer and playwright who has created numerous theater productions in the DC region. Her next stage play is set on Okinawa, and she talks about what inspired the idea, her experiences during her recent trip to Okinawa and a little taste of her next project!

 

Interview in English / Japanese

GW Okinawa Collection welcomed former Prime Minister Hatoyama

Prime Minister Hatoyama with two others
Prime Minister Hatoyama with others outside GRC

March 5, 2020

On March 5th, the 93rd Prime Minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, visited the Okinawa Collection. Mr. Hatoyama was very interested in the collection and asked many questions, especially about East Asia and Okinawa related books. Students who wanted to meet the former Prime Minister came to the GRC and chatted with him. The Okinawa Collection was pleased to host Mr. Hatoyama and show off our collection dedicated to Okinawan studies in the nation's capitol.

"I learned the essence of community in Okinawa through this essay contest" - Ms. Nina Udagawa

Nina Udagawa giving presentation and accepting award

April 1, 2019

Congratulations on your winning the first Okinawa Essay Contest! We had a chance to e-interview Nina about her essay and her views on Okinawa.

Question 1:  Tell us about your essay.

Nina: My essay looked into the transformation of the Okinawan Amerasian identity over time and the various movements which allowed those in the community to live more comfortably as years passed. To provide some context, an Amerasian is individual who has a U.S. military service member and a local Okinawan as parents. Okinawa is home to many Amerasians because of the prominent US bases in the region. The perception of this identity changed over time; in the immediate post World War II era, Amerasians were killed for being a product of shame, however, the current Okinawan governor was elected by his own people to represent their voice. My essay compartmentalized such transformations in three main sections.

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Firstly, local organizations appealed and successfully gained the government’s assistance in recognizing the rights of abandoned mothers and Amerasians in the 1970s. Secondly, the discourse surrounding the need to create a safe space for Amerasians emerged through the set-up of the AmerAsian School in the late 1990s. The third, and current phase is about self-affirmation. Although the internet has sparked discussions between the Japanese multicultural community, Okinawan media picked up such discussions and brought them to a wider platform. My thesis argued that one commonality of the resolution of issues that Amerasians faced was the local support for grassroots activism. This positive response and enacted policies reverberated nationwide, allowing many Japanese multicultural people to live more comfortably. I end my essay with questions regarding the place of multicultural Japanese people in the nation’s society.

Question 2: What did you learn about Okinawa through this essay contest?

Nina: I learned the essence of community in Okinawa through this essay contest. Civil society in Japan is a topic which has interests me, and these various movements surrounding the Okinawan Amerasian identity showed me that a strong sense of community was a strong reason for such nationwide changes. Many of the advocates for Okinawan Amerasian identity were backed by support from their surrounding communities. Although the surrounding community members and prefectural officials were not Amerasians themselves, they showed interest and understanding of the need for legislation or a safe space for Okinawan Amerasians.

Question 3: During the trip to Okinawa, what would you like to learn/research?

Nina: I have always been fascinated by Okinawan culture and am very excited to experience it firsthand. I am currently writing a paper about identity politics in Okinawa for my Japanese politics class, so it would be interesting to talk to people about the importance of the Okinawan identity and what it means to them. From what I’ve researched so far, it seems that many Okinawans are extremely proud of their unique culture, so I am sure that experiencing that for a week will be eye-opening.

Thank you, Nina for talking to us about your essay. Good luck on your trip to Okinawa!

Members of the Okinawa Kai of Washington DC visiting the Okinawa Collection

OkaiDC stand in front of Okinawa Collection sign

February 28, 2019

Mrs. Atsuko Russell, President of the Okinawa Kai of Washington DC, Ms. Akiko Clifford, Vice President, and Mrs. Itsuko Asato, former President, visited the Okinawa Collection. Mrs. Asato generously donated an autobiography 画家正子・R・サマーズの生涯 : 沖縄からアメリカ : 自由を求めて! . Their feedback on the Collection, especially for our upcoming 'Prominent Okinawans' section, was truly appreciated. Thank you for your continuous support, Okinawa Kai!

 

Grenade - Story on the Battle of Okinawa for young readers

Book cover of grenade

October 9, 2018

Grenade retells the Battle of Okinawa through the eyes of an Okinawan boy and a young American Marine. It’s a harrowing story about war and during it, what keeps us human. Scholastic reached out to subject matter experts from local Okinawan community and GW Okinawa Collection before the book was published to get feedback on the cultural and historical accuracy of the story.

Okinawa Essay Contest

Okinawa Essay Contest

August 15, 2018

The Okinawa Prefectural Government and the George Washington University Okinawa Collection are sponsoring an essay contest to foster research on Okinawan culture, economics, history, politics, and society. Essay topics include: Military bases in Okinawa and the Japan-U.S. alliance, Okinawa’s politics and role in international relations, Political economy of Okinawa’s development and Legacy of history and culture in Okinawan society. Please visit Okinawa Essay Contest website for more details. 

This contest is also supported by the Center for Okinawan Studies and the Okinawa Collection at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

The First Okinawa Culture Day at GW!

Okinawan Culture Day

February 22, 2018

GW Beginning Japanese class welcomed two karate masters, Master Nestor Folta and his son, Master Koichi Folta for a karate demonstration. This was an interactive event and the students participated in a self-defense exercise with the masters. The class also welcomed two Eisaa instructors, Mrs. Michie Beckford and Mrs. Kyoko Dennard, who were joined by Koichi Folta. Eisaa is a type of folk dance originating in Okinawa Islands. Dancers carry variety of drums: ōdaiko (a large barrel drum), shimedaiko (a medium size drum) and paarankuu (a small hand drum). The students tried drumming too and learned a dance from the instructors. You can enjoy seeing their effort in Okinawa Culture Day Spring 2018 video.

Rare Collection of Mr. Jesse Shokan Shima

Cart full of books

January 11, 2018

Japanese Americans' Care Fund Maryland Library gave the GW Okinawa Collection a generous gift of approximately 100 books that were donated by the late Mr. Jesse Shima's family. Mr. Jesse Shokan Shima (1901-2002), the first President of the Okinawa Kai of Washington DC, came to DC when he was 19. His collection includes books on Okinawan diaspora, the Battle of Okinawa, and Okinawan history. His autobiography 島庄寬物語 (Shima Shokan Monogatari) was also a part of the donation.

Thank you, Japanese Americans' Care Fund Maryland Library!

Okinawa Collection Workshop

Photo of panel discussion

February 3, 2017

The half-day workshop brought together more than a dozen of experts on Okinawa and Japan from universities and libraries in the mid-Atlantic region. They were introduced to the Okinawa Collection and its new acquisitions.

The event began with remarks by Dr. Geneva Henry, Dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation, followed by the Honorable Takeshi Onaga, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture.

Governor Onaga expressed his gratitude to GW and the Okinawa Collection for promoting the study of Okinawa.  During the lunch hour, Dr. Moritake Tomikawa, Policy Advisor of the Okinawa Prefectural Government, gave a presentation on “Okinawa's Economic Future and Asia: Looking Beyond the U.S. Military Presence,” followed by a Q&A session.

Workshop participants provided valuable suggestions regarding the Collection’s acquisitions, visibility, and accessibility.

Okinawa Dialogue at the Elliott School of International Affairs

Gov Onaga and Dr Tomikawa speaking

February 2, 2017

Before a standing-room only audience in the Lindner Family Commons of the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Honorable Takeshi Onaga, Governor of Okinawa, and Dr. Moritake Tomikawa, Policy Advisor to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, gave presentations on Okinawa's future and East Asia.  The program was covered extensively by the media.  Professor Mike Mochizuki moderated the event.

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In his presentation entitled Okinawa's Economic Future and Asia: Looking Beyond the U.S. Military Presence, Dr. Tomikawa reported that Okinawa has been experiencing economic growth because of the prefecture’s expanding links with neighboring countries in Asia and the increase in tourism.  As the Okinawan economy becomes much less dependent upon income related to the U.S. military presence, the heavy concentration of U.S. bases in the island prefecture impedes Okinawa’s further development.  

Governor Onaga first expressed his appreciation to GW for developing the Okinawa Collection and hosting the “Bingata! Only in Okinawa” exhibition at GW’s Textile Museum.  Governor Onaga then discussed the current situation regarding U.S. military base issues on Okinawa and the wishes of the Okinawan people.  He also reported on his dialogue with members of Congress during his visit to Washington, D.C., an d he reiterated his opposition to the construction of a new U.S. Marine Corps airfield at Henoko.  

This event was sponsored by the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the Okinawa Collection and Japan Resource Center of Gelman Library, and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

The Okinawa Collection welcomed members of the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly and the All Okinawa

Several people looking at materials on a table

February 2, 2017

Mr. Seiryo Arakaki, Mr. Morimasa Goya, Mr. Orihiro Ishida, and Mr. Ichiro Miyagi (in alphabetical order) visited the Okinawa Collection.  They browsed through recent collection acquisitions on various Okinawan topics. They provided information packets regarding the Futenma base issue and the proposed construction of a new U.S. Marine Corps airfield at Henoko.  These packets will be available to patrons of the Okinawa Collection. 

International Collections Showstoppers! at GRC

Books on a table

November 30, 2016

Thematic collections of books from each section of GRC were displayed. On the 'Education & Literature' table, some juvenile materials about Battle of Okinawa and Okinawan customs attracted a lot of attention from Japanese language students. GRC's Okinawa Collection librarian had a chance to discuss and recommend Okinawan literature selections to Japanese faculty members.

GW Textile Museum presents 'Bingata! Only in Okinawa'

Details of a textile

November 5, 2016 - January 30, 2017

Coming from Okinawan museum collections, Bingata! Only in Okinawa is a rare opportunity to view brightly colored traditional resist-dyed fabrics.

As an opening ceremony on November 5, a symposium 'Only in Okinawa: Textiles and traditions of Ryukyu Kingdom', was held. 

 

The 6th Uchinanchu Festival

Demonstration holding a banner

October 25-30, 2016

"Uchinanchu" means Okinawan people, and the number of people of Okinawan heritage who live outside of Japan exceeds 360,000.  Thousands get together every six years and celebrate their heritage.   

Photograph courtesy of The 6th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival Executive Committee Secretariat

Generous Donations from Mrs. Mieko Maeshiro

Woman posing with books on a table

August 25, 2016

Former President of Washington D.C. Okinawa Association, Mrs. Mieko Maeshiro, visited GW Okinawa Collection on August 25.  She kindly donated an important collection of materials on Ryukyuan cultures, language, and society including hard-to-find post-war memoirs and public health analysis on post-war Okinawa.  Thank you very much, Mrs. Maeshiro!

Article posted on The Wall Street Journal by GW Professor

Large planes on runways

June 14, 2016

Titled "Repairing U.S.-Japan Ties on Okinawa - Recent Arrests of U.S. personnel on the island hurt bilateral relations and the U.S. posture in Asia" on Opinion Commentary page of The Wall Street Journal online, Professor Mike Mochizuki and Dr. Michael O'Hanlon (Brookings Institution proposes a way to reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. bases while strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Okinawa: The Afterburn Film Showing & Discussion

Military crouching behind a stone lion

November 18, 2015

‘Okinawa: The Afterburn” is the first documentary to provide a comprehensive picture of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and the ensuing 70-year occupation of the island by the US military. 

Co-sponsored by the Global Resources Center and Veterans For Peace, Ryukyu Okinawa Chapter Organizing Committee.

GW Okinawa Collection Opening Ceremony

People cutting a ribbon

June 8, 2015

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga expressed warm congratulations and gratitude to GW on the opening of the Okinawa Collection at the Global Resources Center (GRC). This collection of primary and secondary research materials was established through a memorandum of understanding between the Okinawa Prefectural Government and GW.  Housed in the GRC’s Japan Resource Center, the collection will focus on Okinawan history, politics and public policy, international relations, economics, society and culture, and literature and linguistics.

Dr. Kurayoshi Takara - Visionary Founder of the Okinawa Collection

Dr Takara speaking to people about his book

September 3, 2014

While serving as Vice Governor of Okinawa Prefecture in 2013-14, Dr. Kurayoshi Takara helped to lay the groundwork for establishing the Okinawa Collection at The George Washington University. To start the collection, Dr. Takara kindly donated nearly 300 volumes from his personal library, including History of Okinawa Prefecture, Visual History of Okinawa,  Okinawa Encyclopedia, and the Art of Okinawa.  We are immensely grateful for this donation and his desire to expand the understanding of Okinawa inside and outside the GW community.  Dr. Takara is one of the world's leading historians of the Ryukyu Kingdom and Okinawa.  He obtained his doctorate from Kyushu University and was a professor in the Faculty of Law and Letters at the University of the Ryukyus.  In 2004, Dr. Takara received the Japan Foundation Award for his major contribution to enhancing mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.  He and GW professor Mike Mochizuki have been longtime friends, and the two of them co-chaired with Professor Akikazu Hashimoto of J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo a U.S.-Japan research project on the "Okinawa Question" from 2003 to 2013.