by Dexter T. Teruya
Chair, HUOA Taikai Committee

Mark the dates, November 1 through 4, 2001, on your calendar — and get ready for the Third Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival in Okinawa!

The festival, often referred to as the “Taikai,” will bring Uchinanchu and Uchinanchu-at-heart from throughout the world back to their furusato — the land of their roots. You can be sure that there will be a large contingent from Hawaii, where the first immigrants from Okinawa settled.

Last year, HUOA President Albert Miyasato asked me to coordinate HUOA’s participation in the Taikai. My committee will be responsible for keeping interested persons, organizations and agencies updated as to the planned activities. We will also coordinate the participation of the Hawaii members in the Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival. The committee will also be compiling traveler profile information, looking into charter flights, and creating identifiable travel wear for the Hawaii contingent as well as travel group identification.

In anticipation of the large group expected from Hawaii, I have met several times with Taikai representatives, including committee head Kaoru Shimada, events chair Eito Karimata, and Hiroyuki Ishikawa, who is responsible for guests. I requested that the Taikai Committee coordinate dates for our Hawaii members to get together with their respective shi, cho, son and aza.

I’ve also met with a number of Hawaii tour companies: Naka’s Travel Service, Trans Pacific Tours, N&K Travel, Royal Adventure Travel and Tours by Charlie (Hilo) — all of whom have expressed interest in organizing tours to Okinawa for the Taikai. Space is available for approximately 650 people from Hawaii.

The first Taikai was held in 1990, the second in 1995. The third Taikai, which was initially scheduled for last year, was pushed back to 2001 because of Okinawa’s selection as the site for this past July’s G-8 Summit.

I recently returned from Okinawa, where I joined HUOA immediate past president Albert Miyasato, President Jimmy Iha and President-elect Gladys Tokunaga-Asao on their aisatsu and mahalo mission. While in Okinawa, I visited the Taikai office and obtained the following information.

Although the location of the various Taikai events is still being worked out, the two main venues have been determined: the Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan City — site of the 1990 and 1995 Taikais — and Onoyama Park in Naha City. The park is located near Naha International Airport. Because of its large size, many festivals are held at Onoyama Park.

According to Taikai officials, a Taikai pre-opening parade will be held on Kokusai-dori on Wednesday, Oct. 31. The Opening Ceremonies will probably be held at the Convention Center on Nov. 1, with the finale set for Nov. 4, most likely at Onoyama Park. The Taikai Office is encouraging overseas participants to attend the opening and closing events. However, due to limited seating at the Convention Center, the entire Hawaii group may not be able to attend the opening. The Taikai Office assured me that they will let HUOA know how many Hawaii people they can accommodate at the opening as their planning takes shape. They said the finale at Onoyama Park will be open to everyone and they hope our Hawaii contingent will turn out for the event.

At this point, most of the programs and events are still tentative because their budgets have yet to be approved. A final schedule of events is not expected to be released until after April.

The Taikai office is currently reviewing a long list of prospective events and activities and will decide soon which ones will be “sponsored” by the Taikai office. Under consideration are: a pre-opening parade, the opening ceremonies and finale, a business fair, an Uchinanchu World Market, an interchange session with Uchinanchu worldwide, a music festival, an Uchinanchu arts and cultural crafts fair, a gateball tournament, a world Uchinanchu symposium for Okinawa-designated “Goodwill Ambassadors” and kenjinkai representatives, and an exchange student forum.

The Taikai office is also considering a number of other events, which, if held, would be co-sponsored by other organizations. Among them are displays of traditional Okinawan arts, exhibits highlighting the Okinawan immigrant experience, an Uchinaaguchi festival, and a karate demonstration/tournament.

Under consideration for “endorsement” — not sponsorship — by the Taikai office are a number of events, including a bullfight, golf tournament, symposiums on various topics, a Canadian Club youth ice hockey tournament, and a karate tournament.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government is the primary sponsor of the Taikai. It is hoping to capitalize on the interest in Okinawa that was generated by the G-8 Summit. Other Taikai sponsors include Okinawa International Exchange and Human Resources Development Foundation and the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Editor’s note: Dexter Teruya is a member of Oroku Azajin Club and served as president of HUOA in 1997. Last year, he chaired the HUOA’s Okinawan Centennial Celebration Committee.