CAMP UCHINANCHU
By Karen Kuba-Hori (Okinawa City-Goeku Son)
Camp Director, Okinawan Cultural Day Camp for Kids

It started as a peaceful Monday morning at the Hawaii Okinawa Center on June 15. You could hear the rustling of the leaves in the breeze and the playful splashing of the koi in the fishpond.

The silence is broken at 8:30 a.m. when cars start filling the parking lot and 61 children enter the Hawaii Okinawa Center to participate in HUOA’s sixth annual “Okinawan Cultural Day Camp for Kids.”

For one week, these campers were exposed to different aspects of Okinawan culture and heritage. On Monday, their schedule included Okinawan history with Jean Yamasato; paranku drumming and drum-making with Violet Ogawa Sensei and Frances Funakoshi; pottery-making with Warren Andrade; plantation games with Jane Takayesu, Yoshiko Yamauchi, Noreen Furutani and Deidere Higuchi; and crafts with Lynn Miyashiro, Jean Agena and Karen Kuba-Hori. Every minute of the day, the campers were kept busy playing, learning and experiencing our Okinawan culture. Other classes throughout the week included Okinawan cooking with Thelma Arakawa and Val Teruya, ikebana with Nobuko Kida Sensei, and singing with Marion Arakaki Sensei.

When we asked the children what they enjoyed the most, the overwhelming response was the sleep-over at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. At night, the Center takes on a different feel. It’s quiet, dark, and very cold. Campers enjoyed Okidogs (a chili/hotdog combined with shoyu pork and lettuce wrapped in a soft tortilla wrap), tons of popcorn, and gallons of hot chocolate. Their program included storytelling and a movie.

And what was the second thing they enjoyed most? Well, it was a tie between fishing at Hawaii Plantation’s Village, playing plantation games, shopping at the Camp’s Plantation Store (campers earned “play” plantation dollars which they could use to purchase small gifts or snacks), and participating in Family Day.

On our final day, campers were allowed to invite their parents and family members to observe and participate in “Family Day.” Campers performed “Asatoya Yunta” on paranku drums and showed off the many craft activities they had completed. It is amazing what the children learned in such a brief period. One of the more impressive displays was the children’s ikebana arrangement placed in the raku vase they had made and glazed earlier in the week.

After lunching with their children and eating purple potato ice cream (made that morning by the children and parents), parents were able to watch the children participate in traditional Okinawan-style picnic games. The kids raced using plantation toys, such as wooden stilts and getas, and played an Uchinaaguchi language matching game. The Day Camp closed with a video recap of the week’s events — and many sad good-byes.

HUOA President James Iha recapped the success of the Camp best. He believes the Camp serves as HUOA’s commitment to perpetuate and preserve our Okinawan culture. Our success is the many Okinawan “seeds” we planted in the memories and hearts of our campers and their families.

Mahalo to the 51 adult volunteers and six junior leaders that committed themselves towards the success of this program.