Uchinanchu Spirit Beats the Rain

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Children from Cal State Dominguez Hills Child Development Center watch dancers from the Okinawa Association of America on Thursday. A rededication ceremony for the school’s Shinwa-En Japanese Garden will take place next Saturday at 10 a.m. (Photo by RYOKO OHNISHI)

By RYOKO OHNISHI

RAFU STAFF WRITER

Despite gray skies and sprinkling rain, California State University Dominguez Hills celebrated their third annual Earth Day on Thursday with a performance of dance and music by the Okinawa Association of America. The festivites were held on behalf of the Japanese garden, Shinwa-En, located on campus.

The garden was designed by the late landscape artist Haruo Yamashiro of Gardena who passed away at age 77 last year. Yamashiro was a veteran of Korean War and also a long-time contributor for the OAA. Under the leadership of Yamashiro, nearly 100 local Japanese American community members volunteered to build the garden and donated the materials to the campus in 1978. It took them eight month to complete the project.
Takako Yamashiro, the widow of Yamashiro, said she recalls the time when her late husband started designing the garden in the vacant patio in 1977.

“When we both went to see the site for the first time, Haruo got an idea instantly and he ran to the restroom to get the paper towel to draw the design of the garden,” Yamashiro said.

CSUDH recently refurbished the garden and teahouse, and it will be rededicated on Saturday, May 1.

Second from the right, Takako Yamashiro. Back row, fourth from the right, Chogi Higa, president of OAA, and to his left, Michiko Numata, dance instructor. Front row, further right, Katsuko Teruya, she will perform koto on May 1 at the rededication of the Shinwa-En Japanese Garden.

The organizer of the Earth Day event, Cheryl McKnight, director of Center for Service Learning, Internships, & Civic Engagement (SLICE) said, “The late Mr. Yamashiro brought the OAA dancers to our campus for the first time in 2008. I am glad to see that even though his presence is no longer here, the OAA members still honor his wishes and came to celebrate the garden for the third consecutive year. They are the shining star for us. They looked so wonderful with their delicate musical instruments and Okinawan regalia which beat the rain today.”
A total of seven performers including the members of Numata Michiko Ryubu kenkyujo under Miyagi-ryu Noshokai, performed six songs starting with Udui Kuwadisa and ending with Kachashi. Shima minyo and the member of Aikokai played the minyo (folk) songs. The  music and their rhythmical movement attracted an audience of students.

To recognize the OAA contribution to the campus’s annual event, a certificate of recognition was given by Doug Borcoman, acting director of Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) on the stage.

The public is invited to the rededication of the Shinwa-En on Saturday, May 1 at 10 a.m. in the patio area of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building.

The ceremony and festival of arts will honor the original donors and the members of the California Landscape Contractors Association who restored the garden this year. The festivities will include a keynote address by noted author Naomi Hirahara, performers from the Majikina Honryu Dance Company and musicians from the Okinawa Association of America, performance by members of the Taiko Center of Los Angeles, and displays by local flower and bonsai experts.

Admission to the program is free, and the public is invited. RSVP to Tom Philo at (310) 243-3361 or email [email protected]

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