Young Okinawans to Gather in SoCal for Worldwide Confab

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oung participants from Okinawa, the U.S., and surrounding South American countries gathered in São Paulo, Brazil last year for the first-ever Wakamono Taikai.

TORRANCE — The Worldwide Youth Uchinanchu Festival (Wakamono Taikai), a global gathering created by and for young Uchinanchu (Okinawans), is set for July 18-21 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center.

This one-time event offers the opportunity to connect with Uchinanchu from other states and countries as well as activities to explore their collective and individual identities. The four-day conference includes international performances, socializing and networking, group discussions and projects, and insightful workshops featuring prominent Uchinanchu educators, artists, business leaders, and expert practitioners in Okinawan culture and traditions.

Workshop leaders and panelists include (subject to change):

• Byron Fija, Okinawan language instructor and musician from Okinawa

• Ayano Ginoza, University of Redlands

• Gena Hamamoto, UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications and independent film producer

• Jon Itomura, past president of Hawaii United Okinawa Association

• Janice Kinjo, celebrity make-up artist

• Aiko Majikina, classical Okinawan dance instructor in L.A.

• Tamari Miyashiro, U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, 2012 Olympic silver medalist

• Rene Nakasone, practice leader consultant at Kaiser Permanente

• Annmaria Shimabuku, UC Riverside

• Jon Shirota, author and playwright in L.A.

• Ken Uechi, restaurateur in L.A. (Katsuya Restaurants)

• Wesley Ueunten, San Francisco State University and musician

• Ken Yamauchi, current advisor and past branch leader of Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko in L.A.

Participants in the 18-35 age range are encouraged to download the registration form (wyuausa.wordpress.com/registration) and mail it along with the $150 registration fee by June 30 (fee will increase thereafter) to: Okinawa Association of America, 16500 S. Western Ave. #203, Gardena, CA 90247. Make checks payable to “OAA Wakamono Taikai.” Payment plans and limited volunteer discounts are available; contact OAA at (310) 532-1929 for more information.

The participation fee covers daily lunches, access to all activities, a souvenir bag, and a pre-order for the conference DVD.

Anybody outside of the age range is welcome to attend the conference as an observer for a flat registration fee of $50. This fee will only guarantee access to the opening and closing celebrations (July 18 and 21), which will feature performances, speakers, presentations, and networking opportunities.

Conference registration has already begun with confirmed participants from Okinawa, Brazil, Peru, and various U.S. cities. The organizers strongly encourage local Uchinanchu (and Uchinanchu-at-heart) to get involved. The 2013 Wakamono Taikai will be the first of its kind in North America; there are plans to travel to Europe in 2014 and Asia in 2015.

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