Okinawa is one of Japan’s southern prefectures, and consists of the hundreds of “Ryukyu” islands. These islands form a chain over 1,000 km long which extends southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan. Okinawa continued to trade with China and also opened trading links with Japan, Korea, and the East Indies, which helped cultivate their own unique culture. They have distinctive music, language, diet, and steadfast traditions. Its independence sparked the emergence of a distinctive culture, different from the Japanese mainland.
In the fall semester 2009, JSSL offers an opportunity to learn about Okinawan culture, such as the sanshin and martial arts with weapons (kobudo) here at Willlamette. Mrs. Holman will be teaching sanshin and kobudo every week during academic year. Mrs. Holman was born and raised in Okinawa. She has played sanshin for 6 years, and has performed at the Okinawa Beach Festival and the Friendship Festival at a military base in Okinawa. She also joined Sakura Matsuri this year and fascinated people with her sanshin performance. As a martial artist, she keeps studying and improving her skills. She is eager to protect the history of Okinawan culture and deepen the understanding of traditions in order to pass them on to the next generation.
On May 4th and 5th, JSSL (Japan Studies Student Leaders) held the Okinawan Cultural Info Desk in Jackson Plaza. Mrs.Holman visited campus and introduced Okinwan culture gaving a demonstration. People learned about Okinawan culture and tried the sanshin and examined traditional Okinawan weapons. People also enjoyed popular Okinwan sweets “sata andagi.” It is Okinawan style donuts. You can try the recipe. Download now!
Sata Andagi Recipe
The sanshin is perhaps the best-known instrument in Okinawa. It originated in southern China and entered Japan through the Ryukyus about 600 years ago. The body is made from python skin, and the neck is made from ebony with Japanese lacquer, with strings made from tetoron. This three-stringed guitar-like instrument accompanies many types of music from old to new, and has become the symbol of Okinawan music. People say that the sound of the sanshin is the true heart of Okinawan music.
BEGIN is a popular J-pop group from Ishigaki Island, Okinawa.
Art of Self-Defense from Ancient Times
The development of kobudo in Okinawa is said to have started in the 11th and 12th centuries. From the time King Satto sent the first envoys to Ming China, various weapons and martial arts were introduced into Japan. Traditional weapons were blended with these newly introduced weapons and adapted by the natural environment and historic background of the Ryukyus, resulting Okinawa’s unique weapon-based martial arts. After various historical changes in Okinawa, martial artists were prohibited from carrying weapons, and thus naturally started to use ordinary farm or fishing equipment as replacements. Due to efforts of preservation and popularization, the once obscure kobudo has been firmly established as a living Okinawan cultural legacy. Today, kobudo has been passed down through generations as a means to cultivate and discipline both body and spirit worldwide.
I personally will buy sanshin this summer and start practicing on it. I always wanted to learn sanshin but there weren’t any chances in my life. This is a wonderful opportunity for all of you who want to learn about Japanese culture or start something new. Gain your cultural experiences and obtain new skills in Okinawan Cultural Workshop!
Lern More about Kobudo
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