Hi Blog. Quick report about my recent trip to Okinawa, February 28-March 1, 2008:
I was invited by a troupe of academics (Dr Lee Setsuko of Seibold University, Nagasaki; Dr Kojima of Osaka Shukutoku University; and Dr Tanaka Hiroshi, of Ryuugoku University, and one of Japan’s foremost academics of NJ activism in Japan) down to Ginowan, Okinawa, to check out the local AmerAsian School.
(Ginowan-Shi Shimashi 1-15-22, phone 098-896-1215)
Some pertinent links:
The Amerasian School is a very worthwhile organization. Located in a local city-run center and about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, it provides an education to children who fall through the cracks in Japan’s education system.
An estimated ninety percent of children there are from relationships from the US military bases, mostly single Japanese parents raising their children in Japan, but unable to fit into regular Japanese schools (due to bullying etc. issues). As the USG only allows those who are currently connected to US military to attend its free on-base schools (meaning children born out of wedlock, or left behind after divorce or desertion, are not entitled to on-base education), these are case of families that cannot afford the local Christian international school (with tuition fees of 80,000 yen a month; the AmerAsian School only charges 25,000 yen a month).
The AmerAsian School, which covers American elementary and junior high, lives on tuition, donations, and cheap perpetual lease agreements from Ginowan City. It was created to avoid embarrassment before the 2000 Nago Summit, when local activists offered to bring the subject of left-behind uneducated American-citizen children up with Hillary Clinton. However, as with most “ethnic schools” in Japan, it is in no way funded by the Education Ministry and enjoys no official “student discounts” etc. for transportation, food, etc.
From what your correspondent could see in a two-hour stay, the school is clean, orderly, and systematic. The children are spritely, friendly, bilingual (for most of them, their first language is Japanese), with the majority a lovely blend of Japanese and African-American or Hispanic. The teachers, and principal Asano Makoto, are very dedicated folk indeed, and forgo a lot to make sure these children get at least a basic education.
What happens when the kids reach high-school age? Well… some of them there were many questions I would have liked to ask, but I wasn’t there to specifically interview them, so only got a few queries in edgewise. What I know I’ve written down for your information. If you want to know more, two books in Japanese (which alas I have not had time to read yet) you might consider tracking down:
Teramoto Hirotaka, ed. “Amerajian Suku-ru–Kyousei to Chihei o Okinawa Kara” (Fukinotou Shobou, 2001). ISBN 4-434-0958-3
Uezato Kazumi, “Amerajian–Mou Hitotsu no Okinawa” (Shin Nichi Purosesu KK, 1998). ISBN 4-87699-398-X
Suggest that anyone who can try to visit and contribute something.
By the way, we spent two evenings in Kina Shoukichi’s Live House “Chakra” on Kokusai Doori, Naha, taking in his brand of Okinawan music (guitars and jamisen combined masterfully, and incredibly hooky songs). Picture of his troupe in action:
His Wikipedia entry, for what it’s worth:
Kina Shokichi (Kina Shōkichi, 喜納昌吉, born June 10, 1948 in Koza (now part of the city of Okinawa), Okinawa, is a Ryukyuan rock musician who, along with his band Champloose, played a large role in the Japanese home-grown “folk rock” scene in the 70s and 80s. His first big hit was “Haisai Ojisan” (Hey, old man) in 1972, which he wrote when he was in high school. (He was actually in prison on drug-related charges when the song became a hit.) He is now perhaps equally well-known for his ongoing activism in the name of peace.
He was elected a member of the House of Councillors in July 2004.
He performed on Friday night; forty minutes of masterful jams and danceable sets. Met him afterwards for a small chat and got a signed copy of his CD. He’ll get copies of my books later.
I was less than 48 hours on Okinawa, but saw a hell of a lot. Even took a quick taxi ride up to Kadena Gate Doori (where we were admonished by an automatic-weapon toting Beigun guard not to take pictures by the gate), where we saw the effects of the current “lock down”. The Japanese press that morning made a big deal about the shuttered shopfronts due to lack of business. It didn’t look all that bad to me, and it looked more prosperous (such as it was) than outside Misawa Air Base sans lock down.
Hope to get down to Okinawa again someday soon. Was very impressed by the friendliness of the people and the relative responsiveness of even shopkeeps in the tourist traps. Should linger longer next time to let impressions sink in deeper.
Arudou Debito back in Sapporo