Quick Report on Okinawa Trip: AmerAsian School, Kina Shoukichi


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. amerasianschoolfront.JPG 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. amerasianschoolclassJPG.JPGThe 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”. debitokadena.JPGThe 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

10 comments on “Quick Report on Okinawa Trip: AmerAsian School, Kina Shoukichi

  • Excellent! Reading about the school was interesting. Also, I’m very fond of Shoukichi Kina. His live show, which I saw in Okinawa, was my favorite ever. And, as the wiki entry notes, he’s a peace activist. Glad you had the chance to take that all in. Also, looking forward to reading your new JT column on Tuesdays.

  • Located in a local city-run center and about to celebrate it’s tenth anniversary…

    Yes, David, of “English Communication”; what exactly does “…To celebrate IT IS 10th anniversary” mean…

    Please stop abusing the apostrophe…

    –And of course, you never make a spelling mistake or tiny grammatical error yourself, right? Make sure you box yourself around the ears when you do. A simple, “Hey, you might want to correct this,” would win you kudos from Carnegie.

  • You mentioned the majority of the students are of asian and black/hispanic mix. Do you think this is because they face more difficulty in school because of that particular mix than an asian/white would or because they are more likely to have been abandoned?

    –I don’t really know for sure. It wasn’t a question I had occasion to ask. Sorry.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Debito, did the kids learn any Okinawan at all? I don’t suppose they have the resources to teach the “real” local language, but it would be ince if they devoted an hour or so per week to it. I’ve spent time on the outer islands where most kids are fortunate enough to get some Okinawan-language learning at home with their parents or grandparents, but international kids probebly don’t get much of a chance. Do they? Nmari jima nu kutuba wasshiinee, kunin wasshin, as they say. (“Forget the words of the island you were born on, and you’ll forget your own country.”)

    –Hi Mark. AFAIK I don’t think they’re receiving any formal instruction in the indigenous language at the school.

  • Gene van Troyer says:

    That school is a godsend for the single mothers, who often have no other place they can send their kids. The kids typically have two strikes against them: they’re “mixed race” kids born out of wedlock, with no fathers around; and their mothers are typically considered to be prostitutes or if not that, just a jump up as bar girls. In addition, the kids have other social development problems that result from the lack of having a dad around. It’s a pedigree that doesn’t sit well in the usual school environment. As noted, bullying is a problem.

    Local Okinawan languages are not taught to any great extent in the school system here. From the time Okinawa oficially became part of Japan back in the 1860s, the educational policy was to eradicate Ryuukyuan languages. The policy has, for the most part, succeeded. Most Okinawans these days don’t speak any of the Ryuukyuan languanges. Snippets of them persist as idiomatic expressions (Hogen), and there are some pockets of active use on smaller islands, but the day-to-day community language is Japanese. For all practical purposes, the indigenous Okinawan languages are dying off, and some are extinct. There has been some interest in trying to preserve them, but short of adopting language policies that mandate bilingual education, it’s unlikely that efforts to preserve the language will lead anywhere.

  • Brian Jones says:


    first, thanks for the advice you gave me in 2003 when my Taiwanese GF was deported by the Japanese immigration. Basically, they destroyed our relationship.

    I am sorry to slightly rain on your Kina Shoukichi parade but the man seems to have lost it in recent years; he singled me out on stage in Aoyama Cay (Spiral) in 2004 when he was giving an anti American speech-this at the height of the Yugoslav war. When I slightly spoiled it by revealing I was British, not American, as he had evidently hoped, he said to the crowd of a thousand or two “You British should calm down the Americans”. The crowd-now a roused rabble-cheered, I was embarrassed on national TV, it later turned out. In retrospect, the Caucasian at the gig was an easy target, and afterwards people apologized for his behaviour to me. Or more bluntly said he had been an asshole.

    2. He was a spiritual leader or “Upanishad” of a cult similar to Aum.

    3.It is very difficult for family members to have solo careers outside of the group; they have to ask for his permission, his sister Keiko has been trying for ten years or so now.

    4. Finally, I probably dont need to tell you about the obvious shady links the music business in Okinawa has to the underworld.

    Enjoy the music, especially the old stuff, but keep your distance.

  • Hello,

    Thank you for writing about the AmerAsian school! I substitute taught there in 2001 during my brief stay in Okinawa with my husband, who is Okinawan. It was a wonderful experience and we are hoping to find our way back to Okinawa in a couple years. Do youknow if there is a website for the school? I could not find one.

    Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>