New Caledonia joins 5th Uchinanchu Festival for the first time
May 1, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo
Fifty people of Okinawan descent and a number of government officials from New Caledonia, a special collectivity of France, will take part in the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival scheduled to be held in October 2011.
Four members of a family from New Caledonia participated in the previous Festival five years ago when on a trip to visit ancestral graves, but this is the first time for people from New Caledonia to take part in the Uchinanchu Festival just for the Festival itself.
New to the “Okinawan network,” Takeshi Miki, the president of Okinawa-New Caledonia Friendship Association and Miguel Da Luz, the vice president of the Association, hopes that this will be the start of cultural exchange, stating that “New Caledonia is an island and is subtropical, the same as Okinawa. New Caledonia also relies on tourism and karate is practiced, so I think that there is scope for active cultural exchange between Okinawa and New Caledonia.”
The Mayor of Poindimie, who is also Governor of Northern Region of New Caledonia, the Chief of the Cultural Affairs Agency and the Honorary Consul of Japan will also participate in the Festival.
Because the ancestors of many of the people of Okinawan descent in New Caledonia were from Nago, New Caledonia will request the establishment of a sister-city relationship with Nago City.
Poindimie Junior High School will seek to start cultural exchange with Yagaji Junior High School of Nago. Many people of Okinawan descent currently reside in Poindimie.
The French champion of karate kata, who is from New Caledonia, will also be invited to Okinawa in October and cultural exchange through karate will be held in New Caledonia next July.
Some 1500 people of Okinawan descent are estimated to reside in New Caledonia. Those people, who mainly live in Poindimie, formed an association of people from Okinawa in 2007, and have developed exchange with Okinawa through the Okinawa Friendship Association. This has led to people from New Caledonia participating in the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival this year.
New Caledonia began to accept immigrants from Okinawa in 1905. Although more than 800 people of Okinawan descent lived there as mine workers, during the Pacific War they were forcefully repatriated to Japan because they were seen as enemy nationals.
Miki said, “Many family members of people of Okinawan descent want to find out about the roots of their fathers, who were sent back to Japan. I would like those people to use this opportunity to do so.”
(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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