Relatives in Hawaii and Okinawa united thanks to old passport and Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival

Relatives in Hawaii and Okinawa united thanks to old passport and Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival

Fourth-generation Okinawan Shirley Higa (center) meets her relatives who live in Kishaba, Kitanakagusuku Village at Shigeo’s house on January 4.

January 8, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Fourth-generation Okinawan Shirley Higa from Hawaii recently met with her relative Shigeo Asato who lives in Kishaba, Kitanakagusuku Village. Shirley’s only clue in her search for family was the passport of her first-generation great-grandfather, Masae Higa. She joyfully admitted: “I didn’t think I would find them.”
Shirley and her father, Derrick, attended the Worldwide Kitanakagusuku Reception Ceremony on October 28 last year. These relatives were able to find each other due to Shirley and Derrick telling other attendees that they were searching for family from Kitanakagusuku Village, and a photograph taken in Hawaii by Masakame (Shigeo’s father and Masae’s older brother). Shigeo had been showing the photograph around and asking if anyone knows the boy shown. The picture is of Derrick when he was a child.

Shigeo waves to his relatives in Hawaii through Shirley’s smartphone.

Shigeo did not think he had relatives in Hawaii, but he remembered a story his older brother told him about their older brother. The story was that he had been sent to Hawaii as a war criminal after his time in the Japanese Army’s Blood and Iron Student Corps. Masae had gone to Hawaii to see him.

About ten years have passed since Derrick started doing genealogical research into his family in 2007 and requested assistance from University of Hawaii. He plans to visit Okinawa two years from now. Derrick said, “When I heard that we found [our relatives] I was extremely happy.” He enthusiastically declared, “If we meet up I want to go shopping with them.” Shigeo is impatiently waiting to welcome Derrick and show him around Kishaba Ward.

Shirley lives in Okinawa with her husband, who works at Kadena Air Base. She commented: “At home I would make sata andagi with my grandmother, and go to sanshin lessons with my father. Okinawan blood runs through my veins.”

Shigeo waved awkwardly over a video call to Derrick in Hawaii. This is just one example of family ties that bind Hawaii and Okinawa.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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