Kazufumi gives a lecture at Ryukyu University about producing Okinawan Kuruchi and avoiding war

Kazufumi gives a lecture at Ryukyu University about producing Okinawan Kuruchi and avoiding war

Photograph: Kazufumi Miyazawa taking about his “100-year Kuruchi Forest Project.” June 29, Ryukyu University Law School, Nishihara.

July 7, 2017 by Ryukyu Shimpo

The 93rd Ryukyu University 21st Century Forum was held June 29 at the Ryukyu University Law School in Nishihara. The forum featured musician Kazufumi Miyazawa, who lectured on the topic of, “The future of our island – Kuruchi, uta, and sanshin.” Miyazawa discussed his project which involved performing with a sanshin made with kuruchi (also known as Ryukyu ebony), the wood used for the neck of the sanshin, from a forest which had been raised for 100 years called the “100-year Kuruchi Forest Project.”

At the outset, Miyazawa talked about the making of his famous song, “Shima uta.” He reflected, “I was traveling around Okinawa, visiting places like the Himeyuri Peace Museum and Chibichirigama. I was embarrassed by my complete lack of knowledge about the Battle of Okinawa. There are many people on the main island who do not know much about Okinawa. I sang ‘Shima uta’ with the thought of teaching them.”
With regards to his connection to kuruchi, Miyazawa said, “I heard from someone who worked at a sanshin shop who said that after ‘Shima uta’ became a hit, imports of kuruchi increased, and I felt extremely guilty. I thought there must be something I could do, so I set me gaze towards the planting of Okinawa kuruchi.

In 2012 the Kuruchi Forest Project began, with an executive committee comprised mainly of growers and forest managers. “It will be 100 years until it can become the material for sanshin. After these 100 years, we will have competed the Kurchi Forest. If we can make a sanshin from Okinawan kuruchi, it will mean that during this period, the island will have not experienced war, and will be able to prove it. It is with this in mind that I want to raise these trees,” he said with passion.

After the lecture, Miyazawa played “Shima uta” on a sanshin he made himself. The people who came to listen were intoxicated by Miyazawa’s passionate voice and colorful sanshin.

Also attending the panel were Daiichi Hirata, former chair of the Okinawa Culture Promotion Association, Miki Nakamine, from the Okinawa Sanshin Crafters Co-op, and Professor Shingo Taniguchi, from the Ryukyu University School of Agriculture, all of whom are working with Miyazawa on the project.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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