Joseph Kamiya wants to carry the future of the Okinawa Association of America

Joseph Kamiya wants to carry the future of the Okinawa Association of America

Photograph: Joseph Kamiya (right) giving his parents, Janet (left) and Eddy (center), a sanshin after his studies in Okinawa at their home in Gardena, California

July 17, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Sadao Tome

Los Angeles – Joseph Yoshimasu Kamiya, 30, is the head of the Culture Committee at the Okinawa Association of America (OOA). The only son of OOA President Eddy Kamiya, Joseph Kamiya is a 4th generation Okinawan born in Los Angeles. The younger Kamiya is involved in event organization for the OOA, manages their social media sites, and sends newsletters to young Uchinanchu worldwide. He also spends a lot of time thinking about how Okinawans who have taken root in Los Angeles spend their lives, and how the global Uchinanchu community can stay connected.

In recent years, the OOA has turned its focus towards its youth, and through potlucks and other social events they have been working on strengthening the social bond between young Uchinanchu. They invite people from Okinawa engaged in cultural activities, and hold performances and movie screenings. In June, Harold Kameya invited director John Junkerman to their screening of his documentary, Okinawa: Urizun no ame, and Kamiya handled all the preparations and newspaper advertising with the Culture Committee.

Until recently, Joseph Kamiya had almost no interest in Okinawan art or culture. However, in 2009 Kamiya was moved by the Kumi Odori Dance “Shohashi,” which was performed at the OOA’s 100th anniversary celebration and choreographed by Daiichi Hirata. Soon after the performance he joined the Los Angeles Terukina Choichi Association and began practicing the sanshin. Since Kamiya already played the guitar, the sanshin, a similar stringed instrument, came easy to him, and he improved quickly. Kamiya enthused, “I had my sights set on the newcomer award at the art competition.”

From July 2016 through June 2017 Kamiya studied abroad in Okinawa, where he learned about sanshin repair at the Nakamine Sanshin shop in Naha, part of the Okinawa Sanshin Crafters Co-op. Sanshin brought by 1st generation Okinawans to Los Angeles have become old, and there is no one who can repair them. Kamiya reflected, “Becoming useful in this regard would be invaluable. I learned about the kuruchi (Ryukyu ebony) that the neck of the sanshin are made from. My studies were broadcast on NHK and other television programs, and it was definitely a meaningful experience.”

For the Okinawa Association of America, membership of the next generation of Okinawans is increasing, making clerical work increasingly difficult, so Kamiya has taken to doing the paper pushing for the OOA. “I would like to be a leader of the OOA in the future,” he said, indicating his decision to carry the future of the OOA on his shoulders.

(Translation T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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