Two young Okinawa descendants share their intercultural challenges

Two young Okinawa descendants share their intercultural challenges

Renan Eiji Teruya talking about how he overcame being bullied, how his aspiration to take the bar exam started, along with his goals as a lawyer.

June 23, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
Correspondent Celso Akihide Shiroma

On June 9, Brazil’s People of Okinawa Prefecture Association Youth Division and Urizun Okinawa Prefecture Foreign Exchange Student Trainee OB Association hosted a joint symposium at the People of Okinawa Prefecture headquarters. During the symposium, two young men shared their experiences of overcoming hardship, namely moving to a foreign country at a young age due to their parents’ work and encountering language and cultural differences. A total of 36 people, young and old, attended and gave a round of applause to the two young men who “want to help those in need.”

One of the speakers was 27-year-old Renan Eiji Teruya, who was born in Brazil, but then came to Japan when he was about seven-years-old with his mother, due to his mother’s work. In 2017, he became the first Japanese-Brazilian to pass the bar exam. He is a third-generation Okinawan descendant from Okinawa City. The Urizun Association invited him.

Kevin Ryuji Kuniyoshi performing “Asadoya Yunta” using the sanshin.

The other speaker was 23-year-old Kevin Ryuji Kuniyoshi who was born in Japan, but moved back to his parent’s hometown Brazil when he was seven-years-old. He’s currently majoring in International Relations at the Federal University of ABC. He is a third-generation Okinawan descendant from Yomitan Village. The Youth Division invited him.

Likewise, 22-year-old Bruna Higa, a third-generation descendant from Kitanakagusuku Village, of the Youth Division acted as the facilitator, while Urizun Association President Luzia Miyuki Teruya, a third-generation Okinawan descendant from Naha City, acted as Mr. Teruya’s interpreter.

The commonality between the two speakers is that they both moved to a foreign country in which they could not speak the local language as a result of moving with their parents. Also, both struggled in school and endured being bullied when they were young.

During junior high school, people around Teruya told him, “You’re stupid, don’t get good grades, and a foreigner, so you can’t become a lawyer.” There was even an instance where a classmate who did not like beans moved them to Teruya’s plate during lunch and said, “Eat more, you Brazillian.”

After being inspired by a TV show he watched in elementary school, Teruya decided to become a “lawyer that helps people.” Becoming aware of his resolve to advance to law school, Teruya’s high school homeroom teacher supported him. Teruya advanced to law school and later passed the bar exam. In college, he became aware that foreigners’ rights are limited, so he wants to be able to support those in need so they do not have to give up on their dreams.

When Kuniyoshi attended the World Uchinanchu Festival, he was inspired by sculptor Minoru Kinjyo’s remark, “You are the bridge between Okinawa and Brasil.” Kuniyoshi spoke of majoring in International Relations and wanting to help foreigners in need after graduating. During the entertainment portion of the symposium, he played the sanshin and performed “Nanyou Kouta” and “Asadoya Yunta.”

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)

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