300 stories of the Ikema people from Miyakojima captured in publication released by Ikema Cultural Association

300 stories of the Ikema people from Miyakojima captured in publication released by Ikema Cultural Association

Ikema residents featured in Sumabito Retsuden (Images provided by Tetsuya Kawakami and the Ikema Cultural Association) Ikema Cultural Association president Tetsuya Kawakami holding his publication Sumabito Retsuden

November 29, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Miyakojima – “That old man boasts of being the strongest on the island.” “That old woman has the most exquisite singing voice.” The Ikema Culture Association (Tetsuya Kawakami, president) has published Sumabitu Retsuden (tales of the townspeople), a series of biographies that shines a spotlight on the various lives of the people on the island. The publication shares the stories and personal anecdotes of around 300 of the townspeople of Ikema Island in Miyakojima. Kawakami, 72, who heads the ICA, said, “The book is packed with the people and lives of Ikema. I would be very pleased if it led to a rediscovery of the charm of the island.”

Sumabitu Retsuden is 148 pages, and contains 12 chapters including, “Sumabitu stories passed down to today,” “Pioneers who protected and fostered the island,” “The insha (diver) who lived through it all,” and “The things that make the island proud.”

Kawakami compiled much of it by scrapbooking newspaper and magazine articles regarding the people of the island over around a 20-year period, as well as interviewing elderly residents of the island, collecting around 300 accounts of fascinating characters and accomplishments.

The table of contents is filled with catchy titles for the stories such as, “Masao Nakama, the face of the Ikema people,” “Iwao Okuhara, the man who lived in the sea, tells his tale of invulnerability,” and “Hide Yonamine, whose movements all become a painting.”

Kawakami, a former school principal, said of the chance to publish his work, “People are unique, and they are protagonists in their own dramas. I wanted to bring people together to leave behind each of their dramas in some form.”

To mark the publication date of November 21, a “Sumabito Retsuden discussion meeting,” was held at the Ikema Community Center. The gathering was attended by residents of the island, who had comments such as, “I could picture their faces in each of the episodes,” “I want to send it to my relatives living on Okinawa’s main island and other parts of Japan.” Ikema neighborhood council president Koji Nakama said, “It stays with you wonderfully. I want to pass this down as a treasure of the island.”

Sumabito Retsuden will have 300 copies printed for its initial publication, and can be purchased at the Ikema Cultural Association. For any inquiries, please contact Kawakami at (Tel.) 090 (7396) 6560.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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