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Power of Our Stories

Yoshiki Nagahama of One Okinawa - Media connecting Okinawan people

An interview in Hawaii in Spring 2019, Mr. Nagahama is on the left.

Colonia Okinawa

The web magazine One Okinawa opened on October 30, 2019 as “a web media connecting Okinawan people (Uchinanchu) in the world.” (Note: October 30 is World Uchinanchu Day.) The same medium includes an interview with uchinanchu in Hawaii and a report of the fire that burned down Shuri Castle. The founder, Yoshiki Nagahama, is a former newspaper reporter of the Ryuku Shimpo and lives in Okinawa.

“I had the idea of launching this web magazine for several years. I found an airline ticket from Kansai to Hawaii around the end of April 2019 about 10,000 yen so I went to Hawaii and interviewed people there who were related to Okinawa. With that opportunity, the project started to move forward. About six months before the Hawaii interviews, I gathered some people who supported my idea. One of them was my former coworker at the Ryuku Shimpo who started work there at the same time and had studied in Hawaii. One had studied in Mexico and speaks Spanish fluently, who was also a former writer from Ryuku Shimpo, and there is a woman in charge of web design who was one of my classmates in elementary school.

It was 10 years ago when Mr. Nagahama first learned about emigrants from Okinawa. At that time, he had no relatives who had emigrated and he didn’t seem to know any uchinanchu who went abroad. However, when he traveled around the world as a backpacker after graduating from university, he had an opportunity to find out about immigrants from Okinawa in Bolivia.

“While staying in Mexico, I was somehow thinking about Okinawa and searched ‘Okinawa’ in Google Maps. The screen jumped to Colonia Okinawa in Bolivia, a land cultivated by Okinawan immigrants. Then I went to actually visit Colonia Okinawa. Okinawa’s culture was preserved from the time when people migrated during and after the war, and for me, who lives in modern Okinawa, my senses were bombarded and I felt like I had traveled back in time.

The Colonia Okinawa in 2010.


The success of the Uchinanchu

He became even more aware of overseas immigrants in 2016 when he participated in the World Uchinanchu Taikai as a reporter in a caravan tour to invite foreign prefectural associations.

“I traveled to four South American countries: Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. I learned there were quite a lot of successful uchinanchu in those areas. On the other hand, in Japan, many Okinawan are active in the entertainment industry and in culture, but they often feel inferior in terms of lower income, lower educational levels, and a high divorce rate. I was very surprised to see a reverse phenomenon in South America where people with Okinawan roots have high social status. This was new to me. By sharing the success of such overseas Uchinanchu, I thought that Okinawans would become confident, and that is the origin of the One Okinawa concept. I wanted to know about Uchinanchu living overseas, not just Okinawan people living in Okinawa.”

A store named “Okinawa” in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

When asked if there were other media similar to One Okinawa, Mr. Nagahama answered as follows. “When I was still an elementary school student, a documentary program was broadcast on Okinawa TV to follow Okinawan immigrants who are active overseas.” He recalls that he didn’t have an interest in the program when he saw it at that time, but it would be a valuable resource if he could see and put it together now.

In addition, I asked him what people he wanted to see One Okinawa. “Everyone. It isn’t just for Uchinanchu. I think that people who like Okinawa could be considered Uchinanchu in a broad sense. For example, for people who were sad that Shuri Castle burned down on the other day, they can be said to be Uchinanchu. It’s not an issue of blood or origin.”

With flexible attitude

Mr. Nagahama told me that he would like to cover a wide range of subjects in future. “Economic media will focus on business people and art media will cover artists, but the people introduced in One Okinawa will not be limited to specific categories. It’s alright to introduceSansei cosplayers who are related to Okinawa. I want people to feel that they are somehow connected to the subject matter.” Following his interviews in Hawaii, he would like to go to Los Angeles and interview many people there.

“My first goal is to continue to work on it without stress. By continuing, we hopefully are able to raise awareness of One Okinawa and increase supporting individuals and companies more and more. I want to develop this without rushing. We want to make editions in English and Spanish as well, and not just in Japanese sometime soon. In addition, since it is difficult to make money just with media, we would like to start flexibly working on additional businesses such as proxy document services of inheriting land in Okinawa for foreigners or importing products which we find when we visited other countries for interviews.

At the end, when asked for a comment about the fire that burned down Shuri Castle, he said, “For the first time I noticed the scope of its existence when the castle of disappeared. I honestly didn’t think it would make such an impact on me. For us living in Okinawa, I feel weight of this event as if our grandfather’s house had burned down. I want to post my thoughts on Shuri Castle in One Okinawa in the future.”

Mr. Nagahama says he wants to run a web magazine that connects Uchinanchu people around the world with a flexible attitude and without stress. As one of the “Uchinanchu in a broad sense” that was hurt by the fire that burnt down Shuri Castle, I want to keep an eye on the future of One Okinawa, where Mr. Nagahama and his friends will send out information.

*****


Web Magazine One Okinawa

 

© 2020 Keiko Fukuda

Bolivia colonia okinawa identity network okinawa One Okinawa uchinanchu Web magazine

About this series

This series features projects that help to preserve and share Nikkei stories in different ways—through blogs, websites, social media, podcasts, art, films, zines, music, merchandise, and more. By highlighting these projects, we hope to share the importance of preserving and sharing Nikkei stories and inspire others to create their own.

If you have a project you think we should feature, or are interested in volunteering to help us conduct future interviews, email us at Editor@DiscoverNikkei.org.