We’re back!

Gosh. Six. Years.

Our last post was 6 years ago at both Tumblr (link) and here at WordPress. Why now? Although I took a break (yep, it was a long break) from writing here, I’ve still been active on Twitter (i.e. on my personal account) and noticed a lot of new voices coming from like-minded people outside of Okinawa — something clicked in me and I felt that now is the time to come back to this space.

I’ll be working on new posts as well as doing much needed housekeeping on the backend. I was also quite pleased to find that no one had claimed my karakui domain in my absence so I’ll have it back to Karakui.com soon.

For those who have stuck around and those new to Okinawan pop culture, nifee and mensore!

NHK World’s Okinawa Playlist

Perhaps one of the best media resources for non-Japanese language speakers is NHK World which is available as website and a standalone app for the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Recently they added playlists from their On Demand collection and there’s one for Okinawa!

NHK World’s website showcasing the Okinawa playlist

The playlist (“Okinawa: Hope through Hard Times” link) currently has 5 episodes and the one I want to bring your attention to for its pop culture theme is called “The Sounds of Okinawa: Joy and Prayers for Shuri Castle”. The 45-minute episode features HY, Miyazawa Kazufumi (The Boom), Chuning Candy, i-dushi, Kiiyama Shoten, and KARIYUSHI 58. (I’ll have posts up of a few of the artists who are new to this blog.)

The episodes won’t be available forever so please don’t miss them — especially the music one for fans of Okinawan pop culture.

Film: Ryukyu Battle Royale

This year’s 33rd HIFF will feature a film shot on location in Okinawa titled “Dancing Karate Kid (Ryukyu Battle Royale)”. The film is directed by Tsukasa Kishimoto and stars former Johnny’s Jr. idol Joey Beni, gravure idol Yui Koike, and karateka Akihito Yagi.

Synopsis from HIFF’s website by Jason Musni Soeda:

Ken Sawamura is a handsome, young hip-hop dancer traipsing his way through Okinawa. With little more than a ghetto blaster, he wanders into a small town hoping to perfect his own style of dance. His liquid smooth, body waving dance moves capture the attention of Iwao Shinjo, an old Ryukyu dance master who believes “a good dancer is also a good fighter.” Ken begins learning Iwao’s folksy dance steps, not realizing his new routines are taking on the form of legendary Ryukyu karate! Also in the mix is Misako, Iwao’s perky and hot-blooded granddaughter, who sees Ken as potential husband material. This should be an ideal situation, but Ken quickly finds himself at odds with local yakuza, a rival karate club master and a centuries-old Okinawan tradition, “the battle for the bride.”

Screens on Sunday, 20 October 2013, at 4:00 PM.

Event: 3rd Eisa Drum Festival at Kapi’olani Community College on May 11th

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3rd Eisa Drum Festival at Kapi’olani Community College on May 11th
A Celebration of Okinawan Culture with Drums, Lions, Music, and Karate

Kapi’olani Community College and the Office of Student Activities are pleased to present the third Eisa Drum Festival on Saturday, May 11 from 5:30 to 9 pm, on the Great Lawn (center of campus). The outdoor festival brings together ‘ono food prepared by Kapi’olani CC culinary program and the spectacular art form of taiko performed amid the beauty of Diamond Head under the stars. The program begins at 6 pm. The event is free and open to the public, with ample parking on campus.

Performers include Chinagu Eisa Hawai’i, Hawai’i Okinawa Creative Arts, Hawai’i Taiko Kai, Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate and Urizun Minyo Group. This year’s festival also features special guest performers from Okinawa, including Daiichi Hirata, acclaimed producer, choreographer, and musician, as well as members of Requios, the 2012 World Eisa Competition winner.

Eisa is a form of dance and drumming unique to the people of Okinawa. Originally performed as part of a religious function honoring those who have passed, modern Eisa is an exhilarating combination of singing, chanting, dancing and drumming. In Okinawa and Hawai’i, Eisa continues to be performed at Bon Dances. This year’s festival will feature contemporary styles of drumming, with Okinawan taiko, karate, lions, and contemporary folk music.

“The first two festivals have been described as ‘magical’ and we hope to continue that tradition in our third year,” said Shari Tamashiro, Kapi’olani CC Cybrarian, and one of the coordinators of the festival. “We’re also very pleased to have celebrity chef instructor Grant Sato and Kapi’olani CC’s famous culinary program managing the food booths.”

“The bringing together of Island People, Daiichi Hirata from Okinawa and Kawika Napoleon from Hawai’i, was so dynamic. . . it brought forth a sense of joy and pride from within,” said Dorene Niibu of Windard CC.

“When I think of Eisa Fest, I think of it as the first major event of the summer,” said Jonathan Wong, faculty member at Kapi’olani CC. “To me, it signals that summer is here and what better way to start the summer off with a bang than with drums, food, music and stars.”

Enjoy an evening under the stars. Bring lawn chairs to sit on, blankets, and jackets. Up to date information on program, schedule, parking, maps, and food items on sale will be posted at http://www.facebook.com/eisahawaii. Alcohol is strictly prohibited at the event.

To see videos of the 2nd Eisa Festival, go to: http://bit.ly/17quWKz. For photos, go to: http://smu.gs/Z4Mpbj.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 27,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Karakara at HIFF 2012

HIFF 2012: Karakara

This film. Amazing. Following up on a post from about a week ago, today was the HIFF 2012 screening of director Claude Gagnon’sKarakara.” The director was at the screening so there was an interview and Q&A after the film. First of all, he was surprised that the theatre was packed since he called the 12:00pm screening “early” and although I took a few photos with my iPhone, I later kicked myself for not having recorded audio of the interview and Q&A session. There were some interesting things he said about filming in Okinawa but the thing I’ll share with Karakui.com readers is his mentioning Yukito Ara and how much he admires him and the musician’s ability to create modern music that’s still very much Okinawan. The majority of the soundtrack by Yukito-san is instrumental (his soulful sanshin playing) and a song with vocals (the duo he put together with guitarist Isamu Shimoji called SAKISHIMA meeting) comes at the end credits.

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The film was chosen as one of HIFF’s “2012 Film For Thought” and there was a brochure passed out at the entrance to the theatre with a nice write-up by University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor Christine Yano. (If you missed it or want to get your hands on one, HIFF has a PDF version available for download.)

I’ve had the opportunity to watch a large number of films shot in Okinawa and the majority of them have relied heavily on a fantasy aspect of the island so although “magic” was mentioned quite a few times in the film, I was relieved that there was no actual magic taking place. 🙂 It was also nice seeing a director who wasn’t from mainland Japan film in Okinawa and I feel that it brought about a different perspective than what I’ve been used to (like the before mentioned fantasy aspect). For that reason, I was surprised to find an optimistic ending rather than one of tragedy (I’m trying my best not to have any spoilers of the film so excuse me for being vague). Among many things related to Okinawa, the film does allude to the U.S. military base problem (it’s mentioned that 20% of Okinawa is military bases) but before getting too political, Youki Kudoh’s character (she’s still so beautiful!) says instead to look at the beauty of the island around you as there’s not much two people can do to change things. (Later in the film there’s a bit that mentions filmmaker Michael Moore to bring it to his attention.)

The film will have a second screening tomorrow (Monday, 10/15/12) at HIFF 2012 and I highly recommend it. There doesn’t seem to be an official English-language website for the film — tho there’s mention that it’s in the works — but there is a Japanese-language one. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the film, I think it’s best to follow their Facebook page which is updated regularly.

Event: OAA’s 2012 Bazaar and Fundraiser

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The Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) is having its annual Bazaar and Fundraiser event at the OAA Center! Enjoy delicious Okinawan soba, mochi, andagi (the best “Okinawan dango” in town), teriyaki chicken and beef bento, spam musubi, and more!

Get a head-start on your holiday shopping with homemade crafts and OAA merchandise. Visit the vegetable/plant booth for bargain prices. You could get lucky, too, with the raffle drawings for wonderful prizes!

Entertain your kids with face painting, arts and crafts, and our Warabi Eisaa Workshop. Enjoy your lunch with live entertainment from local performers: Okinawan karate, taiko, dance and sanshin, as well as hula, ukulele, and a special Hollywood Samurai presentation!

View OAA’s website for more information: 2012 Bazaar and Fundraiser Schedule/Menu.

(h/t to Joseph K.)

Film: Karakara at 2012 HIFF Fall Festival

Following today’s “filmed in Okinawa” theme, a film titled “Karakara” will be shown on 10/14 and 10/15 at the 2012 HIFF Fall Festival.

From Kururu Vision’s website:

Wishing to find peace of mind, Pierre, a retired professor in his early sixties, ends up making a short, unsettling trip around Okinawa with Junko, a 40-year-old runaway wife. The confused intellectual would rather not get involved with this unlikely and unexpected lover but decides to follow his destiny, wherever it (she?) may take him.

The film was written and directed by Claude Gagnon and stars Gabriel Arcand and Youki Kudoh. What I’m most looking forward to is the film’s soundtrack which is by Yukito Ara of Parsha cluB (my favorite band) and the theme song is by SAKISHIMA meeting.

Say hello if you see me at one of the HIFF shows. 🙂