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.

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.

hiff2012karakara

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.

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. 🙂

HY provides theme song to NHK drama “Jun to Ai”

Top indie pop band HY’s “Ichiban Chikaku ni” is the theme song to NHK’s latest asadoraJun to Ai” which started airing on 10/1/12. The drama is filmed in Miyakojima and is the first since 2001’s popular “Churasan” to be set in Okinawa. “Jun to Ai” stars actress/talento Natsuna as Jun Kano, who dreams of turning her grandfather’s Miyakojima hotel into a “magical place” for visitors, and Ai (Itoshi Machida) is played by Johnny’s Entertainment actor/talento Shunsuke Kazama.

The song will be included in HY’s upcoming original album (the band’s 8th), “PARADE,” to be released on 12/5/12.

Event: Special Eisa Concert: Naha Daiko & Chinagu Eisa Hawaii with Singer Ikeda Suguru

Chinagu Eisa Hawaii is a local eisa drum group that I have been a fan of for some time. They perform a contemporary style of eisa. The symbol of the group is the kanji “kizuna,” which means strong emotional bonds. For the group, it represents the connection between generations of drummers, between Okinawa and Hawaii, between East and West, and the connection that you have with your culture as an individual.

The group formed in 2008 and first performed with their sister group, Naha Daiko of Naha City, at the 2010 Okinawa Festival and have sent students to train in Okinawa with them. Naha Daiko is a professional eisa group from Okinawa.

Saturday, September 8, 2012 (2:00pm and 6:00pm) at Mamiya Theatre

(via Shari T.)

Event: Suruti Chibarana -Striving Together-

Maui Okinawa Taiko and Jimpu Kai Maui will have a joint anniversary recital on Sunday, 24 June 2012, at the Baldwin High School Auditorium. The recital, which starts at 2:00pm, celebrates Maui Okinawa Taiko’s 15th anniversary and Jimpu Kai Maui’s 10th anniversary.

Tickets are $12.00 for general admission and $10.00 for seniors 55 and over and children 12 and under. For more information, call the Maui Okinawa Cultural Center at (808) 242-1560.

Download the flyer (JPG, 103 KB)

(h/t Char Gima)

Event: Okinawa Association of America’s Annual Picnic

Joseph Kamiya:

Every year, the organization hosts a picnic in South El Monte, California. We feature live entertainment (sanshin, taiko, odori, martial arts, hula, etc.), games and festivities for children, bento boxes, free shaved ice, great raffle prizes, and our big Bon Dance finale! We also award a few high school students with our annual scholarships.

Okinawa Association of America’s Annual Picnic on Sunday, 8 July 2012, from 11am to 4pm. Takes place at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area #1, 750 South Santa Anita Avenue, South El Monte, CA. Admission is free.

More information can be found on their Facebook page and check out their YouTube channel for videos from their past events.

(via Joseph Kamiya)

Event: 2nd Eisa Drum Festival in Hawaii

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WHAT? 2nd Eisa Drum Festival

WHEN? Saturday, May 12, 2012

TIME? 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm

WHERE? Great Lawn, Kapiolani Community College

Kapiolani Community College and the Office of Student Activities are pleased to announce that the 2nd Eisa Drum Festival will be held on Saturday, May 12, 2012 on the Great Lawn at the center of our campus.

Program will begin at 5:30 pm and conclude with a grand finale at 9 pm. Food sales will begin at 5 pm. The event is FREE and open to the public.

WHAT IS EISA? Eisa is a form of dance and drumming unique to Okinawa. The Eisa Drum Festival seeks to celebrate and develop an appreciation for this little known form of drumming in Hawaii. There will be a spectrum of Eisa, ranging from traditional dances to contemporary styles.

WHY IS THIS FESTIVAL SPECIAL? The festival will feature the largest gathering of Eisa drummers in Hawaii, all uniting for a spectacular grand finale. We hope to have over 100 performers all drumming together. There will be a gathering of the Shisa (Okinawan Lion Dogs).

There will also be a special guest performer. The acclaimed artist, choreographer, director, and one of my favorite performers Daiichi Hirata is traveling all the way from Okinawa to participate in Eisa Festival!

Performers include: Chinagu Eisa Hawaii, Hawaii Eisa Shinyuu Kai, Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, and the Young Okinawans of Hawaii with Paranku Clubs of Hawaii, Taiko Center of the Pacific, Urizun Minyo Group, and Kawika Napoleon.

Enjoy live music under the stars. Bring lawn chairs to sit on, blankets, and jackets. Parking is free. Alcohol is strictly prohibited. Parking Map of campus.

FOOD! The majority of the food on sale will be prepared by Chef Grant Sato and Chef Dave Hamada of KCC’s culinary program. Special desserts provided by the KCC Slow Food Club. There will be rafute, kabocha, miso eggplant, special bento, yakisoba, andagi and more! Check out the Okinawan sweet potato bread pudding and “Goya Popper.” Full list of items for sale and descriptions will be posted shortly at www.facebook.com/eisahawaii

Up-to-date information on program, schedule, parking, maps, and food items on sale will be posted at www.facebook.com/eisahawaii

The 1st Eisa Drum Festival was a truly magical event. We were blessed with amazing performances and an incredible crowd. To see videos and photos from the 1st festival, please visit: www.pigsfromthesea.com

(h/t Shari)

Show your support

From the NYT: “Okinawans Protest Japan’s Plan to Revise Bitter Chapter of World War II

For the past quarter of a century, Japan’s high school textbooks had included the accepted historical fact that that Okinawans had been coerced into mass suicides by Imperial Army soldiers.

But six months ago, the Education Ministry said that next year’s government-endorsed textbooks would eliminate all references to Japan’s soldiers. According to the revised passages, the Okinawans simply committed mass suicide or felt compelled to do so. But by whom?

[…]

Okinawa, which suffered the only battle on Japanese soil involving civilians during World War II, was an independent kingdom with its own culture and language until it was officially annexed by Japan in the late 19th century. During the war, Japanese soldiers distrusted Okinawans and feared that they would act as spies for the Americans.

Only a few survived the war from both of my grandparent’s families. My mom once told me a story of how she walked for miles upon miles carrying her younger sister to get away from the devastating war.

If you feel strongly enough to make yourself heard about this, please show your support by adding your name to this online petition.

[Nifee to Keith Nakaganeku for the email.]