A Trip To Okinawa

Janice's "Postcard"

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Sitting left to right: Kazu, Janice's mother, Janice; A cousin, Kiyoko, is standing

An online friend, Janice, went to Okinawa for the second time in June 2001 - her first visit had been in 1991. Her heritage was Okinawan and she'd always longed to return again. Here are some excerpts from her letter to me:

This last trip was a very emotional one for me. Most due in part because of my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language.It's all too common for Japanese (and Okinawan) women who marry Americans not to teach their native language to their children. It's really too bad.

It was quite a scene when we arrived at Naha Airport. There was a big crowd of my cousin Kazu's immediate family there (she traveled with us). As you might imagine, it was quite a reunion. I was so jetlagged and sort of out of it and these relatives I'd never met before were hugging me and crying and thanking me profusely for bringing Kazu home.

My mother was preoccupied with her reunion with her sister and nephews, so there I was, not able to say much to these people. The hardest thing about my experience is that I can feel the connection to these people (my relatives), but I cannot express it to them. It's like being underwater and needing to take a breath of air but the surface is too far away. Most of the trip was that way, and that's why it was so difficult this time.

We stayed at my mother's sister's house in Naha. It's a very traditional Okinawan style home. There is a hinpun, and my mother and I stayed in the ichibanza. The family shrine was in the next "room" (separated by the sliding door). I was awakened every morning by the a.m. offerings. They ring a little bell twice and then the food is presented.

I was not able to find any travel guides in English. My uncle arranged for us to take a short trip to Nagasaki while I was there and I scoured the airport but found nothing in English. Anything I did find was such a treat for me -- I felt so illiterate at times. I depended on my mother so much - I felt like a little kid!

Thank you very much for your books and information about Okinawa. You have provided the American explanations and overviews of Okinawan culture that I have needed since my mother does not always have the English vocabulary to explain. You have been an important link to my understanding of my Okinawan background that I am only beginning to know.