Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Welcome Back Kenjinkai

Remember that old TV sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter?" It was a story about a former high school loser who ends up going to college and becoming a teacher, only to end up working right back at the very same high school he almost got kicked out of. In case you forgot, it's the one that starred a very untalented comedian named Gabriel Kaplan as the teacher, Gabe Kotter, and an equally untalented and very young (pre-Saturday Night Fever) John Travolta as Vinnie Babarino, high school degenerate and supreme leader of a group of losers who called themselves the Sweat Hogs..
(Banners from every village, town and city on the island. Click on the individual pictures to enlarge)

What does that old and very horrible TV sitcom have to do with today's post, other than the theme of homecoming and the similarity in the title, not a damn thing! But yesterday was a big homecoming of sorts here in Okinawa. You see about a hundred or so years ago, when Okinawa was very poor and the people were pretty much oppressed by the Japanese who conquered them a few hundred years prior, the land couldn't sustain the population so some of their leaders decided it was time to pack up the few toys they had and emigrate to other lands.
(This is just the Brazilian Contingent sign bearers, the main body sort of lagged behind and went on and on and on and on)

Many people went to Hawaii where they worked the land and invented the "Aloha Shirt" by modifying old Kimono's and Yukattas. Still others went to places like Brazil, Argentina, Peru etc. Here they were promised land in a homestead type deal. If they cleared it and made it work, the land was theirs to keep. Unfortunately, more often than not, the land they were promised when they got there was the most inhospitable swamps or desserts in the entire country.

The really cool thing about it was that in spite of the hardships, they did make it work and today, all of these countries and more have significant populations of people with Okinawan ancestry. Wednesday, October 12th, 2011, 509 years after Columbus discovered the America's, many of the offspring of these Okinawan pioneers returned to the land of their fathers for a big celebration.
(You can't have a contingent from Brazil without Samba dancers!)

Today's pictures are just a few of the big welcoming parade for their triumphant return home and what a return it was. The Brazilian faction was huge and the number of people in it was probably close to the number of troops in three Marine battalions. There was hardly a dry eye on "Kokusai" International Street as they all marched on by.

The celebration is called the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival and for the next few days and nights, Okinawa will be rocking with excitement.

Travel Photo Thursday for 13 Oct, 2011


  1. Sounds like an exciting festival- would love to be dancing in the streets!

  2. Fancy shooting, Doc and well presented !

  3. Wonderful shots, Doc. What a great celebration. Certainly shows how resilient we humans are.

  4. This festival sounds very interesting. The history along with it is amazing. I'm still trying to get over you calling Welcome Back Kotter "old and very horrible TV sitcom"! I for one loved that show :)

  5. Debbie,

    The best part of welcome back kotter was when Epstein presented the excuse notes from his mother and did his Chico Marx impersonation.

  6. Nancie,

    Right on with your comment on how resilient we humans are. One of the things I love about Okinawan folks is how they can keep smiling no matter how joyous or dire the situation.

  7. Jade,

    I think the Brazilian contingent had enough energy for everyone. To paraphrase a line by Bill Murray from the movie Stripes "I wanna party with those people!" I was genuinely surprised to find out that they island didn't sink a few inches from all the extra people.