Saturday, March 14, 2009


Hello out there! Sorry its been so long... I'm suddenly inspired this morning to write in this blog for the first time in over 6 months. I guess, yesterday was quite a special day for me and I felt I should share. Firstly, I witnessed my oldest daughter Audrey graduate from pre-school yesterday. She said her "aisatsu" loud and clear and bowed properly at all the right times. Much better than I could do it! I also participated in a Shishimai event in Koza next to a shoppers alley (Park Avenue - AKA BC Street) my mother used to always take me to when I was a seven year old kid in Okinawa. Park Avenue was the first place I ever really experienced in Okinawa since it was so close to my Aunt Hiroko's house. We would walk ten minutes from my aunts house to the shoppers alley 3 or 4 times a week and just walk around looking in various stores and finding a noodle shop to eat at. When I was twenty years old, I often left my mother with her sister and walked around these streets on my own. Coming back 23 years later (since 1986) to perform shishimai was quite a personal honor.

Regarding Audrey's graduation, man the Japanese do a good job with their pre-schools. Although the school is not much to look at from the outside (looks like a remnant from the WWII era), the teachers and overall school activities have been really great. Emma is going to start there next month and Audrey will make her way to Kindergarden! Here's some photos from the ceremony and a video of Audrey receiving her diploma. Also all the kids had to make a small speech about which kindergarden they were heading off to and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Audrey said "When I grow up, I want to be like Mommy".

(Audrey with her friend Yuuki)
(Audrey and boyfriends Mashu and Mahiro)
(Akemi, Audrey, Ken, Emma after the ceremony)
Shishimai as I probably mentioned can be roughly translated as the dance of the Shisa (or dragon-dog like creature that is an Okinawan figure of strength against demons and evil spirits). Most Okinawa houses have two shisa figures (one male one female) in the front of their house to ward against evil spirits. You can see a cute rendition of the shisa on the top o this blog. In any case, basically I am one of the lead shishi dancers now for the Koja Shishimai Troupe. Each shishi has two people inside. One at the front and one at the rear end. I'm at the head of the white shishi you see below. The front can be quite challenging as you have to swivel the shishi's head around with the strength of your arms. You also have to manuever you and your partner around with very low visibility. The back is also tough as you are basically blind and have to guess (through experience and knowledge) about how to act or move based on what you "feel" your partner is doing in front of you. Basic moves you typically see are the "roll-over" and the "standing high" move were the front man basically gets hoisted onto the rear man's shoulders or chest which makes the shishi stand 10 feet tall.

(That's me in the front of the white shishi with my partner in the rear. The taiko drummers and sanshin players are visible in the background)

My partner was quite tough on me for past few months since starting the group. I almost thought of quitting. You know, finally yesterday I'm feeling accepted by him and the rest of the group. I've been a clutch component to the group since joining because with the addition of myself they are able to perform with 2 shishi instead of just 1. And having 2 shishi out on the stage makes things more interesting for the spectators. The red shishi group is comprised of two brothers from the neighborhood. They were in the big Okinawa wide shishimai festival we held in October 2008. They're a blast to drink with!

(The Enogawa brothers make up the red shishi team. They're veterens of the neighborhood)

Here's a few videos from the graduation ceremony and from the shishimai:


Raskbulls said...

Way to go Audrey!!

And nice dancing! We'll be taking Paul to the Japanese Cultural Center next month for the cherry blossom festival. There is supposed to be some traditional dancing, and celebration of Japanese culture. Maybe will get to see some of this style dancing?


Ken said...

Julia, I love Japan town in SF! My mother and I used to go there sometimes. Someday, you Pat and Paul should come and watch one of our performances in Okinawa! Would be a lot of fun I promise!


Lassila said...

Hisashiburi desu nee!!

Thanks for the update Ken. Audrey looks so Japanese, does she still retain any of her American style personality?

I can't believe how big Emma looks in the family picture. Their cute summer cuts are all grown out and they look all grown up.

Take care!

Ken said...

Thanks Lara. Yeah, they're growing up quick alright... Audrey and Emma are still speaking English, although hands down Audrey's got me totally beat in japanese after one year in pre-school! Oh well, my brain has hardened, nothing you can do about that right?


MB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MB said...

Great stories and photos Ken.

We saw a similar dance by a Chinese group in San Francisco last January with Julia and Paul. Very animated and noisy. Paul was interested until they came too close. I've posted some photos and videos on Flickr - see: