Impressions of my first three weeks in Naha

By E. Heinrich-Sanchez and Candida Sanchez Burmester

Me and members of my host family.

 

 

We hope you had a great Golden Week for those who had off. It is normally wet and muggy so it is a surprise that May is this cool. In the following weeks we will be touching on education and how Okinawa connects to the world. This week, I would like to introduce to you a young German Karateka, Candida Sanchez Burmester. No family relation to me personally. Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate.

Very friendly people – Beniimo cookies (purple potato sweets), every single one packed in plastic tatami with futon as bed – taking off ones shoes when entering restaurants or other buildings – raw fish as breakfast – furrows as toilets – motchi (risecooky) – turquoise sea – …

This and much more is part of the everyday life of the population here – for me as a German temporary visitor these are just a few aspects of many very new impressions I have had. In the following text I will describe some experiences of mine, they don’t describe the Okinawan culture in general but just my personal observations.

I am a twenty year old woman. Mainly I grew up in Munich, Germany, but lived also in the South of Mexico. Since I was a five year old girl I have been training Karate.

All the time I practiced Karate in order to participate in competitions. At one point I noticed that it didn’t fulfill me anymore. I read a book which describes an absolute different perspective of Karate, or I should say the spirit of Karate which is considered budo instead of being a sport. I was so fascinated and impressed by its history, development and philosophy that I decided to get to know the traditional Karate at the place where it started.

Thanks to the great help of Miguel Da Luz (Okinawa Media Planning Co., Ltd) it was possible for me to find not only a Dojo but also a (English speaking) host family and that way make a dream of mine come true.

I am living in Naha since almost one month enjoying the time in Okinawa!

Three times a week I am training in the Shorin-Ryu Shubukan Dojo of Uema Sensei. The training really satisfies me and I appreciate Uema Sensei because of his generous character and his very extensive knowledge and wisdom. I am also very lucky with my host family. Sachiko-San, Tadaaki-San and their two sons Taisuke (12) and Yusuke (6) are very kind people. They explain and help me a lot concerning for example the Japanese language and also the daily life. I am very grateful of their hospitality. A special experience for me was the invitation to a traditional Okinawan celebration which is called Shimi. It is in honor of the forefathers. We bought many fruits, meat, fish and sweets and draped the food on tablets. Together with my host parents we went to their family tomb. Their children stayed at home, my host mother told me that many young people aren’t interested in traditional customs any more. I was allowed to watch how they put the food in front of the tomb, prayed and burnt incense in order to call the forefathers. In Germany the worship of ancients isn’t part of our culture so it was an intensive step into into the Okinawan culture.

There are many values and habits I have to get accustomed to because they are distinct to German ones.

The kindness of the Okinawan people seems to me very outstanding. Wherever I go I get  help. In the market, on the street, in shops I am asked if I need something, for example an explanation of how to use the machines in the entrance of restaurants where you get a ticket after choosing your meal. I also noticed the importance of kindness and politeness in the Japanese language.

Now to the reason why I was asked to write a guest column in the JAPAN UPDATE.

Something that really calls my attention in Okinawa is the huge amount of plastic being used anywhere. I think it isn’t only a problem of Okinawa but of all countries in general. Nevertheless the enormous offer of plastic products or products wrapped in plastic in the supermarkets and trash on some beaches is conspicuous. I noticed that many items have one/two/three wrappings of plastic and every little thing is given in a plastic bag. I try to avoid buying sweets in which every single cookie is packed in plastic and therefore always take my own cloth bag along.

In my studies I found a very good film about the consumption, the disposal and the great danger of plastic for the whole environment.

(link to the English trailer: http://firstrunfeatures.com/trailers_plasticplanet.html )

After watching it I was very shocked. I then started searching for „solutions“. In the internet I found the „I Love Okinawa Campaign“.

It is a subject concerning everybody. I am looking for alternatives and try to reduce and refuse synthetic products (as it was also approached in the last JAPAN UPDATE).

In my opinion the absence of plastic isn’t realistic but I think plastic needs to be used in a conscious way of all of us in order to help make the world and in this case Okinawa an even better place.