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Youngsters, old folks exchange experiences

Date Posted: 2004-08-12

Clashes between youth of today and the elderly folks of generations gone by are quite common.

Not so in Taketomi Town, a secluded town located on Hateruma Island on the far southern end of Okinawa. It administers seven inhabited islands off Ishigaki, including Iriomote Island, and the young leaders are setting a national example of the good and respectful relations between generations.

Only 250 families live in Taketomi Town, where there’s an elementary school and junior high school. The best way to describe life there is harmony.

The relationships on Hateruma Island are unique, as the love and respect for one another goes well beyond what is normally found in communities today. The children care for the elderly, and have tight relationships with their neighbors. In school, youth and older residents mix and mingle, talking about the culture and history of their islands.

Taketomi Town has nine occupied islands and another seven which are deserted. The largest island is Iriomote. School children lead the discussions into the past, asking their elders to tell them about the old times, what kinds of clothes they wore, simple questions about brooms and hats and toys. They ask for details about their elders’ grandparents, and live from long long ago.
The goal from both sides is to preserve traditional handicrafts, naturally made goods constructed from grasses. The Hateruma Island Youth Association and the Aged Peoples Association exchange lifestyles and share the details that pass down the traditions to the new generations.

Some 70-100 yeasr ago, Okinawans wore slippers made from tree leaves. Fans, spoons, chopsticks, baskets, toys and more were made from the bark and leaves of trees. Knowing the past, and how the trees accounted for living utensils and tools, as well as handicrafts, benefit both generations.

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