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Former Miss Hawaii credits her Uchinanchu roots for success

Date Posted: 2007-06-08

A former Miss Hawaii calls what her ancestors did "hard work and something that makes our life what it is today".

Traci Noguchi, Miss Hawaii 1995, is a fourth generation Okinawan who has just completed her third visit to Okinawa in her continuing quest to trace her roots. “My grandmother immigrated to Hawaii when she was 18,” says Noguchi, “when ships were the only way to travel and her work in sugarcane fields paid only $ .10 a day. I’m grateful to them, and learning our roots gives us a sense of modesty.”

The 33-year-old singer and songwriter entered Hawaii’s spotlight via the Miss Hawaii Pageants, finishing as first runner up in 1993 and 1994 before capturing the title in 1995. She also won the swimsuit award in both 1994 and 1995, as well as the talent award for singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls the year she picked up the winner’s tiera. She performed the same number in the Miss America Pageant.

Educated at Hawaii’s Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific Universities, and at New York State University, Toguchi has propelled herself into the business arena with her own company that has a radio talk show, training and education programs, community involvement and inspirational speaking engagements. Her corporate motto, ‘Self Empowerment. Live Your Potential’ is exhibited daily as she travels internationally.

Promoting her music CD’s and breaking into the Japan market were the reasons for her most recent Okinawa visit. Her ‘Feel the Breeze’ CD’s are on sale at Laguna Garden Hotel in Ginowan City.

She’s also back in school, studying speech communications. “Young people don’t communicate with aged people,” she says, “so they don’t know where they came from, and they don’t know their own roots, and they don’t know themselves.” Toguchi wants to remedy that by teaching others “to learn gratitude and modesty, and to let themselves know their ancestry.”

The Hawaii native was in Okinawa for the Fourth Annual World Uchinanchi Festival, and says it was exciting. “Everyone came from many countries, and they didn’t speak the same languages, but still they were all people exchanging their own cultures and spirits.” Toguchi says she felt proud and grateful it touched her. “Uchinanchu’s spirits have a lot of love, and this love makes our original cultures and styles something special.”

She says Okinawans should work hard to protect their culture for the future, and to keep Okinawa in the world spotlight. Personally, she’s doing just that, learning the arts of Okinawa Shamisen in both Minyo and Kotten forms, drawing on skilled performers such as Grant Murata, James Maeda and Harry Nakasone as instructors. She’s also learned the Okianwan Sanba from Keiko Kina.

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