Camp immerses keiki in everything Okinawan

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Sadie Eckersley, 8, and Addison Araki, 8, learn “Asatoya Yunta” on Tuesday during Hui Okinawa Cultural Day Camp at the Hilo Higashi Hongwanji.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Adam Leopoldino, 9, does a solo while learning teku Tuesday during Hui Okinawa Cultural Day Camp at the Hilo Higashi Hongwanji.

The sounds of drums filled the room Tuesday morning at the Hilo Higashi Hongwanji as nearly a dozen keiki pounded the 5-gallon buckets turned teku drums.

Now in its 18th year, the Hui Okinawa Children’s Cultural Day Camp, for kids ages 8-13, was well underway.

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Out front, another group practiced a dance, “Asatoya Yunta,” while holding paranku, or hand drums, which were made out of cardboard by the campers.

“The primary purpose is just to expose the children … to the Okinawan culture and also the old plantation days — food and games that they had before,” said camp director Dwayne Miyashiro.

There’s dancing (udui), singing (utayun), cooking, drumming (teku or taiko), karate (karati), games, lessons about the history and culture of Okinawa and more.

The camp, which has 50 children signed up this year, culminates with a program Friday for family and friends.

Hui Okinawa is a culture club, Miyashiro said. The camp program was put together by the Hawaii United Okinawa Association out of Oahu.

A statewide program, Miyashiro said it’s offered on every island but Hilo’s is the longest-running “because we have the most volunteers. We have over 60 people …”

For his part, Miyashiro said that “because we live in a multi-ethnic community,” he hopes the children “get a sense of appreciation of what different cultures offer. So with that appreciation and understanding, to me, it makes for a kinder, better world.”

But the purpose of Hui Okinawa is to preserve and perpetuate the Okinawan culture, he said.

Camp participant Adam Leopoldino, 9, said he likes the karate component “because it gives me something to do, and I’m interested in martial arts.”

This is his second year at the camp.

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“It was fun last year, so I want to come back every year until I can’t — and then I’m going to be a helper,” Adam said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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