My grandfather, on my father's side, came to Hawaii from Okinawa during the Sugar Cane days (about 1908) and over the years we had lost touch with his family. My grandfather was originally from Haebaru, a town that was destroyed during the war. A lot of records were burned with the bombing of the area.
The town of Haebaru has mainly 2 family names Tobaru & Oshiro. The first question most people will ask you is "Oshiro? or Tobaru?"
Rewind to 2003 (pre-blog), we were fortunate to re-connect with some of my family. At the time, while we were searching for leads, no one knew about my family, but after word travelled, my relatives were found. It was neat because when we met them, they had photos of my relatives in Hawaii (proof that we were really related).
Fast forward to this trip to Okinawa, we visited with my relatives. It was nice spending the day with them. Visiting the graves of my ancestors and listening to them chat in Okinawan. The Okinawan language is similar to Chinese (well, it sounds like Chinese to me anyway. I think the language has a heavy influence from Chinese.)
While visiting, we were able to get a photo of my great granparents. This photo was actually sent by my relatives in Hawaii to my relatives in Okinawa. (Sadly, the original in Hawaii was destroyed or misplaced.) Though no one had an idea what their names were, it was still nice to be able to capture a photo of them to pass along back to my relatives in Hawaii.
While having lunch with them, Satoshi and I had our first taste of tebichi (sorry no photo). Tebichi is Okinawan for pigs feet. I enjoyed my first try of this dish while Satoshi says he's tasted it. (I guess it was a bit too gelatinous for him.)
Also on this trip to Okinawa, we found out that a relative is directly related to a sanshin (shamisen) craftsman. Sanshin is the Okinawan name for Shamisen (a musical instrument with 3 strings). The Okinawan instrument is covered with snake skin while the Japanese instrument is a little bigger and is covered with cat or dog skin.
This craftsman makes the chiga or body of the sanshin.
It was amazing--we were able to check out his workshop and were also treated to a mini concert.
As everyone is getting older, we were really fortunate to be able to visit with our relatives.
It was a good sign of a good week to come.