Last Saturday I was lucky to combine several wishes together: Explore more of the lesser known areas in Kanto, experience and respect Japanese history, while listen to good music. In advance of the event of today, when people in Okinawa are “celebrating” the transfer from US rule to Japan rule, I went to a lesser known area of Tsurumi, which has close ties to Okinawa.
The history of Okinawa – a previous kingdom with very long independent history and culture – is truly complex, furthermore still today 2 economies push the locals into a difficult role. The US bases in Okinawa are a challenge, plus in the words of Moritake Tomikawa (former president of Okinawa International University, quote from Japan Times): “Okinawa’s return to Japanese rule was supposed to unite it with the rest of the country, but in reality Okinawa’s economy was taken over by businesses from mainland Japan.”
Due to many reasons before or after the war a lot of Okinawans come to Tsurumi to work at the many factories. The above picture shows the area just outside Anzen Station. This station named after Zenjiro Yasuda (the station takes ‘zen’ from the first kanji in ‘Zenjiro’ and ‘an’ from an alternate reading of the kanji for ‘yasu’). Yasuda was an entrepreneur who supported the Tsurumi Rinko Railway and founded the financial conglomerate in the area: Yasuda Zaibatsu.
The integration for the immigrants from Okinawa had not been easy based on an old article of the Japan Times. After Okinawan had arrived in Tsurumi many mainlanders regarded their new neighbors as bumpkins, at best; at worst, an inferior race. Factory owners fired workers, who spoke in island languages and landlords turned away Okinawan tenants. The flood-prone area south of the Tsurumi river was one of the few places that Okinawans could rent accommodation so they settled here en masse and began to build a community.
Due to the historical event the “Okinawa Town” in Tsurumi had some special event. I had heard that my favorite Sanshin/traditional Okinawa folk singer was giving a live concert, so I had no choice but to go. Although Tadokoro Yoshiyuki (田所ヨシユキ, http://u-nosuke.com/profile.php ) is not born in Okinawa, he has strong passion for traditional music from Okinawa. Further not only music is his passion, but he loves as well food from Okinawa. He has written a special song about his favorite speciality, which you can see on Youtube on the link below.
Let me add an interesting fact about a very old musical instrument: Sanshin (三線), it is a three strings musical instrument, which is the precursor of the Japanese shamisen.
To make the day even more perfect experience, close-by there are several restaurants serving my favorite Okinawa food: Okinawa soba (沖縄そば or ソーキそば). Honestly I am not a big fan of soba, but the secret is that this kind of Okinawa soba have different roots. The noodles are not made from buckwheat noodles as in the rest of Japan, but made from flower. The thick wheat noodles resemble udon, while the soup is more similar to that of ramen. Personally soki-soba is an example of a perfect dish: colorful and full of healthy ingredients. Yes, you are allowed to get hungry by the picture below. Mmmmh!
Okinawa is for me a place that has endured and is still enduring so much, but all the people I have met in regard to Okinawa were always smiling, very friendly and had only kind words to me. For sure I respect what many Okinawans have gone though in Tsurumi, while the events are still ongoing in Okinawa…
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)