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Dancing Postcolonial Trauma and Rupturing Gendered Binaries in Okinawa, Japan

Valerie H. Barske


On May 30, 2009, the performance group Hāfū senchurī Miyamori (Half Century Miyamori) staged the first theatrical presentation of Fukugi no Shizuku (Droplets of the Garcinia Tree) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a tragic event that occurred on June 30, 1959, when a U. S. military jet crashed into Miyamori Elementary School in Okinawa, Japan. Reflecting the broader genre of heiwa no butai (peace stage) developed by Okinawan feminist activists since the 1980s, Half Century Miyamori members combine field research with performing arts to raise public awareness and provide a forum for communal healing fifty years after the crash.

     Half Century performers employ a wide range of local minzoku geinō (ethnic/folk performing arts), from classical Ryukyu court music and dancing (Ryūkyū koten geinō), village festivals, and religious rituals, as well as adaptations and original creations that add a new chapter to the canon of established practices.1 Echoing twenty-five years of youth-centered performances spearheaded by their producer and former teacher Ginoza Eiko (b. 1947), Half Century leaders utilize music, dancing, and acting to "express the preciousness of peace and life in order to prevent such sadness from being repeated a second time."2

     In this paper, I examine how Half Century performers present Fukugi to make sense of the past and to engage in contemporary political struggles through strategic embodied discourses. Building on the ontological foundation of locating historical agency in human movement and viewing performers as "dynamically embodied meaning makers" (Farnell 1999: 341), I challenge reductionist approaches that ignore dancing as a site of knowledge and Orientalizing views that map a Cartesian bifurcation of "mind versus body" onto gendered cartographies of "West versus East." Employing a semasiological lens, I consider dance movements as "action sign systems" in which the body functions as a "signifier" of cultural, historical, and semantic values (Williams 1982).

     The paper also recognizes intersections between semasiology and new theoretical frameworks in Asian studies that redefine "postcolonial" as ongoing historical processes of "decolonization, deimperialization, and de-cold war" (Chen 2010: 4). Kuan-Hsing Chen identifies the centrality of embodiment in theorizing postcolonialism by arguing that decolonization requires liberation through the "historically grounded sites of interaction and interarticulation: body (shen), mind (xin), and desire (qi);" otherwise, "subjectivity remains colonized" (ibid.: 98).

     Half Century performers grapple with postcolonial realities by producing politicized renderings of traumatic memories expressed in their multimodal approach to performance as "peace" activism.3 To examine this, I draw from my own ethnographic research, collaborating and also performing with performer activists in Okinawa. I focus specifically on how Half Century leaders mobilize complex gendered meanings through the action signs of a classical woman's dance from the Ryukyu court (kashikake--reel and frame) juxtaposed with the historically based movements of a bereaved Obā (grandmother) character. Rather than reproducing gendered binaries, I argue that the Fukugi peace stages represent a form of knowledge production, a critical means of "thinking through and with movement" (Farnell 2012: 3). I conclude that Half Century members employ multimodal embodied discourses as a postcolonial strategy that appropriates, reproduces, and yet also complicates, even ruptures, feminized notions of "peace" and performance in Okinawa.

Fukugi no Shizuku (Droplets of the Garcinia Tree)

This multifaceted heiwa no butai (peace stage) features original music, dancing, and acting performed in 2009 by forty-five Half Century performers, including twenty-five current elementary students. Young female leaders of the group created the various components--actress/dancer Soken Kanae, band leader/ keyboardist Monguchi Ryōko, vocalist/lyricist Kawamitsu Miyuki, choreographer/dancer Hokama Marika, and stage manager Asato Ayano. Since 2009, Half Century has reached audiences throughout Okinawa, in mainland Japan, and in the United States. In terms of healing the local community, it was significant that the May 2009 audience included residents from the crash site in Ishikawa City, students of all ages, along with bereaved family members and survivors of the crash.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Left: Performance brochure for Fukugi no Shizuku: Wasuretai kedo wasurete hoshikunai wasurete wa ikenai (Droplets of the Garcinia Tree: Even though we want to forget, we do not wish to forget; we must not forget), Half Century Miyamori, May 2009. Right: Opening menu for the DVD version of the May 2009 performance. Cover artwork by present-day Miyamori Elementary School children.

     The performers unearthed archival and oral history materials to produce the ten scenes of the performance (Figure 2). Guided by a narrator and accompanied by a band, the scenes progress from depictions of the actual crash event, through complex memories of trauma fifty years later, to present-day hopes for resolution and change in the larger sociopolitical context of postcolonial Okinawa.

1. Raising Questions about the Crash: June 30, 1959
2. Campus Garcinia Trees (Fukugi)
3. School Became a Battleground
4. Unavoidable Accident?
5. Emotions in Images and Sounds
6. Dancing Hopes
7. We Inherit the Past
8. Finale Song
9. Send off Dance
10. Monument to the Lost Souls of Children
Curtain Call
Figure 2. Translation of the original chapter titles from the performance brochure and script of Fukugi, May 2009. The titles differ slightly from the DVD version, which was edited and updated after the performance.

     The title of the work highlights the importance of the fukugi (福木) "tree of good fortune," a hearty, bright green verdant tree employed as communal protector, a physical as well as spiritual barrier in local landscaping practices to defend against typhoons, fires, and evil spirits (Chen and Nakama 2011). At the time of the 1959 plane crash, fukugi trees, some dating back to the Ryukyu Kingdom (ca. 1429–1879), lined the perimeter of the Miyamori school landscape and local neighborhoods (Figure 3). The Half Century leaders utilize the symbolic image of the trees as representative of the layers of traumascapes related to the crash site. They employ the trees to anchor the narrative storyline with straight acting in dramatic scenes, providing thematic cohesion throughout individual sections of the peace stage.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Left: U. S. soldiers carting an injured child after the 1959 crash, with fukugi trees in the background (author's photo, Ishikawa City Archives, July 9, 2010). Right: Fukugi trees lining contemporary Miyamori Elementary School. Ginoza Eiko, Soken Kanae, and other Half Century members performing a reading of the June Sky (2010) book to students at Miyamori Elementary School under the fukugi trees on the fifty-first anniversary of the crash (author's photo, June 30, 2010).

     In creating their script, Half Century leaders helped excavate the testimonies of bereaved family members, teachers, school administrators, and children survivors. These narratives not only capture the 1959 tragedy but also encapsulate broader colonial violence and "compound trauma" (Whaley 2009). Dramatic depictions of these narratives in the performance invoke interpenetrating experiences with Japanese imperialism (ca. 1872–1945), World War II civilian bombings through the Battle of Okinawa (October 1944June 1945), the Cold War American occupation (April 1945–May 1972), and the ongoing presence of U. S. military troops (about fifty thousand in 2009).

Figure 4
Figure 4. U. S. military archival photograph captioned, "Undernourished children having chow at Koza, Okinawa," August 4, 1945 (Okinawa Prefectural Archives, 112-30-3[1267-336353]). Ongoing socioeconomic inequities that greatly affected the embodied realities of children contributed to the compounded nature of trauma in wartime and post–World War II Okinawa. Children in 1959 still needed a school milk break to receive sufficient daily nutrition. The crash happened at the exact time of the school milk break. Half Century represented this detail in multisensory ways including innovative allusions to the fukugi tree sap as resembling milk.

     Evidence also comes from statements made by Half Century members in interviews, performance brochures, and blogs, in which they link this comparatively minor incident that killed eighteen people and injured 210, to the loss of one-fourth of the Okinawan population in World War II, U. S. military sexual assaults against women and children, and subsequent "incidents" involving American military bases (Half Century 2009a, 2010b). A central component of their performance as activism is precisely to raise public awareness about the historical links between the 1959 crash and ongoing "imperial hangovers" (Barske 2009) in contemporary Okinawa. Half Century members thus employ their musical and dance actions as embodied discourses that imbue a deeply complex historical meaning to the Fukugi subtitle: "Even though we want to forget, we do not wish to forget; we must not forget."4

Figure 5
Figure 5. Left: Color photo of the 1959 crash taken by a local citizen (authorís digital copy of the original held in the Ishikawa City Archives, July 9, 2010). This image was used on stage in Half Century's performances in Okinawa and Tokyo, 2010. Right: Juxtaposing two of many compound trauma incidents in Okinawa. A U. S. military helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University, August 13, 2004. Half Century leaders Kanae Soken and Kawamitsu Miyuki were both students at this university at the time of the crash. Kawamitsu was on campus at this very site just moments before the crash happened. Both women have expressed direct connections between the 1959 and 2004 crashes in explaining the critical need for activism against acts of ongoing postcolonial violence. (Photograph from Ginowan City Government, August 13, 2004).

Kashikake: Half Century Weaves Dances of Peace

In the summer of 2010, I joined Half Century as a theatrical staff member and assistant to the producer, helping with rehearsals, dramatic readings at elementary schools, and performances of Fukugi at the Palette Kumoji Theatre in downtown Naha. Since my first research trip to Okinawa in 1998, I had worked with producer Ginoza Eiko on several performance activist events and in various capacities. During my fieldwork in 20052006, I danced at many performance events and was featured as a soloist at the historical return of ancestral lands to the family of flag-burning activist Chibana Shoichi (Figure 6). I also spent many hours training to dance with Half Century performers Nagahama Ryōko and Chinen Minami, former students of Ginoza who have become professional staff members working for Hirata Daiichi. Mr. Hirata is a renowned contemporary playwright, poet, and performer, who was recently appointed Director General of Culture, Tourism, and Sports, for the Okinawa Prefectural Government. I appeared as a guest dancer performing Chinen's choreography in the May 2006 staging of Hirata's historical dance drama Kimutaka no Amawari (Lord Kimutaka Amawari).5

Figure 6
Figure 6. Author dancing kajiyadefu Ryukyuan court dance to celebrate the return of ancestral lands to the family of Chibana Shoichi from the U. S. military "elephant cage" in Yomitan, May 13, 2006. Chibana Shoichi is the musician far left, Ginoza Eiko the musician in blue. The banner in the local Uchināguchi language reads, "By the power of the people, we got back our land, thank you so very much." Chibana announced to the crowd that my dancing signified that "we are not against Americans; we are against American military bases." (Photograph by Tobias Barske).

     Backstage, my first task on this occasion was to ensure that all of the performers had food and drinks before the show started. After running around distributing obentō, onigiri, and omizu (lunch boxes, rice balls, and water), I stole a chance to reconnect with dancer Nagahama. Since I saw her last in 2006, she had become a new mother and achieved a new level of certification on her path to achieving the rank of a full professional dance master of Ryūkyū buyō (Ryukyu dance). Her son joined us, crawling on the tatami practice floor, with his grandma close behind him as we prepared Nagahama to dance. While she assembled her multilayered bingata (Okinawan dyed fabric) costume, I recalled previous occasions when she performed this dance, entitled kashikake (reel and frame), a classical Ryukyuan woman's dance (Ryūkyū koten buyō onna odori).6

     This night, Nagahama was dancing with musician Kina Rīchi on sanshin (a three-stringed instrument). She presented their version of a tabitachi odori, dances performed in the Ryukyu Kingdom by wives or courtesans as a farewell for men embarking on travel to China, Japan, or the South Seas. The music and dance movements recall this previous era in Okinawan history, often romanticized as the "second" Golden Age of the Ryukyu Kingdom (ca. 16211866).7 With choreography most commonly accredited to one of the most famous udui bugyō (Dance Magistrate, Minister of Dance) of the Ryukyu court, Tamagusuku Chōkun (1684–1734), the dance kashikake is said to date back to 1710 (Inukai 2004: 152) (Figure 7). This dance has been documented as part of the ukwanshin udui dances performed for Chinese investiture envoys in the Ryukyu Islands and was also presented for Shimazu leaders at the Satsuma residence in Edo during the 1710 procession to the Tokugawa capital (ibid.: 153). The selection of kashikake for contemporary peace stages reflects this historical context, where "dance diplomacy" (Barske 2009: 11) has been heralded as central to cultural negotiations for both outside interactions and local identifications.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Scroll of Performers from the Ryukyu Kingdom processing to Edo (contemporary Tokyo), 1710 (National Archives of Japan, Digital Archives

     In this dance, the choreographer Tamagusuku chose action signs that signify how women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were charged with the laborious process of producing clothing for their families. The standard onna odori (women's dance) costume of a brightly colored bingata layered on top of white and red undergarments is worn with the right arm exposed, revealing the red underlayer.8 This costuming signifies that the woman is engaged in the act of laboring, working to create cloth from reeling yarn (Figure 8). When discussing Half Century's choice of this particular dance, the producer Ginoza commented that much like the hand-woven cloth produced by women since the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, "once peace has been ripped/torn by violence, it is difficult to repair, and at times might even be impossible to fully remend [shūfuku]" (informal exchange, June 30, 2010).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Kashikake performed for tourists at Shuri Castle, UNESCO Heritage Site and original location of the Ryukyu court, constructed ca. 1422. Both the costuming and the curtain were created with bingata local dying techniques (screenshot from author's video, December 28, 2005).

Kashikake: The Dance

Kashikake, as performed today by Half Century, is one of the seven original classical women's dances presented at the Ryukyu court, following the standard structure, phrasing, and floor pattern of the genre. The dancing consists of three movement phrases, accompanied by three separate songs with a ryūka poetry pattern of four lines with repeating 8:8:8:6 syllables.9

Figure 9
Figure 9. Stage patterns for the three dancing phrases common to all standard onna odori (women's dances), drawn by Kinjō (1991: 186).

     The first dancing phrase is called njifa (出羽), which refers to leaving the wings of the curtains or the entrance onto the stage (Figure 9). In this phrase, the dancer enters with slow Ryūkyū aiyumi walking, carefully executing suriashi sliding foot steps on a diagonal line to center stage (Figure 10), then turns to face the audience, assuming a stance called onna dachi (woman's stance).

     As Kina sits visible on stage in a seiza position playing the opening chords of Fuishi bushi (Song of 1,000 Outpourings) on the three-stringed sanshin instrument, Nagahama opens her dancing by entering from behind the curtains upstage right. Reflecting choreographer Tamagasuku's historical engagement with Japan's Tokugawa era Nihon buyō (Japanese classical dance) and (Noh drama), in more formal dance presentations, this phrase would be performed on top of a raised hashigakari (bridgeway), which represents a space of transition between worlds.10 Even without a formal bridge on this occasion, Nagahama's dance actions themselves, her slow sliding steps, mark the space and index this transition. The slow steps help Nagahama convey the sense of a divine presence entering the stage as she crosses from the "world of the dead" backstage, to the world of the present on stage (Yano 1988: 51).

Figure 10
Figure 10. Left: Nagahama performing Ryūkyū aiyumi (way of walking in Ryukyuan dance) emphasizing suriashi (sliding feet) in the opening dance phrase of kashikake as part of Fukugi (author's video screenshot, July 17, 2010). Center: Okinawan notation for Ryūkyū aiyumi according to Kinjō Mitsuko (1991: 153). Right: Labanotation for suriashi based on author's ethnographic work.

     The second dance phrase, known as naka udui (中踊り), begins after the dancer has reached center stage and assumed the woman's stance, facing the audience. Nagahama waits to hear Kina begin singing before she starts her dance actions that signify the meaning of the lyrics (Figure 11). Drawing from local female-centered rituals, festivals, and folk dances, Tamagusuku created woman's dances that emphasize specific bodily actions as depictions of idealized Ryukyuan court femininity as embodied, ironically, by onnagata, biologically male performers playing a female-gendered role.

1) 七読みと二十読

Nana yomi tō ha tei n (8 syllables)

With threads 17, 20 layers thin
3) 里が蜻蛉羽

Satō ga akezuba ni (8 syllables)

For my beloved, like wings of a dragonfly
2) 綛掛けて置きゆて

Kashikaki tei u chutei (8 syllables)

I reel yarn on the frame, weaving
4) 御衣よすらね

N shuyushi ra ni (6 syllables)

A high quality robe
Figure 11. Fuishi bushi (Song of 1,000 Outpourings) lyrics in Uchināguchi language, romanized and then translated into English. Adapted from the Japanese (Inukai 2004: 150).

     Along with performing complex identities vis-à-vis Qing (China) and Satsuma (Kyūshū, Japan) officials, historically, the performative component of the dancing also included embodied negotiations of gendered movements and other significations. Echoing the 1629 ban on female kabuki actors in Tokugawa, Japan, the Ryukyu government also forbade women to perform at court, relegating them to the pleasure quarters (Inukai 2004: 140). Court performers were thus all male, many from noble-ranking families. As a result, the dance action signs of kashikake are intended to signify explicitly feminine movements, such as delicate hand actions including tsukite (orosu action, soft pulling down on the reel) (Figure 12), a curved body posture in which the lower back creates the shape of a ku character (く) and the highly emotive eye gaze mijichi (metsuki) fixed several meters into the distance (Figure 13).

Figure 12
Figure 12. Tsukite action, moving the kashi (reel) in a soft, pulling-down movement. (Okinawa Times Performing Arts Society 1976: 32–33).

Figure 13
Figure 13. Nagahama as she enters the dancing space, maintaining the mijichi eye gaze (screenshot, July 17, 2010).

     In this particular dance, given that both hands hold props, the high point of aesthetic beauty is the smoothness, ease, and delicacy with which the performer executes actions to portray reeling the yarn over the weaving frame. For example, when I first learned this dance from Nagahama in 2005, she emphasized,

Especially as you bend down, maintain the same position of your upper body as you kneel to the floor. Hold your hands steady [grabbing my hands so the props did not move]; try not to let the frame and reel touch. The movements should look like the art of weaving. There is a relationship between the frame and reel, but it is not beautiful if they touch. (Personal Interview, December 10, 2005).

Figure 14
Figure 14. Author learning to dance kashikake with Nagahama, practicing in a hallway after warming up with Hirata Daichi's semi-professional troupe of performers, which included Chinen, Hokama, and other Half Century leaders (screenshot from original video, December 10, 2005).

     As Kina sings "kashikaki tei u chu tei" (see Figure 11), Nagahama slowly moves her hands to reproduce the motions of reeling the yarn. She maintains the mijichi eye gaze staring several meters away, not looking directly at the audience nor at the props themselves, signifying that her thoughts are elsewhere as she weaves (Figure 15). Watching her exert control while appearing effortless, I consider how her movements create a relationship between two interconnected items that are not allowed to touch. In the context of the Fukugi peace stage, this action sign might suggest, index, or even foreshadow scene 4, which contains the dramatic testimonies from mothers who were not allowed to hold their dying children in the aftermath of the 1959 crash.

Figure 15
Figure 15. Nagahama reeling yarn on the frame, maintaining her eye gaze, and ensuring that the two props never touch (screenshot, July 17, 2010).

     Nagahama completes the movements paired with the lyrics from song 1, and then Kina transitions into the second song of the naka udui segment. This song, "Shichishaku bushi" (七尺節, Song of the Seven Scales), is the most dense and emotionally charged in the dancing section, featuring two full 8:8:8:6 syllabic patterns (Figure 16). To be executed properly by the performer requires the greatest control and physical and emotional stamina, along with focused concentration. Kina sings these lyrics as Nagahama focuses on how to convey the appropriate meanings with her dancing.

1) 枠ぬ糸綛に(8)

Waku nu itō kashi ni

Reeling thread over the frame
2) 繰り返し返し (8)

Kuikashi gaishi

Over and over again, repeating
3)掛けて面影の (8)

Kakitei umu kaji nu

Face of my beloved appears
4) 勝て立ちゆさ(6)

Masa tei tachu sa

My longing grows
5) 綛かけて伽や (8)

Kashikaki tei tōji ya

Reeling thread on the frame
6) ならぬものさらめ (8)

Naran munu sarami

Provides no consolation
7) 繰り返し返し (8)

Kuikashi gaishi

Over and over again, repeating
8) 思ど増さる(6)

Umidō mashuru

My feelings well up in my chest
Figure 16. Shichishaku bushi (七尺節, Song of the Seven Scales), lyrics adapted from the Japanese (Inukai 2004: 150).

     The final song, titled "Sāsā bushi" (さあさあ節) completes the main naka udui dancing segment and also the irifa (入羽) exiting sequence (Figure 17). Here the depth of longing is temporarily lightened by the hope that the loved one has already returned and is at home waiting. When Kina finishes singing the last syllable of the final lyric, Nagahama completes her dancing, performs a migi mawari (right turn) action to face house stage left, and, with suriashi slow sliding steps, retraces the diagonal line off the stage back to the other world, the world of the dead behind the curtains.

1) 綛も掛け満ちて (8)

Kashin kaki michi tei

I have finished reeling thread on the frame
3) 里や吾が宿に (8)

Satō ya waga yadō ni

Perhaps my love is at my home
2) できやよ立ち戻ら(8)

Dechayo tachi mudōra

I will set out to return home
4) 待ちゆらだいもの (6)

Machura demunu

Awaiting my return
Figure 17. Sāsā bushi (さあさあ節, SaSa Song), lyrics adapted from the Japanese (Inukai 2004: 150).

Traditional Action Signs, Contemporary Meanings

While the original eighteenth-century kashikake referenced romantic longing and love between a woman and her husband/lover, the 2010 Half Century performance invoked a general yearning for loved ones. The songs and dance actions serve a crucial performative function in expressing grief over the lives lost in the 1959 plane crash. This emotional significance is heightened by the fact that Kina himself is the direct descendant of a crash victim.

Figure 18
Figure 18. Fictionalized representation of Tsuneji as "So-chan," depicted in Half Century's June Sky (2010). The text includes the key line "Tomorrow will be the fiftieth year since we lost the boy. I haven't forgotten, not even for a day. I couldnít forget even if I wanted to."

     Kina's uncle Tsuneji was a Miyamori second grader who died in the incident. According to a local television documentary created for the fiftieth anniversary in 2009, Kina's grandfather Fukujō (b. 1923) had been unable to speak about the details of his loss and the depth of his grief.11 Fukujō recalls publicly for the first time his own "compound trauma" in losing Tsuneji. After serving in the Japanese imperial army and witnessing wartime atrocities in China, Fukujō had returned home only to find that his mother had died in the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of the crash, Fukujō was employed as a construction worker on a local U. S. military base, which further complicated his personal and professional situation. In his own words, Fukujō explains:

Even though I had served in the imperial Japanese military, after the war, for the sake of my family, to support my family, I was working on the U. S. military base. I thought, more than ten years after the war, we could live a quiet peaceful life, but it was not so easy. After the crash, I could not really talk to anyone about my pain; it was so difficult. That is why I started playing the sanshin, to help relieve my grief (QAB 2009).

His grandson, Kina Rīchi, started training to play the sanshin as a child, in part to be close to his grandfather. The Kina family story directly associates playing the sanshin with peaceful healing and serves as the basis of Half Century's picture book Rokugatsu no sora (June Sky) (2010c) and the 2013 Himawari film script (Figure 19).

Figure 19
Figure 19. Fictionalized representation of Kina Rīchi with his grandparents, his grandfather playing the sanshin instrument under the fukugi trees, looking up to the June sky remembering the loss of their family member in the 1959 crash (Half Century Miyamori 2010c).

     In describing his participation in the original 2009 Fukugi performances, Kina says he agreed to play for his grandfather, to help heal the pains his family has experienced for decades. He explained, "There are many reasons why I wanted to perform, but especially for my grandfather, for his hardship, his pain [ojīchan no koto de kurishikatta koto mo aru shi]. . . . It was only once I was born that it seemed he started to find happiness again" (QAB 2009).

     The presentation of kashikake as part of the Fukugi peace stage may thus be read as representing the larger goal of the Half Century Miyamori performances to involve and inform the next generations of Okinawans about complex collective memories. Nagahama danced as her baby son played backstage, and Kina sang for his ailing grandfather, now too ill to be in attendance. The embodied meanings expressed in their actions signify passing on, grappling with, but also hope for healing intergenerational compound trauma (Figure 20). Their activist goals of performing peace become actualized through their multimodal performances that utilize sounds, visual costuming, and movements to recall collective memories of previous moments in a longed for Ryukyuan past.

Figure 20
Figure 20. Nagahama dances kashikake as Kina plays the sanshin on stage, in front of a replica of the naka yoshi jizō, monument to the lost souls of children (screenshot, July 17, 2010).

Naturalizing the Gendered Meanings of Okinawan Dancing as Peace Activism

The appropriation of the kashikake singing and dancing into the Fukugi peace stage performances provides a means to explore further how participation in such embodied discourses produces politicized notions of "peace" as inextricably linked to Okinawan ethnic identity, gender, and performing arts. We can ask how, in the service of activist political goals, do Half Century performances contribute to cultural constructions that naturalize the link between dancing and pacifism, while also essentializing Okinawan ethnic identity as inherently defined by performing "peace"?

     The specific appropriation of kashikake derives from the performance activist backgrounds of the female leaders of Half Century who were trained by postwar feminists central to antibase peace movements in Okinawa. For example, Nagahama performed the very same kashikake dance during the Peace Love Birds events at Columbia University in New York City in March 2003. This was part of a larger antiwar statement immediately following the start of the U. S. invasion of Iraq. In a section titled "Expressing Peace through Dance and Song," the peace stage is described in the brochure as a "Voice from the Oppressed," featuring student performers expressing "feelings of anger, pain, and sadness toward discrimination and war and conveying their eagerness for peace through dance, poetry readings, and song" (Peace Love Birds 2003: 1). The performers also explain why they decided to include the kashikake dance, a slow-paced intensely emotional and physically challenging piece to perform:

Kasekake: This dance is a classical Ryukyuan dance of love. While this woman is making cloth slowly with all her heart [kokoro wo komete], she is thinking about the person she loves, directing her energy and concentrating her efforts on weaving the cloth. In this same way, peace is something that is made by the daily efforts in the everyday lives of individual people, slowly, with feet planted securely on the ground [yukkuri to chi ni ashi wo tsukete shikkari to]. (Peace Love Birds 2003: 43)

This description highlights how the performers themselves participated in reinscribing gendered constructions of peace in Okinawa: namely, that women in traditional roles of caring for their families are also communal caretakers, the weavers of peace. The dancing itself indexes the slow process of creating a peaceful society, including a literal reference to the slow suriashi movements that invoke a divine presence on stage: dancers as peacemakers move slowly with "feet planted securely on the ground" (See Figure 10).

     This feminine-gendered approach to "dancing peace" and constructing Okinawans as peaceful performers has become a vital discourse in postwar Okinawa, supported particularly by the actions of female-centered groups. Drawing from the local Uchināguchi language term for "sisterhood," the idea of unai as a method for feminist protesting was formalized at the first Unai Festival in 1985. Half Century producer Ginoza joined feminist leaders Takazato Suzuyo, Miyagi Harumi, and others in organizing this event, during which female performers such as Kitajima Sumiko staged depictions of Okinawa's complex historical past. Ginoza, Takazato, and Miyagi were also founding members of the Okinawa Women Act against Military Violence (OWA), formed after the infamous rape of a twelve-year-old Okinawan girl by three U. S. Marines in 1995 (Figure 21).

Figure 21
Figure 21. Left: OWA members protesting the infamous rape in 1995. Ginoza stands in the farthest left corner, front row, with Takazato two over toward the middle. Middle: The group adopted the symbol of a traditional Ryukyuan court dancer to represent their cause. Right: Ginoza explaining how performance is central to her activism. Discussing the Miyamori crash, she employs an action sign where her finger indexes the jet hitting the school. On stage with the author at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the performance "Marking Bodies of Peace: Okinawa Performance Art as Cultural Activism." (Photo by John Morser, October 2, 2013).

     In my interviews with Takazato about unai methods, she noted that, for people who "sing a song or dance with the body," these forms of expression are actually part of the point of OWA (Personal Interview, August 7, 2006). OWA sought new ways of expressing political meanings without resorting to the same tactics as male-centered labor unions, student groups, or even the teacher associations who were galvanized by the 1959 plane crash. Takazato explains:

Women in Okinawa today are connected to women of the past, even if these women's memories were not written down, even if they have not been recognized as leaders in the society, even if they have not been written about, and their names have not been used. And when we do things now, like Okinawan dance [as] one example, an example of expression, of expressing ourselves with dance, or song, pictures, weaving, these are living things, things that are still living in Okinawa, that come naturally for us, I think. (Personal Interview, August 7, 2006)

Reflecting a similar ideology, Half Century leaders Hokama and Chinen Minami shared their own understanding of the naturalized links between Okinawan dancing, identity, and peace.

     Backstage and brushing her wig while preparing to dance as a Ryūkyū bijin (Ryukyuan beauty) for the tenth anniversary of OWA in 2005, Half Century choreographer Hokama expressed her views on using local dances as a form of heiwa gakushū (peace studies). She explained, "[O]utside Okinawa or abroad, people may be able to imitate these local forms, but, for us, expressing ourselves this way is easy, natural" (Personal Interview, November 19, 2005). Applying her stage makeup one mirror over, Chinen provided insights into their rationale for using dancing as peace activism in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq:

But, of course, to express our own thoughts of peace, in the middle of a time of war, of course we decided to dance, to express ourselves with dance, and we received such a wonderful, emotional response [from the audience], and we thought our message was heard, it was great that we did not rely only on words. (Personal Interview, November 19, 2005)12

For the memorial events of 2009, Hokama and Chinen drew directly on the 2003 experiences referenced here. They utilized some of the same dance movements in crafting the Fukugi peace stages and passed their training on to the next generation of youth performance activists.

Performance, Politics, and the Romanticized Past in Constructing Identities

Along with full court dances and new choreographies, Fukugi peace stages reference other performance and linguistic sources that define contemporary Okinawan identity via the lens of a romanticized Ryukyuan past. For example, performances staged in Nagoya and Tokyo added a young biologically male onnagata (female character) dancer, Heshiki Yuya, who presented his own combination of elements from Ryukyu court dances. Like many of Half Century's lead performers, Heshiki spent five years training and appearing in Hirata's contemporary group performance of Amawari in the male dance ensemble and then graduated to named roles as a semi-professional performer. His movements reflect recent trends that weave traditional Ryukyuan components into new stage presentations. Since Nagahama and Kina are unable to perform outside Okinawa, Heshiki's dancing takes the place of kashikake on these occasions and recalls dances presented during Ryukyuan envoys to Edo, Edo nobori (ca. 16091850) in the Tokugawa era.

     At the very end of the performance, immediately before Heshiki bows to start his dancing in front of naka yoshi jizō, a monument to the souls of dead children, the actress Higa Yukino, playing an elderly bereaved mother, speaks. In a dialect of Uchināguchi, a local language that Japanese and Okinawan educators sought to eradicate during the imperialization of the prewar era [Heinrich 2012]), she speaks in a melodic tone: "[I]n hard times, in sad times, Uchinānchū [Okinawan for Okinawans] are comforted by the sanshin songs of our island." As his solemn dancing ends, Heshiki points to the sky, while Higa calls out a famous Ryukyuan poetic phrase "nuchi du dakara, inochi wa takara no" (in Uchināguchi, then in standard Japanese) "life is a treasure" (Half Century 2010a).

     Ending Fukugi performances with references to the power of local songs and a desire to treasure life alludes to a particular reading of a Ryukyuan past often appropriated by postwar Okinawan peace activists. The statement "life is a treasure" or "life is the most precious thing" summarizes the thrust of local values that have been naturalized as representing an innately peaceful people trapped within/between the historical power structures of larger empires. For example, antibase activist songs often follow chants of "nuchi du takara" with "Futenma kichi iranai" (We don't need Futenma Air Base!) and "kichi kensetsu yameyō" (Let's stop the building of a [new] military base [in Henoko]!).

     Local historians have attributed the phrase to the Ryukyu King Shō Nei (15641620) as a final call to end further violence during the 1609 Satsuma invasion of the islands. At the G-8 Summit held in Okinawa in 2000, President Bill Clinton invoked this exact statement (accrediting the quote to the later King Shō Tai (18431901) who addressed Meiji Japan's forces occupying Shuri Castle in 1879), as a strategic (if not ironic) way of calling Okinawans to accept the continued presence of military bases as a sign of "friendship and peace" (July 21, 2000).

     Despite the clearly activist invocation of identity politics empowered by references to a seemingly preimperial Okinawan past, the fact that Half Century reclaims a romanticized "Ryukyuan" moment as representative of an inherently peaceful people may be criticized as a form of self-Orientalizing. When paired with specific examples of how peacefulness is naturally embodied through the performing arts, Half Century could be read as reproducing Orientalist discourses that result in feminizing, emasculating, and at times also sexualizing Okinawans. Orientalist publications around the turn of the twentieth century regularly employed images of women dancing in the pleasure districts as central to descriptions of people in the Ryukyus (LooChoos) as "gentle and docile," "amiable and easily governed," a land where "the men are very lazy, but the women are very diligent" (Leavenworth 1905: 38, 146) (Figure 22). Similarly, Japanese accounts of Okinawans as "gentle, submissive . . . do not want to be modernized," even attribute the spread of syphilis or "Ryūkyū gasa" (Ryukyu pox) to Japan via female Okinawan "performers" from the pleasure quarters.13 These images were repeated in ethnological studies that served as the foundation for both Japanese imperialization of "backward" Okinawans and "soft" colonizing strategies that employed "pacifist" dancers in the U. S. military occupation of Okinawa.14

Figure 22
Figure 22. Left: Female entertainers, from the pleasure quarters, depicted as central to understanding the "Loo Choos" by Charles Leavenworth (1905: 2). Right: In 1896 and 1904, Japanese ethnologist Torii Ryūzō conducted anthropometric studies in which he compared the physical bodies of newly colonized "others" in the Ryukyu Islands with Taiwan, Ainu, Micronesia, and other peoples from lands under the Japanese empire. This image is of a representative Okinawan dance girl from the pleasure quarters, noted for wearing local Ryūkyū gasuri dance costume as opposed to a Japanese kimono. (Image # 6102 Copyright 2006. The University Museum, the University of Tokyo Database of Images from East Asia and Polynesia, Torii Ryūzō Collection

Figure 23
Figure 23. Left: Earl Bull Collection, 1906–1924, "professional women entertainers" (Slide #38, University of Ryukyus, Right: Kashikake performed by a professional dancer in the Tsuji pleasure district, featured in a book about miscellaneous love tales from the Ryukyu Islands (Tokashiki 1934).

Figure 24

Figure 24. Left: U. S. archival images of Okinawan civilians performing classical women's dances in open-air theaters in the Ishikawa refugee camp before the fighting ceased in the WWII Battle of Okinawa. Performers were officially hired by the U. S. military government as civil servants to pacify the local population. This camp was located in the same area as the future Miyamori Elementary School, signifying the overlapping of traumascapes in postwar Okinawa (May 11, 1945, Okinawa Prefectural Archives, 74-23-4[124677]). Right: Politicizing of Ryukyuan culture during the U.S. occupation—these stamps issued in 1958 include images of women dancing kashikake.


     Unfortunately, current discourses have not fully dislodged the imperial hangovers that have come to define not only outsider depictions but also self-associations in Okinawa. In contemporary politics, the impulse to feminize Okinawan culture via performance images in order to oppose Japanese and American imperialism has been most famously articulated by historian, former governor, and House representative, Ota Masahide. In his 1995 book on Okinawan performing arts, published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Ota explains that, through dancing, Okinawans express their "yasashisa no bunka" (culture of gentleness) or their "hibu no bunka" (nonmilitaristic culture) (Ota 1995: 3). When Ota refused to renew land leases for the U. S. bases in 1996, his Supreme Court speech built on this image of Okinawa's past as a "heiwa kokka" (peaceful state) with a "josei bunka" (feminine culture), a place where people danced instead of engaging in war. Ota contrasts Okinawans as "natural," "soft," "feminine" performers with mainland Japanese "bushi" warriors and Japan as historically a "gunkoku" (military country) (Ota 1996: 171). Ota brought these depictions to life by commissioning professional dancers to perform classical Ryukyu women's dances like kashikake for his antibase "Message of Peace" tours throughout mainland Japan and the United States in 1995 and 1996.

     Ota's "dancing = peace" discourse has been criticized by American intellectual historian Gregory Smits for perpetuating a "myth of Ryukyuan pacifism." Smits argues that "a lack of detailed knowledge of Ryukyuan history enables Ryukyu to function as a blank screen onto which contemporary people can project desires such as de-militarization" (2010: 9). His most recent article opens by targeting Hirata's performances (and arguably, by extension, Half Century leaders directly involved in staging these performances) as prime examples of "modern Okinawan nationalism" that "romanticize the Ryukyuan past" (ibid.: 2). By simply offering counterexamples of how historical writings during the Ryukyu Kingdom emphasized military conquests, Smits's argument utilizes the same gendered and embodied binary we should seek to challenge even further: peace as feminized performance versus violence as masculinized military actions.

     This binary of "feminized dancing = peace" versus "masculinized violence = war" is unstable and untenable when considering a broader perspective on narratives of Okinawan history. In critiquing what he terms a "wrong" view of the past, Smits demonstrates his own lack of detailed knowledge of how the performing arts in Okinawa embody racialized, gendered, classed, sexualized, and other forms of compound trauma as colonial violence. This view assumes that performance, especially dancing as gendered female, cannot depict or even at times celebrate violence as gendered male. In fact, Half Century leaders, including Chinen and Hokama, have created choreography for Hirata to stage moments of historical military conflict, and not always with a neatly packaged "peaceful" resolution. While they may reproduce feminized and self-Orientalizing images at times, Half Century performers also complicate essentializing views of peaceful Okinawans by staging Fukugi scenes that reference local complicity with and active participation in acts of self-inflicted colonial violence. The strategic use of embodied discourses in their work functions by breaking rather than simply reifying gendered binaries.

     For example, scene 4 of Fukugi features a now elderly bereaved mother who presents previously unrevealed testimonies about the realities of the aftermath of the 1959 crash. On the one hand, Higa Yukino's portrayal of the embittered Obā (grandmother) draws upon standard gendered tropes and archetypes in Okinawan cultural expressions. Many Okinawan plays feature a "grandmother" who gives voice to "traditional" cultural practices, stands in for the past, or even challenges contemporary issues by recalling collective memories. On the other hand, by building the character directly from the oral history testimonies of Iha Haruyo (b. 1927), Higa's representation of "unspeakable sadness and anger" relies on specific action signs that demonstrate a violent break from gendered tropes of Okinawan women performing "peace."

     Concluding the scene titled "Was It an Unavoidable Accident?" Obā has already portrayed experiences of the crash itself and now shifts to discuss American reactions in the immediate aftermath. She recounts her story, mostly in Uchināguchi mixed with mainland Japanese:

We were crushed by the loss of our children, but to say that just is not enough, even after this loss, how badly the U.S. acted, treated us! Calling it a "compensation payment" [solatium], they put money in trash bags, and seeing this I said, "[Y]ou cannot bring back our children through this money; if that were so, then go ahead, bring your own child here [place them in this danger]. Take all this back with you and get out!" When I said all this, the American soldier pointed his gun at me. [Grabbing the gun to her neck, she says] "Oh, great, kill me; just shoot me already!" I remember when I first held my child in my arms. I remember the day my child was born; I never imagined that I would hold my child like this, in this totally changed form. Even though I am a parent holding the same child, he is not the same, how mortifying! How mortifying, how unbearable! (Half Century 2010a: 7).15

Figure 25
Figure 25. Left: Higa Yukino on stage performing Fukugi, grabbing the gun and screaming "Kill me!" (screenshot, July 17, 2010). Right: Iha Haruyo retelling her testimony for the fifty-fourth anniversary, producing a similar action sign to indicate that she grabbed the gun and challenged the soldier to kill her if he could. The image of her son lost in the crash is visible in the background. (QAB News, July 1, 2013,

     Higa's character references a historically contentious account of how the U. S. military dealt with the crash. Citing Japanese legal practices and the payment of "solatium" for loss of life, the U. S. air force initially offered thirty dollars to each family who lost a child. This narrative is based on documents kept secret from the local populace: a compensation hearing held in October 1959 that features American attorney Gillies arguing in support of this "generous" gesture that was made by the "voluntary contributions" of individual Air Force members.16 The families interviewed years later by Half Century members were simply outraged by the insensitivity of this act. These greater cultural misunderstandings, such as using garbage bags to offer money for lost children, compounded the trauma of families who refused to view the incident and the aftermath as an unavoidable "accident," but rather as yet another act of colonial violence.

     Beyond the power of the scripted text, Higa employs specific action signs that recreate acts of violence to convey layers of historical and cultural meanings. As she faces the soldier and calls out "Kill me; just shoot me already," she holds an imaginary gun in her hands, brings it directly to her own neck, shaking, with her eyes closed, and screams while begging for death. In this moment, her reaction might be dismissed as a desperate move by an irrationally distraught woman. But in the careful choreography of this scene within the Fukugi peace stage, it references much more.

     First, it represents the first time this testimony has been presented in a public forum. Audience members thus serve not only as spectators but also as what anthropologist Adrienne Kaeppler terms "beholders" who "decode what is being conveyed by movements" (2010: 195). For the original 2009 Half Century presentations especially, and for many thereafter, beholders included "testifiers" such as Iha Haruyo herself and other bereaved mothers whose stories were compiled into Higa's character. Testimonies as performative acts require the presence of additional beholders as "witnesses," who hear the telling and participate jointly in creating a space for articulations of collective compound trauma.

     In addition, many Fukugi beholders for peace stages within Okinawa constitute a category of "engaged audience members" who possess "communicative competence" in a movement or sound system (Kaeppler 2010: 187). Along with their communicative competence in understanding musical and dancing forms such as kashikake, engaged beholders help decode the historical and cultural allusions in Higa's complex performance. For example, Higa's embodiment of the grandmotherly figure intentionally references the work of one of the most renowned Okinawan stage actresses, Kitajima Sumiko (b. 1931). Representing the traumatic experiences of women via the genre of hitori shibai (one-woman plays), Kitajima collaborated with feminist historian Miyagi Harumi for the first Unai Festival. Together, they found ways of depicting Miyagi's family tales of violence from World War II in the now famous piece Akai Buku buku (Red Drip Drops, 1985).17

     Miyagi's family was one of many on the island of Zamami who participated in the historically controversial practice of "compulsory group suicide" (shudan jiketsu). In this case, although there was no direct order from a Japanese commander, based on Japanese imperialization practices and compulsory education, village leaders met and decided to kill their own families (Radio Okinawa 1986: 55). They concluded that this violent tactic was the only way to protect them from the monstrous Americans who were sure to rape and torture them. Upon hearing Americans approaching the cave they were using as shelter, Miyagi's grandmother screamed at her husband, "Kill us, kill us." When strangling and stabbing her with a shaving knife did not work, she cried out to her husband to cut with more force (Miyagi 1992: 473).18 Miyagi explains that it was her grandmother who was the catalyst, the accomplice who urged the grandfather to kill his family. The grandmother and her daughter were scarred with deep gashes in their throats (from which drops of red blood dripped), but the son died in the cave (Figure 26).

Figure 26
Figure 26. U. S. military archival image of young mothers being treated for "self-inflicted wounds," after they successfully killed their own children in a cave (Okinawa Prefectural Archives April 5, 1945, 81-32-2[118031]).

     While Miyagi has made this story widely available in print and in personal interviews, it was Kitajima's re-embodiment on stage that brought this experience to life for Okinawan audiences.19 Kitajima portrays this chilling scene on stage, holding an imaginary weapon to her own neck, sobbing with intensity, and begging for death (Figure 27). She has been approached by audience members who are so moved by her stage reenactment that they assume she is depicting herself or her own family tragedy.20

Figure 27
Figure 27. Although there are no archival images of Kitajima performing Akai bukubuku in 1985, still her signature movements and themes carry into many of her other performances. Here she is playing a mother who killed her own child with a bayonet while hiding in a cave. Kitajima Sumiko in "Mō hitotsu no sensō" (One More War) début June 1980 (Negishi 2001).

     Higa's performative allusions to Kitajima and Miyagi's family history allow us to read Half Century's work differently--as accomplishing more than standard Orientalist gendered tropes of Okinawans as feminized peaceful performers. In fact, here the dancing stops; the illusion of feminized dancing = peace is destroyed. A fracture, a rupture in gender norms intensifies the sense of crisis and compound trauma embodied in oral history testimonies of lived experiences. Through the use of action signs that evoke Kitajima's stage techniques, Higa moves seamlessly from holding the imaginary gun to her throat to cradling her child in her arms, first recalling the moment he was born and then reacting to his distorted dead body after the 1959 crash. The movements of Higa echoing/channeling Kitajima, the actress who also plays this Obā character in the film version of the Half Century story (Himawari, 2013), indicate a complicated slippage between performance mirroring reality and vice versa (Figure 28). Their actions comprise a postcolonial strategy through which the complex historical realities of "motherhood" and femininity in Okinawa index more than "peaceful" maternal actions. Rather, they vividly invoke images of women as agentic historical actors participating, perpetuating, and even self-inflicting colonial violence.

Figure 28
Figure 28. Left and center: Higa playing the elderly bereaved mother cradling her son, modeled on the testimony of Iha about the crash in 1959 but also recalling wartime horrors by using action signs that directly allude to the stage work of Kitajima. Right: Kitajima holding a child her character killed in the war (Negishi 2001). The slippage between embodied realities and embodied performances becomes quite complicated across time and space.

Concluding Steps: Sliding Back to the World of the Dead

During the finale of the 200910 Fukugi peace stages, Higa's character visits the naka yoshi jizō monument for the beloved lost, positioned on stage immediately in front of the fukugi tree that guards the space (Figure 29). The tree, juxtaposed with the grandmotherly character, evokes feminized peaceful images of Okinawa but also represents the rupture of both peace and standard gendered archetypes as these have been produced by compound trauma and colonial violence inextricably linked to the 1959 crash.

Figure 29
Figure 29. Higa kneeling at the naka yoshi jizō monument; in the background the fukugi tree stands guard (screenshots from the Half Century Miyamori DVD 2009).

     As Higa kneels at the monument, Kina sits center stage singing a new song written in the style of post–World War II yaka bushi refugee songs, recalling how Miyamori survivors once again found themselves living in tents in the same space as postwar refugee camps (Half Century 2010b). Kina himself, as the grandson of a bereaved father, embodies complex historical narratives of performing peace and is a living reminder of the lost children. While Obā cries in the background to her son, "I will come to visit again, and again," Kina sings lyrics about the search to somehow "find new life" for the next generation in a postviolence world (Half Century 2010a).

Figure 30
Figure 30. Kina Rĩchi playing the sanshin center stage, with the naka yoshi jizō monument and the fukugi tree in the background. He sings in the style of refugee songs with hopes for how to start a new life (screenshots from the Half Century Miyamori DVD 2009).

     In the end, citing the "unchanging" fukugi tree that keeps the "sadness that happened on this land hidden in its heart," Half Century Miyamori employs multisensory significations and multimodal performance activist strategies to produce politicized renderings of the past. Through the figure of the fukugi tree, the peace stage presents collective memories as embodied in a natural site, one that reinforces the prominence of traumascapes in Okinawa. Half Century performers employ romanticized views of an idealized "Ryukyuan" past by invoking the specific dance actions of the classical woman's dance kashikake. However, it would be a serious misreading to imply that Half Century leaders seek to "anesthetize the critical thinking function" and simply perpetuate a "fairy tale version of Ryukyuan history" (Smits 2010: 8). Rather, the danced and musical movements of Nagahama with Kina in the 2010 staging of Fukugi transmit to subsequent generations ways of thinking with and through movement that convey the ongoing realities of transgenerational compound trauma. The aggressive violence-inducing testimony of the grandmother character performs far more than a simplified storybook ending. Half Century members employ the gendered action signs of the bereaved Obā character to problematize, challenge, and even rupture embodied discourses on Okinawans as peaceful feminized performers. I conclude that their specific performance activism may be read as employing postcolonial strategies as a vehicle for grappling with the unfinished historical process of decolonization, which functions at the level of subjectivities, cultural imaginations, and embodied actions.


The author is especially grateful to Brenda Farnell, Monica FA Wong Santos, and Kate Grim-Feinberg for opportunities to present, refine, and publish this work. Research for this project was funded by the College of Letters and Science New Faculty Research funds at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). UWSP and the UW System provided funding for writing this paper as part of a larger book manuscript through a fellowship with the Institute for Research in the Humanities (IRH) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am indebted to Susan Friedman, Louise Young, Henry Drewal, and all of the amazing IRH fellows. A version of this paper was presented at a workshop with the supportive members of the Midwest Japan Seminar hosted by David Tobaru Obermiller at Gustavus Adolphus College and funded by the Japan Foundation. This work would not be possible without the support and collaboration of Ginoza Eiko and Half Century Miyamori members.

1 Deriving originally from the Chinese term, often romanized as Liu Chiu, the name Ryūkyū in Japanese refers historically to the archipelago of islands and politically to the semi-independent kingdom Ryūkyū Ōkoku (14291879). However, during the Japanese colonization of the islands, the Japanese term Okinawa was selected to mark this power change. References to Ryūkyū-jin or people of the Ryukyus took on a negative racialized connotation for backward colonial others. When the U.S. occupation began in 1945, the U.S. military administration chose to return to the nomenclature of the Ryukyu Islands, the Ryukyus, or even Ryukyuan to reference cultural practices. This strategic naming was politicized and intentional as a means of highlighting Japan's colonial history with Okinawa. In this paper, I am sensitive to these issues of naming. When appropriate, I utilize the name of specific performance genres and movements in Japanese employing diacritic marks for Ryūkyū. However, while aware of the politics of naming, for ease of reading in English, I strategically employ Ryukyus or Ryukyuan where useful.

2 The crash happened on June 30, 1959, killing seventeen, including eleven students (another student died in his early twenties as a direct result of the crash), injuring over two hundred, with twelve hundred students and numerous local residents left in a panic reliving wartime realities. Half Century Miyamori, "Iyoyo shidō," Hāfū senchurī Miyamori" (blog), March 23, 2009,

3 By "multimodal," I mean utilizing a range of semiotic modalities such as visual images, movements, dances, and songs.

4 "Wasuretai kedo, wasurete hoshikunai, wasurete wa ikenai."

5 Kimutaka no Amawari, by Daiichi Hirata, directed by Daiichi Hirata, Civic Hall Kimutaka, Katsuren Okinawa, Japan, May 2728, 2006.

6 Okinawa has languages distinct from Japanese, so sometimes this dance is romanized as kashikaki to reflect more of the Okinawan pronunciation, but it is kasekake in mainland Japanese.

7 Scholars sometimes differ in the periodization, but here I am arguing that the second "Golden Age" starts with the beginning of the second Shō dynasty, which shows recovery from Satsuma's invasion in 1609, conquers the Amami Islands in 1624, and ends with the last sappūshi (sakuhōshi) investiture visit from the Qing dynasty to the Ryukyus in 1866.

8 The red layer might actually be a remnant of visual markers used to indicate juri performers who "labor" in the pleasure districts (See Barske 2013). Many Ryukyu court love songs actually portray "romantic" love as belonging to the relationship between a juri courtesan and her lover.

9 Created as distinct from Japanese waka, thirty-one-syllable form, 5:7:5:7:7. See Santamaria 2003: 115.

10 The stage itself would also be raised, extending from the bridge, consisting of ten to twelve wooden platforms each two tatami mats long and about twenty centimeters thick. My training in Ryūkyū buyō has included helping assemble stages for professional performers. I worked at performances by Higa Norihiro and Higa Hideko in January 1999 at the Naha Civic Hall.

11 In fact, his testimony is not published as part of the NPO630 collection; only his wife's words are recorded. See NPO630, vol. 1, 2011, 41–42. The family story also served as the basis of Half Century's picture book Rokugatsu no sora (June Sky) (2010c) and the 2013 Japanese film script Himawari.

12 Chinen's comments here echo the group's messages shared with the local press. See the article "Ima dakara koso heiwa no uttae e," Ryūkyū Shinpō (March 24, 2003). See also the brochure published by the Peace Love Birds (Heiwa no hatsugen: Peace Love Birds at Columbia University, March 26–April 3, 2003).

13 In mainland Japanese publications of tales about people in the Ryukyu Islands, Shimabukuro cites the famous collection of Ryukyuan poetry Omoro sōshi (ca. 1532) to argue that women working in the pleasure quarters of the Ryukyu Kingdom contracted syphilis from a Portuguese merchant and then transmitted the disease to Japanese traders from Satsuma and Hakata. See Shimabukuro 1941: 11617.

14 I first discovered the use of the term "Loo Choo Pox" in reference to syphilis when researching documents by the U. S. administration of Okinawa. See especially U. S. Office of Naval Operations, Civil Affairs Handbook Ryukyu (Loochoo) Islands, OPNAV 13–31 (U. S. Navy Department, November 15, 1944), 145.

15 According to Iha's full testimony, she added something like "Why don't you bring your children here, place their heads on a chopping block, if you think this money can bring them back!" Higa and Ginoza, interview with Iha Haruyo, February 12, 2009.

16 See "Transcript of the October 7, 1959, Legislative Committee on Ishikawa Jet Crash Countermeasures, 9 October 1959," File #R0000205738, Okinawa Prefectural Archives.

17 The script was published in Radio Okinawa 1986: 5460.

18 Although she was scarred for life, Miyagi's grandmother and her aunt lived. Miyagi describes how the grandmother spent her whole life punishing her husband and herself for successfully killing their son. See especially Miyagi 2000.

19 In a 2007 article and interview, Miyagi joins Medoruma Shun, talking about the literary struggles of writing about compulsory group suicide in Okinawa. See Medoruma and Miyagi 2007.

20 I was thrilled to host Ginoza Eiko along with Kitajima at my home and to coproduce Kitajima's one woman play Hajichi (Women's Hand Tattoos) on stage at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, October 2, 2013. We also presented a dramatic reading of the June Sky (2010) book created by Half Century. I credit this experience for transforming my book project from a broader treatment of embodiment in post–WWII Okinawa to a more carefully crafted focus on Half Century performances and the 1959 crash, in order to address embodiment as central to decolonization. Kitajima often dislikes formal interview formats, so this comment came only after a lovely evening at my dinner table. Kitajima Sumijko, personal exchange, September 29, 2013.

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