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Local residents tour their past at Kadena

Sacred Sites

Locals from Shimosedo Residents Association take a group photo at the Ashibi-na sacred site March 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Tour members visit multiple sites around base to learn of their ancestor’s heritage and traditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Sacred Sites

Seisho Sakugawa, Shimosedo Residents Association member, helps tour members down a hill to visit a sacred site March 21, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The tour is an annual event where Kadena invites members from the Shimosedo Residents Association and their families to visit sites where their families lived before the base existed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Sacred Sites

Locals from the Shimosedo Residents Association visit sacred sites on Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 21, 2018. Kadena encompasses a portion of the Shimosedo ward, where tour members’ families lived pre-World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Sacred Sites

Members of the Shimosedo Residents Association visit Fhenu-ka, meaning southern well – a sacred site on Kadena March 21, 2018, at Kadena AB, Japan. The tour is an annual event where Kadena invites members from the Shimosedo Residents Association and their families to visit sites where their families lived before the base existed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Approximately 40 local nationals from Okinawa visited Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 21, 2018, to pay respects at preserved sacred sites during an annual tour.

The tour allows the elders to show the younger generations where and how their ancestors lived. The sites have been preserved throughout Kadena as a sign of respect to the locals that once inhabited the area.

“This visit provides a significant learning experience to the younger generation of Shimosedo Residents Association,” said Seitoku Sakugawa, president of the Shimosedo Residents Association. “Even though we no longer see any trace of how Shimosedo ward used to be, we – as senior residents who remember the area – would like to hand down our social and cultural lineage within the ward.”

The younger generation was able to learn of their family’s lifestyle before and after World War II. The tour provided background on practices and traditional events, hometown culture and family roots, explained Sakugawa.

The event sees between 15 and 17 families per year, and encompasses two to three generations.

The importance of transferring information to the younger generations was not lost on tour members. With some families moving to the region over 300 years ago and hundreds of years of history in others, Sakugawa felt the impact of the tour.

“This visit is becoming an annual event and it is very meaningful for us to share with our children and grandchildren how our ancestors lived,” Sakugawa said. “We recall our childhood memories and reminisce on old times.” 

Remembering the lineage and heritage of families can be very important as locations change over time, Sakugawa explained. As Kadena AB has changed, so have the areas that these families once inhabited. 

The members of the Shimosedo Residents Association see value in tours like this, and appreciate Kadena for allowing them to teach the younger generations about their heritage before time erodes the past, expressed Sakugawa.

“We feel that it is very important to continue this visit in order for us to teach generation to generation about our hometown,” Sakugawa said.