ArticleCS - Article View

Generations of respect

.

Local Okinawans offer food, drink and “uchakabi,” a type of spiritual currency, April 22, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Families come onto Kadena AB once a year to pay respect to their ancestors by offering traditional foods, beverages and incense at one of the many tombs within the area of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

.

A local Okinawan removes vegetation from a tomb April 22, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Families will visit the tombs at least once a year to maintain them and pay respect to their deceased family members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

.

A local Okinawan girl removes cut vegetation from her family’s ancestral tomb April 22, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Families come onto Kadena AB once a year to pay respect to their ancestors by offering traditional foods, beverages and incense at one of the many tombs within the area of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Anthony Alt, 18th Munitions Squadron conventional munitions maintenance inspector, watches as a local Okinawan removes vegetation from a tomb April 22, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Families come onto Kadena AB once a year to pay respect to their ancestors by offering traditional foods, beverages and incense at one of the many tombs within the area of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

The pattering of rain on the leaves of the 18th Munitions Squadron wasn’t enough to keep members of the Okinawan community from gathering their tools and families for a visit to Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 20, 2018.

The annual Shimi Festival season is a time for locals to visit their family tombs and pay respect to their ancestors through celebration involving traditional foods and rituals. Many of these sites are located within the boundaries of the 18th MUNS.

Every year, members of Team Kadena coordinate with the families wishing to visit their ancestral burial sites as a sign of respect.

“It’s a very special day working with the local community to allow them the opportunity to pay respect to their families,” 1st Lieutenant Matthew Overbey, 18th MUNS production flight commander. “It’s especially important to us because we work with local nationals every day and have built those relationships. It’s our pleasure to provide the escort.”

Members of the family each bring a different dish to the tomb depending on their position within the family. The type of food can vary widely, from being strictly traditional to being the favorite of one of their ancestors. Members will also burn incense and a special offering called “uchakabi,” which is a type of currency used in the afterlife.

 “Being able to do something for the [locals] is a great feeling,” said Overbey. “It’s a humbling event.”

The ceremonies are not intended to be in mourning and, instead, are joyful celebrations of the lives of the ancestors. The Airmen who participate in the escort play an important role in the annual festivities.

“Around lunch time, the families will come and bring food and things,” said Airman 1st Class Anthony Alt, 18th MUNS conventional munitions maintenance inspector. “We’ll occasionally be invited to take part in the foods and drinks they’ve brought. We’re always really excited about that because it shows us we’re doing something good for the community.”