The Study Abroad Newsletter

URSEP Exchange Program

Ann Inouye

My decision to go abroad was to explore the Okinawan culture, and learn more about my family heritage. I understood that the Okinawans had a strong belief that they were separate to the mainland of Japan, but yet played a significant part in the Japanese history; starting with World War Two. When arriving in Okinawa, I learned that the culture surely is much different than Japan, and surprisingly more similar to Hawaiʻi.

Being that Okinawa is similar to Hawaiʻi, I enjoyed my stay as an “Okinawan island girl.” In Okinawa there are so many foreign influences incorporated into the culture and history, it is like a “mixed plate” in Asia. Additionally, Okinawans regularly live an aloha lifestyle. They enjoy their lives, take care of their land, and watch over one another. It is surely surprising that they have a history of war and significant amounts of loss, when they live lives of incredible bounds of happiness.

This is probably why the Okinawans are the longest living people in the world.

There is a saying in Okinawa, “Ichariba Choude” which means, once we meet we become brother and sister. This aspect of the Okinawan culture really impacted me and allowed me to explore deeply into Okinawa. For example, my friend took me into her family and welcomed me to home stay with her for my year in Okinawa. Her family’s generosity not only begins there, but they treat me as their daughter and never allowed me to pay for rent or food. They also include me in their cultural activities such as their New Years celebration, cooking traditional Okinawan foods, showing me historical sites important to the locals of Okinawa, and much, much more. This lesson will surely stay with me forever.

My year abroad went by incredibly fast, and I learned so much. I am very much grateful for this opportunity as I gained fragments of an amazing culture and learned to incorporate into my life. I feel that this change made me flexible, understanding, and gave me the passion to learn more about history and cultures. This experience abroad expanded my understanding on my background and taught me lessons that I will stand by such as “Ichariba Choude.”