Teruya Rinken and Uehara Tomoko of the famed Uchina Pop group the Rinken Band, are vacationing in Hawaii. Eric and Norman are friends of theirs and so whenever they are in town, we get the opportunity to take them out to dinner — usually at 3660 on the Rise, where we get a private room so that we can bust out the music and dancing.
Although I’m still on hiatus from my pursuit of Okinawan dance, I’m glad that Norman always remembers to invite me to these get-togethers. Whenever this group gets together, whether it’s for a stage performance, bon dance gig, shinnen enkai (New Year’s party), or to entertain friends visiting from Okinawa, we always have the best time together.
Me, sandwiched between the two Keiths
This was the first time that Hubby joined us for the event and he had the time of his life. Especially enjoyable was Keith S.’s accounts of being a tourist in Japan and Okinawa and the inevitable mishaps that befell him. I’m sure Hubby will always remember Keith’s story about the “chisai (small) towels” at the onsen (hot springs), the oki nawa (Keith’s definition: “big rope”), and Keith yelling “tasukete!” (help!) in the middle of a train station in Japan as he struggled to get 4 bulky pieces of luggage on the train in time. Keith certainly has a knack for storytelling, which he attributes to his Portuguese side. I think we can also attribute it to the copious amount of wine he consumed, but don’t tell him I said that.
Eric always ensures that the perfect wines to complement the meal is served in generous amounts.
As expected, the food was absolutely exquisite. Here’s what we had:
Ahi Katsu Appetizer
I had the fresh catch of the day, which was Mahi Mahi
Hubby’s choice was the New York Steak, prepared medium rare
I was going to be a good girl and skip dessert, but Keith bought it for me. Hubby and I split this Mile High Ice Cream Cake. It was decadent!
Following dinner, liquored up and stomachs full, the entertainment began. Okinawans can certainly hold their liquor. (I am the exception, not the rule in this case. 1-1/2 glasses of champagne and I was already feeling the effects.) Our group doesn’t need alcohol to put on a good show; performers lack inhibitions anyway and it’s all in the spirit of mo ashibi.
“Mo ashibi” is defined as the exuberant revelries in Okinawan villages that featured singing, dancing, and drinking to the wee hours. (Reference)
Tomoko Uehara was the first to pick up the sanshin. (Watch the video!)
If you watch the video, listen for the Okinawan-style whistling (courtesy of Keith N.), spirited heishi, and clinking water glass that really sounds like an atarigane (a saucer shaped bell/gong that is used to keep the time of the music).
Everyone was delighted to get a mini-concert by this famous Okinawan songbird.
Tomoko’s unamplified voice is just as beautiful as heard on her studio recordings and her sanshin skills are impressive. It’s no wonder that she has been able to maintain her position amongst the leading vocalists in Okinawa for over 20 years.
Rinken Teruya, son of well-known Okinawan folk artist Rinsuke Teruya, and founder of the Rinken Band
Despite the fame and popularity of their music, Rinken and Tomoko are extremely down to earth, genuinely nice people. Of course, like all good otaku (fans), we posed for pictures with them, asked for their autographs and tried our best not to fawn over them too much. Gordon gave them photos from their last visit in 2003 and Tomoko walked up to me and showed me the picture of the 3 of us, pointing at the photo and pointing at me with a big smile. Our communication is extremely limited since they don’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Japanese. However, their smiles and gestures speak volumes. Rinken gave each of us a gift. I got a goodie bag full of yummy Okinawan foods and their latest CD, Umachi.
So, then it was our turn to entertain Rinken and Tomoko…
Norman provides the music for…
…Takako and Keith’s rendition of “Hamachidori“
Keith is such a good sport. At the urging of the entire party, he strutted his stuff and showed us how “Hamachidori” should be performed! Keith is a musician and vocalist, and a talented one at that, but he’s not afraid to do some dancing either.
Keith, looking much more comfortable behind a ukulele.
Keith is a winner in the Frank B. Shaner Falsetto competition and he is recording a CD with his band, Calabash, which performs Hawaiian and Okinawan music. He played two songs for us on Rinken’s ukulele. Yes, Rinken can play the ukulele, too!
Lacking proper accoutrements, Keith and I dance “Tenyo Tenyo” using red dinner napkins.
An Okinawan party would not be complete with some kachashi
Thanks for the awesome time, gang!
More photos from this enjoyable evening are posted in my Flickr foto blog, Uchinanchu Power set.
Tomoko, me, Rinken in 2003. (At Zippy’s Kahala)
The second time I met the Rinken Band was in 2003 when they came to Hawaii to perform at the Eisa Festival. Here’s my account from way back then — and a link to my photo gallery with additional photos.
Who is Champuru?Aloha, I'm Donna, known everywhere on the Internet as "Champuru." I was born and raised in Hawaii. I'm a Christian. I'm married to my best friend of 18 years, we struggled with infertility and successfully conceived via IVF (and by the grace of God!) in 2008. I resigned from my coveted "secure" government job to be a work-at-home mom to my 3-year-old daughter. Using my degree in Information Technology and the skills obtained in the marketplace, I started my own business. Now, I work from home, taking clients on a part-time basis, working in my PJ's while the little one sleeps. Life isn't always easy, but it's all good.