Shoukichi Kina goes for second term

Last Saturday I was invited to the opening party for the new Senkyo Jimusho (Election Office) of Shoukichi Kina, which is on the first floor of the same building in Naha’s Kokusai-dori where his club Chakra is located. The office has opened to campaign for Kina’s election to a second term in the Japanese Diet.

As well as being for many years the most well-known of all the singers and musicians on the island, Kina’s latest escapades as a politician have gained him a lot of attention. He was elected to the Upper House in the House of Councilors election of 2004  as a member of Minshuto (The Democratic Party of Japan). Following the Minshuto victory in last year’s Lower House election he found himself a member of the Japanese government, despite holding strong views on pacifism and on Okinawan issues that often go against the mainstream of his party.

A key slogan of Kina’s for many years has been: ‘Exchange all weapons for musical instruments’, and this message of peace was prominently displayed once more on the walls of his new office and in his campaign literature. Among many speeches of support there was one from the mayor of Nago, Susumu Inamine, who condemned the proposed plan to relocate the US air base at Futenma to Nago’s Henoko and there were calls from him, Kina and others for any new base to be built outside Okinawa. Kina’s typically passionate speech argued for Okinawan people to exercise their own human rights independently and not to be made to suffer at the hands of Japanese and American power.

Among those at the party were Kina’s mother Chiyo and it was the first time we had met since the death last December of her husband, the great Okinawan minyo singer and sanshin player Shouei Kina. The Kina family were out in force and sisters Keiko and Sachiko were also in attendance along with their own families. I was able to present Shoukichi Kina with a copy of my new Power of Okinawa book. I have known him for more than 20 years but giving him my writings is always a slightly unnerving experience, particularly as the lengthy chapter on him is not always flattering. I have tried to present a ‘warts and all’ view of his career in the book. It is only at times like this I’m quite relieved that his mastery of English is almost non-existent. Instead he spent a good deal of time flicking through the several photos of himself in the book, which seemed to please him.

As an observer of the political scene, Kina’s membership of Minshuto sometimes seems to me an odd choice for such a radically Okinawan figure. That he can get away with making the statements he does without censure probably – and sadly – says more about how little the Japanese government really cares about the views of Okinawan people.

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One Comment on “Shoukichi Kina goes for second term”

  1. Izumi Says:

    I have complex feelings toward Kina Shôkichi. Some of his music, especially ‘Hana’, is definitely the work of a musical genius. When I once shared with him some food and *Shima-zake* (Okinawan liquor more commonly called *Awamori*), he was kind enough to play the sanshin and sing ‘Hana’ for us.
    When he was invited to talk at the university I work for, however, some part of his talk sounded silly, ungrounded, and unintelligible to me.
    Anyway he is an interesting person to watch. Talking about his affiliation with Minshutô/Democratic Party, he once said half-jokingly at a get-together that he could have been a candidate for Okinawa Shakaitaishûtô (Okinawa Social Mass Party, the local political party in Okinawa) or the Japanese Communist Party but nobody in the parties was interested in him.
    I heard them saying that his contribution to the victory of Inamine, recently elected mayor of Nago, a northern city of Okinawa, was enormous. I respect his recent political activities more than I did.
    I enjoyed reading all that you wrote above, especially the sentence “It is only at times like this I’m quite relieved that his mastery of English is almost non-existent”.


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