Long-time Majuro resident Gaku Hashimoto left for Japan last month, but before the impending departure he had set himself several goals to accomplish including a Japanese-Marshallese phrase book and a song that expresses the importance of the Marshallese culture, language, and ocean.
“Ten years is a long time, but for me it went by really fast. I am very sad because I have many family on these islands,” said Hashimoto who first arrived on Majuro in 2007 and spent four months as a volunteer teaching math in Likiep Atoll. When the Japan International Cooperation Agency office pulled volunteers out of the outer islands on account of inconsistent Air Marshall Islands flights, Hashimoto sought placement in Arno Elementary.
In Arno he learned everything from diving and fishing to local baseball and singing from the people on the island. Hashimoto has always made sure not to lose a single part of the Marshallese culture and traditions in his local learning because he wanted to be treated as a fellow islander rather than an outsider. In fact, he became a member of the island’s welcoming group that sang to all new visitors and arrivals.
When his two years of volunteering were up, Hashimoto returned to teach at Majuro Middle School where he spent four years after parents managed to solicit extra years from him knowing he was happy to stay where he was wanted and needed. A fun memory he remembers was a project where four of his students helped make a boat out of plastic bottles complete with a fish net in the middle. We paddled the bottle boat from RRE to Delap Park, he recalled fondly.
In 2014 Hashimoto started working at the Japan Embassy. As a teacher, he said, he was able to share and help a little, but at the embassy he felt he was able to make a bigger difference in schools and communities. With Yosuke Suematsu, another Marshallese-savvy former volunteer, they led the first Japanese Christmas jepta dance group that wowed seven mother churches from Laura up to Rita. Their biggest project, in collaboration with Delap resident Mika Sato, is the newly published phrase book available at the MJCC store.
In the song Bwinnin ri-Aelon Kein (Treasure of Marshall Islands), a translation of the famous Okinawan song Shimanchu nu Takara, Hashimoto truly conveys treasures of the people as the sea, corals, fishing, traditions, and language.
In partnership with a team of local language experts, Gaku translated the famous Okinawan song into Marshallese. Besides Gaku, translators of the lyrics are Alfred Capelle, Cent Langidrik, Tison Dick and Brenda Mellan.
Then he joined with the local musical and recording team to record the song. Before leaving, he provided copies to of the song to local radio stations to play.
Read more about this in the May 3, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.