Island ties in Okinawa

Former Journal reporter Kelly Lorennij, below right, joined former JICA volunteer Gaku Hashimoto, second from left, and a group of RMI, FSM and Palauan students for a tasty dinner in Okinawa recently.

Kicking off their spring break, Marshallese and Micronesian students attending University of the Ryukyus (Ryudai) in Okinawa treated themselves to yakinuku (grilled meat) with former JICA volunteer and Japan embassy staff Gaku Hashimoto. 
From left, the group included local student Hyoma Shinzato, Hashimoto, Thurston Loeak, Esi Ngiraiwet from Palau, Noah Kabua, Yukiko Muller, Mikaela Heine, Miki Fritz from Chuuk and Kelly Lorennij.

Shinzato, Ngiraiwet and Kabua are Business Mananement students while Fritz, who is part Japanese, is studying Agriculture. Muller and Heine are both master’s students, the former working on her Computer Engineering research and the latter focusing on Environmental Economics. On the other hand, CMI graduates Loeak and Lorennij have reached the halfway mark in the one-year intensive language program they began last October.

Hashimoto, who is currently working with Okinawan energy company Enetech, called the small group together after their rigorous final week of tests and deadlines. Over dinner they also shared ametama and fish jerky sent from Majuro as well as stories of the RMI and life so far on Okinawa. 

One of these stories included the Okinawan band Begin’s widely well-loved song “Shimanchu Nu Takara.” The Marshallese version came out last year and made its debut on V7AB and Power 103.5 through Hashimoto’s efforts. It was performed by Lorennij accompanied by ukulele at Ryudai’s global engagement festival in December.

The group often sings the song during karaoke outings as well. In Kajin Majel the song translates to “bwinnin ri Aelon Kein” or “treasure of the Marshall Islands.” It tells of the ocean, sky, warm culture and values that make up the core of an island home — things that the Micronesian islands and Okinawa share, thus making these “small island girls and boys” feel very much at home.


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