While numerous younger immigrants came to Taiwan soon after graduating from school, a significant number of Okinawans with dependent families journeyed to Taiwan in search of better lives. The second and third-generation Okinawans shaped their identities quite differently from their parents, who had been born and raised in Okinawa. Ara Kinue explains how she lived with both Taketomi and Japanese traditions, and articulates her complex feeling toward Taketomi Island.
The author: Did you talk with your family in Taketomi dialect at home?
Ara: Numerous Taketomi immigrants were living in Taiwan. When they got together, they all spoke in Taketomi dialect. My parents also spoke with each other in Taketomi dialect at home. Thus, although I never spoke it, I was able to understand it. My parents usually spoke to me in standard Japanese. I grew up with mainland Japanese settlers in Taiwan. I was so used to speaking in standard Japanese, and never spoke in Taketomi dialect. My parents also spoke standard Japanese outside. Hence, it was very natural to us. On the one hand, my brothers and I never spoke Taketomi dialect, but only spoke in standard Japanese. On the other hand, my parents continued to play Taketomi folk songs on the sanshin [Okinawan traditional musical instrument].
The author: I see. I would imagine your family maintained Taketomi traditions at home, didn't you?
Ara: I gather the essence of Taketomi tradition is Tanedori festival (harvest festival). The harvest festival (honensai) is the central to Taketomi islanders' collective identity. Therefore, I would say we lacked the essence of Taketomi identity since we were unable to join the harvest festival from Taiwan.
Perhaps because of that, I never felt nostalgic about Taketomi Island. I never missed the island. On the contrary, I wondered why my family was from such a small island, which is almost invisible on a world map. Okinawa Island is bigger, Kyūshū is bigger, and China is even larger. I regretted that I was from such as small island, but had no nostalgia about the island at all.