Family to showcase Okinawan culture on D.C. trip
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Looking for a way to become more involved with the local culture when they arrived here three and a half years ago, the Chin family members found what they were looking for in a taiko drum group composed of Americans and Okinawans.
Marine Capt. Rodd Chin, an intelligence officer with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, said his family’s involvement with the group — Nix Hamaya Daiko — is even taking them to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday where they will perform at the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs through Sunday.
Joining the group and performing at venues throughout Okinawa, and soon in Washington, has been a great blessing and is very much a family activity, said both Chin and his wife, Kelly.
Chin, son Cole and daughter Cassie have learned to play the taiko drums. Cole, 11, also has learned to perform with the bow, and Cassie, 7, is learning karate performances. Kelly Chin works behind the scenes as a photographer and coordinator.
Through Nix Hamaya Daiko, the Chin family and the other American performers have had a chance to see parts of Okinawa most Americans don’t get to, Kelly Chin said. They have developed strong friendships with the Okinawan performers of the 100-member strong group.
The group has become something of a culture exchange as the Americans learn about the Okinawan culture and the Okinawans learn more about American culture, she said.
That is exactly what Ron Nix, a retired Air Force master sergeant married to a local, hoped would happen when he first started the group nine years ago.
“It’s something to bring Okinawans and Americans together,” he said.
And now that the group is going to perform at the Washington festival, “it’s like a dream come true,” Nix said.
In addition to playing the taiko drums at the festival, Chin and his son will perform as the shisa dog for the group, something that has “strengthened their relationship,” Kelly said.
As Cole describes it, his father is the butt and he’s the head so in order for the two to move as one they have to work as a team. And that wasn’t so easy in the beginning, Chin said.
Performances require the shisa dog to stretch up, roll over, walk about, shake and make other movements. In the beginning, “there were a lot of bumps and bruises,” Chin said.
The idea of being in front of all those people does make him a little nervous, Cole admitted. But that’s mainly because he just wants to do a good job and show Americans this aspect of the Okinawa culture, he explained.
Cassie also will have a special role to play as a “queen” at one of the performances. This will require her to dress in a kimono and wear a dramatic face painting, something she said she is looking forward to.
Taiko drum groups have performed at the festival in years past, but this is the first time that the mixed American/Okinawan group has been asked to perform there, Nix said.
The group is scheduled to perform at the Jefferson Memorial on Friday, march in the festival parade Saturday and perform at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.
The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the blossoming of some 3,750 trees of about 16 varieties, according to the festival’s Web site. The first trees were a goodwill gift from Japan to the United States in 1912.