Looking back at the Okinawa Karate Symposium


Looking back at the Okinawa Karate Symposium

On September 29, more than 300 people related to karate gathered at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan to listen to the Okinawa Karate Symposium. The symposium started with a presentation by Yamakawa Tetsuo, head of the Karate promotion division within the Okinawa Prefecture Government (OPG) regarding the measures on the promotion of Okinawa karate by the OPG, focusing on the registry of Okinawa karate in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. He announced that a “Reviewing committee for the promotion of the registration as a UNESCO Intangible Culture Heritage” was created and first met in September, with Miyagi Tokumasa as head of the committee.

During the panel discussion that followed, Okinawa Prefecture Policy Advisor Teruya Yoshimi expressed that he would like all parties to work together so that the registration’s application coincides with the year 2022, which will be the 50th commemoration of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan.

Higaonna Morio who leads a recently incorporated “Okinawa Traditional Karate UNESCO Registration Committee” explained the importance of political power and influence in this matter and went on describing the concept of Gishiki or ceremony with which he believes registration can be achieved.

Arakaki Kunio, director of the board of directors of the Shinkokai stressed the necessity of all karate circles to work together with the OPG in order to achieve the registration. In the middle of the event, it was stressed that registration, if aimed for and if succeeded is not the goal but the beginning. There is therefore the need for an organization that will carry on measures in order to preserve Okinawa karate (of what is registered – matter that still needs to be clarified) and the Shinkokai should become the organization for this.

But like Dana Masayuki, curator of the Okinawa Prefecture Museum and Art Museum stressed, karate is already spread to the entire world. Usually registration to the UNESCO regards arts that are in danger of disappearing and this is not the case for karate.

Shimabukuro Tsuneo commented that people should investigate how karate is involved with the society and daily life, with Miyagi Tokumasa stressing that there is also the need to discuss a definition of what is karate.

In the later part of the discussion, the incorporation of the Shinkokai and the future of the 1st Okinawa Karate International Tournament were discussed. While Teruya Yoshimi stressed the benefits of incorporation, Shimabukuro Zenpo also noted some opposition within karate circles. In the future, merits and demerits of an incorporation should by clearly identified and presented to related parties. As for the world tournament, a survey following last year’s tournament was presented. In it, 89.3% of people are in favor for the continuance, with 37.2% in favor for an event held every 4 years. 61.2% of surveyed people are also in favor for the holding of and international tournament for the youth. While Higa Minoru sensei reaffirmed the necessity of the holding of the tournament every 4 years, Shimabukuro Zenpo stressed the importance of not copying what other do but creating contents that are representative to Okinawa’s characteristic and features.


For Japanese readers, documents handed during the event are available in the Japanese page.