The Okinawa Actor’s School

The entertainment industry in Japan is really full of Okinawa actors, dancers and singers, and groups.  But Okinawa is the most isolated and poorest of the prefectures that make Japan.  It is a prefecture made of hundreds of islands that stretch from the Japanese mainland for more than 1,000 kilometers south to Taiwan and the population is only 1.3 million people.

So how did such a poor and isolated prefecture become so strong in entertainment?

students of the Okinawa Actor’s School

Of course in our culture singing and dancing acting and storytelling is really important and we all learn to sing and dance at an early age.  Also one of the differences between our culture and the mainland is that we tend to be more extrovert than the mainlanders and of course as inhabitants of tropical islands with sunny weather all year round we tend to be more cheerful also ! ! !  (Well in my opinion)

But building on this tradition of singing and dancing and performing is also maybe the most successful performing arts schools in Japan.  The Okinawa Actors School.

The School was founded in 1983 by Masayuki Makino and is focused on practical preforming arts.  The students range in age from elementary school kids through to high school age.  The kids attend regular school for general education and The Actors School for dance, music, acting and English.   The philosophy of the school is quite unique in that it concentrates on emotion and freedom rather than just technique although of course this important.

Namie Amuro – Okinawa Actor’s School Graduate  - 30 Million Albums Sold World Wide

The kids begin with free dance classes which concentrates on developing freedom of expression and movement and feeling music and later the techniques are taught.

I Wish My School Classes Had Been Like This ! ! !

The school believes that only through performing can you learn to perform.  The kids are organised in to teams of twenty and they work towards regular public performances.  Having the kids work in teams also builds team work and responsibility and caring towards your team mates and this social education is also seen as an important part of the kids development.

Speed  - Okinawa Actor’s School Graduates  - 20 Million Albums Sold World Wide

Of course the most famous graduates are the girls from Speed and  Namie Amuro who are really big stars in Asia, but the list of successful graduates is really huge, some of the most well known are Daichi Miura (singer)  MAX (vocal group  - 15 consecutive top ten singles 10 million record sales) Yu Yamada (actress and model) Olivia Lufkin (Singer, song writer and record producer) Kuroki Meisa (actress;  lead role in 14 films and more than 20 TV dramas and winner of 10 Asian acting awards) and  Anna Makino (Former member of Super Monkeys and founder and chief dance teacher  of Love Junx a dance school and charity foundation for children with down syndrome)

The school’s philosophy certainly is unusual  but it certainly is successful and even though not every kid can be a star many make a living in the entertainment industry in some area and those that do not leave with wonderful memories and strong personal and social values and ethics.

I will leave you with the kids from the Okinawa Actor’s School in a video made for an Italian TV documentary about the school.

The Okinawa Actor’s School

I hope you enjoyed the post ! ! !

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11 thoughts on “The Okinawa Actor’s School

  1. Not my cup of tea musically ( I’d listen to Namie Amuro again…well..watch the video at least) but I suppose I’m happy for them.
    Personally I think Tiberius ( Roman Emperor) was right about actors but, grudgingly, I will admit they have their uses.

    I must say that every Okinawan I have come across ( except one. ( Not you , Sakura !)) has been charming, friendly and full of curiosity about the world and had a great sense of fun.
    It seems to me that “they” ( if one can generalise which generally I do) take a lot of pleasure from the simple things in life. Music, dancing, eating etc.

    They remind me a little of Hawaiians ( the “true” Hawaiians not the rich American “celebrity” kind) a real sense of kindness, continuity and fondness for people.

    I kind of like that. Even though I’m a confirmed misanthrope who can hardly stand my own family let alone anyone else’s.

    Thanks for the post S. Very interesting.

  2. Hi Mr P ! ! !

    Thank you reading and commenting ! ! !

    Actually I did not expect any Spillers to like the music, but I wanted to show how successful some of the graduates are.

    Thanks for the nice things you say about Okinawans ! ! !

  3. Sakura: When I see the word ‘Okinawa’ these days my first thoughts relate to the battle of Okinawa; I grew up in England during WW2 and we were exposed to daily accounts via the radio and press. It was the last battle of WW2 and also the bloodiest. Consequently, after reading your piece re. the current state of Okinawan culture I googled it and was led to an extensive Wiki page dealing with the war. There I found a very interesting article by Ota Masahide, former Governor of Okinawa (1990-1998), he is now is a professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa and Director of the Ota Peace Research Institute. It’s titled
    “The World is beginning to know Okinawa”: Ota Masahide Reflects on his Life from the Battle of Okinawa to the Struggle for Okinawa.
    He writes from the perspective of a Japanese soldier during that conflict, it was extremely interesting and very informative re. the history of the US military in Okinawa since WW2. I don’t know how much this topic is taught in your schools but if you’re curious it’s at:
    http://www.japanfocus.org/-Norimatsu-Satoko/3415

    ps; Your comments on Friday re. Shinkansen Hayabusa sent me off on an extensive youtube adventure, loved it! Wish we had one.

  4. Another p.s.
    Last week you mentioned that you’ll be traveling to Sendai, I’d love to read your comments about how things are there now. There was a lot of coverage a year ago but we don’t hear anything now.

    • Hi Goneforeign ! ! !

      My sister knows much more about the war and Okinawa history than I do as I went to university in Tokyo so at 18 years old I left Okinawa and have only been home for holidays since. But my sister studied in Okinawa and lives there and also she is more political than me so she is quite involved.

      I do know about our history and what happened in the war, but not as much as many people. I do know we did suffer really very much from the Japanese occupation and the Battle Of Okinawa. But the only relative I have who was alive in the war is my grandmother and she never talks about it at all. On my home island there was no fighting but we did suffer a lot from starvation as all the food was taken by the Japanese to give to their soldiers and the fishing boats confiscated.

      My family are very much in favour of the USA and American people for many reasons but particularly the help we received at the end of the war when the whole population of the islands was starving and the American forces gave us food and medical help which saved many thousands of people in the islands.

      I am not really a supporter of Okinawa independence as I believe we are too small to be successful as an independent nation, but I am a supporter of our language and culture, which I think it is important to preserve and I would like to see this valued more.

      But I think we are the type of people that just get along with life, our islands are too beautiful to be able to stay sad for too long ! ! !

      Regarding Sendai.

      My Boyfriend lives in Sendai so I go quite often, and his family business is in Shiogama which is north of Sendai. The port area in Sendai was very badly affected but the city away from the port was not damaged. My boyfriend was at work in Shiogama when the tsunami happened and the town was really very badly damaged, fortunately he and his work friends were able to go to the high ground behind the town where there is an important shrine and they were saved. He stayed there a month to help look for survivors, and then removing bodies and restoring the town.

      Now the town is OK again, but of course many people were lost and there are many grieving families even today. I think it will take a long time for the people in these towns to really recover and get over things. You can build a town again, but it takes a long time to heal loss.

      This year in Sendai they held the spring festival again (it was cancelled last year) and I think people saw that as a big symbol that things were going to be OK again. I missed it as I was on holiday at home but I hope to be in Sendai with my boyfriend for the Star festival which in Sendai is held in August (unlike the rest of Japan when it is July)

      I will going to Sendai for my stupid job actually also and that was what I was mentioned the other day.

      I am glad you had fun looking at the Shinkansen ! ! !

      Thank you for reading the post and your comments ! ! !

  5. I was very impressed with the level of commitment and professionalism evident here – especially the last clip, Sakura. All I got at school was a few desultory Scottish Country Dancing lessons!

    • Thank you reading and commenting SR ! ! !

      The level the kids reach when they leave is really high ! ! !

      I really like that clip actually as I think you can see they are committed and profesional but that they also are having a great time ! ! !

  6. Sakura; thank you for that thoughtful and extensive response, I wasn’t anticipating anything that thorough. Thanks.

    • You are most welcome goneforeign ! ! !

      I often listen to the THE EVOLUTION OF THE BLUES SONG by JON HENDRIX you kindly posted and boxed – that is really great ! ! !

      (I hope I thanked you ! ! !)

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