My meeting with Choko Takayama was an amazing happening. Three years ago, a friend working at the Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park wasn’t feeling well so she was told to rest in the VIP tent. There, she talked with Mr. Takayama about Okinawa. She knew I was watching the entertainment at the bandstand close by and that I’ve been doing research on Okinawa, its history and culture, so she called me over.
I met Mr. Takayama. He asked me where in Okinawa my family came from.
I replied, “My Inafuku family came from Oyakawa village in Haneji. My cousin, Yasuo Inafuku, still lives there in Taira village, which is next to Oyakawa village.”
He said, “Ah yes, I know Yasuo very well. We were next door neighbors. You see, I’m originally from Taira village.”
That came as a big surprise. And then he started telling me things about my Inafuku family in Haneji that I didn’t know about. I was speechless. I go to the festival to eat Okinawan food and watch some entertainment, and it just so happens that I meet someone who knows a lot about my Inafuku family in Okinawa? Unbelievable.
Mr. Takayama is considered a VIP, and since there was also a booklet about him in the VIP tent, I learned about him. He is, indeed, a very important person. But to me, he is, more than anything, a family friend. He is a connection between me and my cousin Yasuo in Okinawa.
When I introduced my wife and told him that she’s from Taiwan, he started conversing with her in Mandarin. So Mr. Takayama is quite the learned man for sure, knowing how to speak Chinese as well as English, besides Japanese and Uchinaguchi.
The next year I came to see Mr. Takayama at the Okinawan Festival, he gave me a booklet, which contains a collection of articles he wrote over the years for the Okinawa Times.
The photo above is of a young Choko Takayama, from his booklet, taken on March 28, 1963, I believe, at the East-West Center at UH-Manoa. Here’s a brief bio, also from his booklet:
Writer: Choko Takayama
– Graduated University of the Ryukyus in 1958
– Studied at UH from 1962-1964 as an East-West Center grantee
– Deputy Director, NHK Okinawa Station
– Director of the governor’s office of the prefectural Government of Okinawa
– Chief of Staff of the Prefectural Government of Okinawa
– President, Okinawa Prefectural Trust & Guarantee Association
– Deputy Mayor of Naha
– Many years of service as president EWC/EWCA Okinawa Chapter