Oral Histories

Interview of Aiko Tokunaga Majikina

Performer and teacher of traditional Okinawan dance. Artistic director of the Majikina Honryu Aigen no Kai dance school and performing arts company.
Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Performer and teacher of traditional Okinawan dance. Artistic director of the Majikina Honryu Aigen no Kai dance school and performing arts company.
Cline, Alex
Majikina, Aiko Tokunaga
Persons Present:
Majikina and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Majikina's home in Whittier, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. Cline has spent a considerable amount of his career as a jazz drummer/musician in Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. The interviewee was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the contents. Majikina made a few additions, which were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California series focuses on both immigrants and second- or third-generation Asian Americans who have continued East Asian or Southeast Asian musical, dance, and performance traditions in Southern California. Some preserved their art form by adhering to the traditional forms of their disciplines, while others incorporated elements from Western arts and culture.
Born in Naha, Okinawa in 1943—Father’s background in Okinawa—Father’s death immediately following her birth during World War II—Mother’s background in Hawaii and Okinawa—After her father’s death she was raised mostly by her maternal grandparents—Parents’ marriage—The family escapes the destruction of Naha by moving to the south, hiding in tombs and caves along the way—Discussion of life during wartime, starvation, poverty and deaths of all of her classmates’ fathers—Life during World War II in Okinawa—Her family received care packages from her mother’s side of the family in Hawaii and would share them with their village—More on life during and immediately following World War II— Behavior of occupying American forces after the war and the feelings residents had toward them—Suicides she remembers among her village’s residents—Grandfather's translations of English-language books and magazines, and other novelties during foreign occupation—Her first dance experiences and teachers as a child—Her grandmother’s weaving and sewing expertise helped provide her with dance costumes—Uncertainty surrounding the perpetrators of her father’s death—Linguistic challenges on the island—Cultural connections to China in Okinawa—She begins performing as a child—Effects of U.S. repatriation—She is left in Okinawa to be raised by her grandparents while her mother and sister go to Hawaii—Japanese prejudice towards Okinawans—Her mother and sister’s eventual move to highly segregated San Marino, California in the early 1950s—Protracted preparations needed to get the visa to to leave Okinawa—The three months she spend living in Kaumakani, Kauai, Hawaii.
The first traditional dance she learned at age five—Relatively few number of people who engaged in traditional Okinawan dance—Factors that kept her engaged in dancing—Her experiences upon joining her mother and sister in the ethnically diverse Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles—First impressions of Los Angeles—Her limited English skills upon arriving in Los Angeles—High schools she attended in Los Angeles—Her largely Japanese neighborhood in Boyle Heights—Her family’s move in the early 1960s to what is now Koreatown—Her mother’s employment in Los Angeles—The family’s patronage of businesses in Little Tokyo—Her lack of awareness of the internment camp experience of her neighbors and classmates—Japanese American social functions she attended in high school—Scarcity of traditional Okinawan performing arts within the community at the time—Challenges she encountered after high school while attempting to pursue a career in pharmacology at Los Angeles City College—Decision to return to Okinawa to study dance for one year—Dance instruction she attended in Hawaii during summers in high school and encouragement from the local Okinawan community lead her to become a student at the Majikina school—Guidance from dance master Yuko Majikina sensei—Pride in Okinawan heritage—Large Okinawan community in Southern California for whom she would frequently perform—Begins teaching dance in English to students from Hawaii—Changes in Japanese perceptions of Okinawans over the years—Lack of racial discrimination she experienced while growing up in Los Angeles—Lack of pressure she felt to assimilate to the dominant American culture—Discussion of Okinawan cuisine and food she ate growing up.
Activities and community presence of Okinawan Club of North America during her youth—More on dance studies in Hawaii during high school years—Studies tea ceremony in Urasenke tradition during high school—Travels to Okinawa to spend a year studying dance after high school—State of Okinawa upon her return—Special attention she received as the only foreign student in the dance program—Is chosen to participate in a very select group of advanced students under headmaster Yuko Majikina—Large continued military presence in Okinawa—Okinawan wives of American military personnel take up traditional Okinawan arts—Yuko Majikina’s pedagogical style—Decline in the use of the Okinawan language—Starts working as a dance teacher in the United States—Demographic makeup of her dance students—Discussion of her academic interests and vocational experience—Meeting her future husband—Husband’s family background—Discovering different Los Angeles neighborhoods through Japanese American social clubs—The development of Little Tokyo during the 1980s—Marriage and children—Story behind her English name—Demographic shifts in Boyle Heights and Monterey Park—Her October 1983 dance recital at the Scottish Rite Auditorium as her first major American performance—The longevity of her relationships with students and frequency of her performance opportunities—The current standing of Okinawan dance in contemporary Japan and in America—Her return visits to Okinawa—Scholarship opportunities for students interested in tradition Okinawan arts—Current prominence of women in Okinawan dance—Future plans for performance and dance instruction—Information technology and social media as a means of promoting a greater awareness of the Okinawan folkloric tradition—Her attitudes on cross-cultural collaborative projects and her limited experimentation with them in the past.