Amuro's mother, Emiko Taira, 48, was walking with her husband, also 48, when they were hit by a car driven by the husband's younger brother, Kenji Taira, 44. After Kenji repeatedly ran the couple over, he also assaulted them with an axe. He gave up his attack when neighbors came out to see what the commotion was about. Emiko had taken fatal blows to the head, and her husband received some injuries.
Kenji Taira then drove deep into the hills, and was found to be dying in his car after swallowing chemical insecticide.
Amuro is a pop idol singer known for her series of million sellers and her fashion style. The Okinawan native had just come off a one year break last December after giving birth to a baby boy.
She cancelled her schedule and flew in from Tokyo to go to the Nago police station to identify her mother's body. As she viewed Emiko, she bowed without speaking a word.
According to the police investigation, Emiko and her husband had opposed the relationship Kenji had with a girlfriend. They believed he had been used and that she had no intention of marrying him. The three argued frequently about the matter, and the girlfriend stopped seeing him. The police say it is highly possible that ill feelings against the couple drove Kenji to commit the murder. The quiet northern Okinawan community was suddenly set upon by the clamoring press. More than one hundred reporters and cameramen gathered, giving live broadcasts from the scene.
One neighborhood resident said, "The incident broke our hearts, but the reporters visit us day and night. They are too inquisitive and insensitive."
In the book Emiko published last year about Namie and herself, Emiko wrote that she was born in 1950 and was married when she twenty. She was divorced from her first husband when Namie was four, and brought up three children by herself.
When her daughter left Okinawa to enter a show business career in Tokyo, Emiko objected to the plan. She didn't believe in her wildest dreams that Namie would become such a big star with such a great following.
The mother and daughter made a promise. If Namie did not not have some measure of success within three years, she would return to Okinawa. Her first smash hit came in the third year.
The book concluded with Emiko's remarks to her daughter. She wanted her to cherish her relationship with her husband, to never break the bond; to take care of herself; and to thank her daughter.
The week of the spring equinox started on March 18. On Okinawa these days, the temperature has been three to four degrees warmer than usual on the Celsius scale, making it similar to what Okinawa gets in the middle of April. Tempted by the warmer weather, the prefectural flower Deigo, with its bright red color, has started to bloom along the Kumoji River in Naha.
In Isagawa, Nago City, the nation's earliest tea harvest started on the same day. The type of tea grown there is called Inzatsu 131, which grows quickly. According to experts, they will have a good crop this year because it rained so much last year.
Mr. Takeshi Higa, with the help of neighbors, was able to pick three hundred kilograms of tea leaves from his field in one hour.
If grown unattended, the tea leaves would have a yellowish�]green color. However, the bushes are covered with nets in order to soften the sunshine and keep the leaves bright green. Mr. Higa stated that the color of the tea is outstanding because of the nets, and the flavor will be good due to the amino acid content.
The tea harvest season will continue until the middle of April. Seventy percent of the crop will be consumed in the Okinawan market.
Invasion of the Spirit: part 2
She felt for the first time in her life that she would be killed. Her body stiffened, and her face was frozen in a forward stare.
It happened when Chikako (alias), 21, started her new life in the city in the spring three years ago, in surroundings that were much like the usual scenery that she had seen on her way home from school. Her memory is of a strange man who suddenly forced her into a car. She doesn't know where she was taken and couldn't hear anything what the man sitting in the front seat said. Then she was raped. Gradually she gave up trying to hear anything. She felt she was waiting quietly for a storm to pass over.
She doesn't remember the color or model of car, or what his voice sounded like when he spoke, and she even has a hard time remembering his face that was so near. Of the few dim memories she does have, she sees a strongly built man and a place in the middle of a field that is very dark. That's all.
She told her mother, who responded that there was no evidence to link the man to the crime, that nothing could be done. Even if he were arrested, she would be asked endless questions by the police, and have a hard time in court. Her mother advised her only to forget it.
For the next few months, she would spend her life in an absent�]minded daze lacking the will to do anything. Thoughts came to mind one after another. "Why was it me who suffered this terrible thing?" "I might have been able to run away." "He might attack another woman somewhere else because I failed to report it to the police." She suffered from a guilty conscience as her hatred against her violator built up inside her. There was no outlet for her negative feelings. She finally tried to accept reality as if nothing happened. She thought that if she remembered his face, she would have difficulty remaining calm. She felt that it was better that she couldn't remember anything.
But she physically and mentally responded to that incident against her wish. When alone, she walked in fear of unknown surroundings and of the dark, even when at home. She couldn't sleep at night without the light on. Whenever she heard the word "rape," it would draw her back to that time. She immediately would be seized with uneasiness and her heart would pound .
She says it is easy to get over the physical injury, but she will never be able to get rid of the invisible wound for the rest of her life. The shadow of the man without a face keeps her in fear.
Moving the pages of Okinawa's past
The Okinawa Pavilion at the Okinawa Expo Memorial Park in Motobu Town was torn down at the end of last year. It is fondly remembered by many as one of the symbols of the Okinawa International Ocean Exposition where various materials and information about Okinawan history and culture were displayed. It was said to be a most valuable institution for Okinawans to regain their cultural confidence after the reversion to Japan.
However, after the Ocean Exposition and time took its toll on the pavilion, visitors decreased rapidly. Okinawa Prefecture, who managed it, decided to close it because of financial limitations. Staff workers believe the Okinawa Pavilion was one of the major influences in the revival of the Uchinanchu spirit, and they would miss it very much.
The Okinawa International Ocean Exposition was held in 1975. The Okinawa Pavilion, with its red�]tiled roof, played an important role along with the Aquapolis to give it a unique character. The cost of building was about 650 million yen, and included donations from local businesses. Mr. Yoshihiko Nakayama, originally involved in the concept design, said that it was set up with the idea of bringing back the cultural identity of Okinawa's long history and to welcome the many visitors from around the world. It was the fruition of the ideas of more than one hundred academics in various fields.
Another building was first planned for the pavilion site, but as it was a good place to view the mount of Ie Island adored by the Okinawan people, Mr. Nakayama pushed to have it built there.
During the seven months of the exposition, it was visited by more than two million people. It was closed in 1996. Although the prefecture had considered repairs, it decided for demolition. About 2,000 items were removed to be warehoused at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum in Naha.
Happiness in herbs
The herb garden "Happiness," which has about one hundred and thirty kinds of herbs grown on a lot of about three thousand square meters, was opened in Aichi, Ginowan City. It took one year for Jyutei Tsuhako, 62, and his wife Chieko, 59, to prepare the garden.
Three years ago, Mr. Tsuhako retired from Okinawa Electric Power Company where he had worked for thirty�]one years. Then Chieko also quit her job on base, and they put their effort into growing many herbs.
In the Happiness Garden, there are walkways and rest spots making it look like a park. Various kinds of herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, fennel, and sage are grown so that visitors can enjoy the herb fragrances.v The Tsuhakos say they are eventually going to open a cooking school using the herbs from their garden, wanting to develop it slowly. They are satisfied with their comfortable lives compared to when they had worked for others.
They will help clean up the city
The Naha City municipal government sent two of its officials to Honolulu, Hawaii to observe and to gain experience on how the administration of a foreign city works. The first two Naha City employees are Mr. Atsushi Wakita, 29, and Mr. Hatayoshi Yoshimoto, 28, of the Environmental Administration Section.
When Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris visited Naha last May, Naha Mayor Kousei Oyadomari proposed an exchange program of city officers between the two sister cities. The Naha City employees will spend two weeks in Honolulu to learn the ropes of city government Hawaiian style.
Mr. Wakita noted that, as Honolulu and Naha are both tourist destinations, he wanted to learn how Honolulu collected and disposed of its waste.
Naha Deputy Mayor Takayama strongly supported the program, saying that it was very important to educate administrators in how foreign cities are run, for those experiences would help make Naha a more cosmopolitan city.
Two city officials from Honolulu will visit Naha in May in the exchange program.
March is the month of school graduations, from nursery schools all the way up to universities as educational institutions keep in lockstep with the Japanese fiscal year. On Okinawa there were 275 elementary schools and 164 junior high schools which held ceremonies graduating about 20,000 students from each level that is part of Japan's compulsory education.
Okinawa, with the nation's highest birth rate, has been slower to feel the pinch of the Japanese demographic decrease. However, there have been population shifts from isolated rural areas, with six elementary schools and six junior high schools having only one graduating student.
Young Mr. Yuta Nozaki was the lone graduate of Kerama Junior High School in Zamami Village, located on the islands that can be seen to the west of Naha. His principal encouraged him to continue his high school education in Naha.