For fans of the movie “Karate Kid II,” you might remember Daniel traveling with Mr. Miyagi to Okinawa, Japan, and learning about the customs and traditions of his mentor’s homeland.
That’s sort of the same goal that Oakton’s own Nestor T. Folta had when he conceived the idea for the first-ever Okinawa Cultural Performance, scheduled for two shows at 2 and 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Ernst Cultural Center Theater at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale.
“It’s a two-hour show and will have about 17 acts. It’s an opportunity to present the Okinawa cultural arts to the local community in a way that maintains its authenticity, attractiveness, diversity, and uniqueness,” Folta said. “It will also tie in martial arts.”
Okinawa Island is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and is home to Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture. It’s Folta’s hope that people in the area — not just those with ties to the area — will come to see what the land is all about.
The plan for each show is to feature live performances such as thrilling Okinawa drumming, invigorating folk dances, classical court dances, colorful traditional costumes, fascinating musical instruments and song, and spectacular karate from the tropical island of Okinawa, Japan.
“During last year’s Cherry Blossom festival a group of world champion drummers sponsored by the Okinawan government came here to perform because of their prestigious stature,” Folta said. “I befriended the leader and we got together in Okinawa later in the year, and we talked about their participating in this event. There was some back and forth but in November it became official and I started scrambling to find some other acts.”
Featured guests include world-famous Kazenomai, the world champion Eisa Drum Group; court and folk dance Grandmaster Momo Onno; the dynamic and charismatic Okinawan singer Ryoma; and the Washington Sanshin group, a group of singers and sanshin players who come from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.
“We have a mix of folks living in Okinawa as well as here in our area, but they all have Okinawa ties to them,” Folta said. “Once I had the idea to make it happen, a number of people stepped up and everyone is looking forward to this event.”
In addition to the acts, the roots of Okinawa culture will be presented through fine Okinawa textiles, pottery, and exquisite lacquer ware, which will be on display in the exhibit gallery of the Ernst Cultural Center before and after the shows.
Folta is owner of the Academy of World Champion Nestor Folta Traditional Karate Uechi Ryu, which he has been teaching since 2000 at Fairfax County Parks, including Oak Marr in Oakton. He himself studied for five years in Okinawa under the guidance of Grandmaster Kanei Uechi, the son of the founding father of this style of Okinawa karate, and has won seven world championship titles.
Part of the event will feature Folta’s students showcasing the moves that they learned from him in classes.
“Although our students always do well whenever the participate in a tournament, it’s going to be thrilling for our students to show that they have preserved the authenticity of Okinawa karate here in Fairfax County when they perform side-by-side, live and on stage with other world class Okinawa performing artists,” he said. “We teach our students that they cannot feel pride unless they do something difficult—and that it takes courage just to try something difficult. It will take a lot of courage to get and perform on that stage.”
Though not originally from Okinawa, Folta’s wife was born there and was designated as a Goodwill Ambassador to the land by the Okinawa Governor in 1992. The Foltas’ twin children — 17-year-old seniors at Oakton High School — were also recently awarded certificates as Junior Ambassadors to Okinawa.
“It obviously means a lot to me and my family and we just want to share it all with everyone,” Folta says. “This is going to be something that people will enjoy and be exciting to watch, and we hope that they leave understanding more about Okinawa.”