Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos

85 3Arts supporters
$7,268 raised of $4,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on May 07, 2018
    • 182% contributed

I am illustrating my first children’s book, Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos. This is a bilingual feminist fairy tale set in Hawai‘i and Okinawa that illuminates an ancient tradition and pushes back against white normative standards of beauty. Growing up mixed-race in the rural Pacific Northwest, I didn’t know much about my own Asian culture or our family history as Okinawan migrant sugarcane plantation workers on the Big Island. For the past decade, I have been making paintings inspired by my travels back to Hawai‘i and Okinawa, Japan to reconnect family roots that were severed during World War II. Over the years those roots continued to drift apart as we assimilated into our respective American and Japanese cultures. This book is part of that reclamation journey. Okinawan Princess is written in Pidgin (Hawai‘i Creole) by Lee A. Tonouchi (aka Da Pidgin Guerrilla) and translated by Dr. Masashi Sakihara into a mix of Japanese and an Okinawan language called Uchinaaguchi. The book will feature over 35 of my original watercolor illustrations. Your contributions to this campaign will help cover costs of production and printing and ultimately enable us to share this little-known indigenous custom with future generations.

About This Project

I first learned about Lee A. Tonouchi’s Pidgin poetry in 2013 when his book Significant Moments in the Life of Oriental Faddah and Son (Bess Press, 2011) won a book award for best poetry/prose from the Association for Asian American Studies. I immediately knew I wanted to meet Lee as we share very similar family histories. Lee happened to be Googling “hajichi” at the same time and my name popped up since I had painted hajichi in my Sugar series of oil paintings. He emailed asking if I wanted to illustrate a children’s book he was writing. Even though I’d never done anything like that before, it seemed like fate for us so we decided to collaborate. In 2014, I flew to O‘ahu to take  photos and create a story board for the book along with Lee. We had a lot of fun using our family members to act out the scenes in the Okinawan Princess. This winter, I finished the final watercolor illustrations and our book is ready to go into production.

Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos tells the story of Ryûkyû Kingdom era (1429–1879) indigo blue Okinawan hand poke tattoos and the legend of a princess, or rather high priestess (kikoe-ogimi) who was the sister of King Sho Sei (1497–1555), who is kidnapped by invading Japanese samurai. The book opens in the 1980s in an Okinawan-American home in Hawai‘i much like Lee’s childhood home, and the story is told through a nisei (2nd generation) grandma named Baban, talking to her 7-year old yonsei (4th generation) granddaughter who wishes she could look like a supermodel on TV. Baban takes her aside to tell her a story about the strong women in their family and how she should be proud to be different. Baban remembers her mother’s bold geometric indigo hajichi hand tattoos and how she was made fun of for the tattoos by the mainland Japanese migrant sugarcane plantation workers. Hajichi used to be a sign of beauty and wealth by marking out which shima (island) and village a woman was from and different phases of a woman’s life. This rite of passage and protection into adulthood, and even in the afterlife, was imbued with magical power to ward off evil—especially rape. When the Meiji government of Japan took over the formerly independent Ryûkyû Kingdom in 1879, Okinawans were made to feel ashamed, backwards, and “primitive” for the custom, and hajichi was officially banned in 1899.

The last generation of women with these tattoos passed away in the 1990s, so Lee and I felt it was really important to remember this tradition at this time and we wanted to do this in the very accessible format of a children’s book that would allow us to also incorporate our family histories as labor migrants from Okinawa, Japan to Hawai‘i.

Now, we need your help to bring this project to fruition and this story to many more people. Your support of Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos will help ensure the legacy of these histories for our children and generations to come.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Personal thank you on social media ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Above plus your name acknowledged in the book credits ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    All of the above, plus a signed copy of the book ($80.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $150
    All of the above, plus a signed copy of Lee A. Tonouchi’s book "Significant Moments in the Life of Oriental Faddah and Son" (Bess Press, 2011) ($115.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $200
    All of the above, plus a VIP invitation to a private book launch party either in Hawai‘i or Laura Kina's studio in Chicago ($165.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    All of the above, plus a signed original, limited edition print by Laura Kina ($365.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1000
    Rewards #1-5 above, plus an original watercolor painting by Laura Kina ($465.00 is tax deductible.)

Laura Kina

Make a Wave Artist

Laura Kina is a queer, mixed-race Uchinanchu artist-scholar whose artistic and scholarly projects address Asian American and Okinawan diasporic art. Her latest body of work "Over the Rainbow, One More Time" is about surviving breast cancer and coming out during …

View Laura Kina's profile
  • Update 1: We earned the 3Arts match!
    Posted on March 24, 2018


    Much maholos to the 25 donors who just helped us meet the 3Arts foundation funding match. I can't believe we did this in less than a day and half. "Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos" now has supporters from Okinawa, Hawaii, Washington State, California, and Illinois. We have $850 left to go to meet the initial project goal of $4,000.This is my first time crowdfunding and I wasn't sure what to expect. There are 44 days left in the campaign and I would love to raise a total of $5,000 to meet our project needs. Let's keep the momentum going!

    Lee A. Tonouchi and Laura Kina

    Update 2: New Stretch Goal for "Okinawan Princess"
    Posted on March 29, 2018


    In less than a week of launching the "Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos" 3Arts crowdfunding campaign, 50 generous donors helped me exceed my initial funding goals. I can't thank you all enough for helping us meet the basic funding to produce the book.

    I've also been so blessed by the suggestions that have been rolling in for ways to expand the scope of our project. We received a request to translate the project into Spanish so Okinawans in Latin America could enjoy the book. Others asked if we could make a companion guide to explain what the hajichi symbols mean and what region in Okinawa the designs come from. Author Lee A. Tonouchi also recorded some audio reading the book in Hawaii Creole and I'd love to be able to include an online audio or video component to the book so you can hear what the language sounds like. Lee and I would also love to targeted outreach about the project to Okinawan communities in Hawaii and to develop educational workshops on Okinawan culture and hajichi.

    We have 39 days left in the campaign. Please keep spreading the word about "Okinawan Princess" so we can dream even bigger!

    Laura Kina book cover in progress

    Update 3: "Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos" available May 2019
    Posted on April 12, 2019


    "Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos" is now available through Bess Press (shipping May 2019).

    Thank you to everyone who supported this project! Through your 3AP 3Arts donations, author Lee A. Tonouchi and I were able to add additional research, translation, and artwork to the project and bring the book to completion.


    Laura Kina

    Okinawan Princess book cover

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

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