The average age of “KBG 84” (the closest-to-heaven popstars), which is Kohama Island’s elderly female singing group, is 84. They have just appeared on stage at a festival crowded with people who had returned to the island as well as tourists. The oldest member is 97, and those in their 70s are known as “research students.”

 

The group evolved from a conversation group for senior citizens, which Kimi started with her neighbors about 20 years ago. It was a volunteer activity that would later develop into Japan's elderly care insurance system. It offered opportunities for single elderly women to get together and learn the old island songs from their elders, as well as enjoy singing and dancing. Kimi was the one who encouraged singer and songwriter Kikuo Tsuchida to join their group. She also played a major role in the group’s activities, which continued to grow. The group performed all over Japan in cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo, and sang in unison about the blossom of youth, which they never had chance to experience due to the outbreak of World War II.

 

After the war, Kimi and her husband, Hideyuki, who was also from Kohama Island, moved to Ishigaki Island when Hideyuki got a job at the municipal office. Kimi worked in the hospital as a nurse’s aide and was in charge of harsh duties, which she did because she wanted her children to get a good education, something she had never had. After years of studying hard, she finally obtained her nursing license, which was a long-awaited dream of hers. This was just two years before her retirement age. Kimi and her husband moved back to Kohama Island after they retired.

 

Kimi's mother had devoted her life to Kohama Island until the age of 90. For instance, she paid her respects to the gods and ancestors at an utaki (holy place). She also served as a midwife for 100 women free of charge following the war. What Kimi inherited from her mother, along with her spirit of dedication, was indigo. Her mother had always handled all the tasks herself, ranging from growing the indigo to dying it. Seeing her children and grandchildren at festivals, dressed up in the indigo attire which she has made is what makes Kimi most proud and happy. Kimi continues to brainstorm ideas to come up with something more original.

Kimi Hanashiro

Kimi Hanashiro was born on Kohama Island in 1925. She raised two sons and two daughters, has 23 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren.

Cooperation: Kikuo Tsuchida; The Company; Yaeyama Tourism Ferry; and Nobuko Omatsu, President of the Family RINRI Association, Ishigaki City

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)