Did you know that there are three national sports museums in Okinawa? They are the "Yoko Gushiken Memorial Museum" in Ishigaki Island, the "Triathlon Museum" in Miyako Island, and the "Okinawa Prefecture Karate Museum". The "Okinawa Prefecture Karate Museum" was located in the former Yonashiro-cho, but now it is located in Aza-Uehara, Nishihara-cho. Its founder is its present director, Mr. Tetsuhiro Hokama.
Born in 1944, Mr. Hokama learned Shuri-te from his uncle, Mr. Seiken Tokuyama, and joined the karate club of Naha Commercial High School at 16. After this, he studied under Seiko Higa Sensei of Goju Ryu and Shinpo Matayoshi Sensei of Kobudo. In 1979, he opened a dojo in Yonashiro-cho, and built his present dojo and museum 9 years ago.
He obtained an honorary doctorate for karate studies in the U.S. in 2002 while leading his group expanding overseas, and later obtained a doctorate for physical education (martial arts) at the University of Mindanao in the Philippines in 2004. When the All Okinawa Karate Kobudo Federation of the Philippines was established on October 16, 2005,he was awarded Hanshi 10th dan by Chairman Masami Nakamura of the federation, and became it's supreme advisor.
The museum is found in the 2nd floor of Hokama Sensei's dojo. As you go up the stairs, you enter a museum that looks like one of Ali Baba's caves. The collection of Mr. Hokama, who says, "I originally had a habit of collecting things", started with the collection of articles left by his grandfather. He then served as director for the Okinawa Karate-do Goju Kai, and secretary general of the only All Okinawa Karate-do Federation of those days. As he collected many photos through his close relations with great masters, the idea of making a museum came to his mind.
Many visitors from abroad come to his museum, which exhibits over 500 materials today. In addition to photos of masters of the past regardless of schools and styles, many photos of today's instructors and masters when they were younger are also displayed. Weapons, tools and lineages are also displayed.
"This wouldn't have been possible without the help of others. This museum was built through the support of many masters and friends", says Director Hokama. "Since many were demolished during the war, I also gathered materials to write several books in order to leave something for the future." Mr. Hokama thinks that, "I started out with an intention of just making something like a spider web where points and lines are connected so to form a cage that contains it, and then make it gradually grow into something like a bucket."
"As a Mecca, we have a global responsibility."
"Only this place is not the museum, the whole island of Okinawa which is the birthplace of karate is the museum", says Director Hokama. He expressed his confidence on the significance of his museum when he mentioned, "After researching memorial monuments, remains, and even dwellings, training and tombs of great masters, I figured out that there is a need to explain karate along with the history of Ryukyu Kingdom."
Hokama Sensei also thinks that a large karate and kobudo museum should be built in the future to fulfill the role as a birthplace and also as a resource for tourism. Hokama sensei spoke of his hopes that although there has been various talks up till now, he will continue to provide materials in order to help make a world-class karate museum.