One hundred attendees at Hawaii “Irei no Hi” memorial ceremony mourn lives lost in Battle of Okinawa
July 6, 2015 Hanae Higa Gushiken, Correspondent of Ryukyu Shimpo
On June 23, a memorial ceremony, by the Japanese title of “Irei no Hi,” was held in the garden of the Hawaii Okinawa Center in memory of all the lives lost in the Battle of Okinawa. The memorial was for all victims, regardless of nationality or allegiance during the war. More than 100 people attended, including members of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association (HUOA). At the ceremony, four Battle of Okinawa survivors, Takejiro Higa, Shinei Gima, Yoshinobu Oshiro, and Shinsuke Uehara spoke about their memories of the war.
In his opening remarks at the ceremony, Mark Higa, president of HUOA, said, “This year marks 70 years since the end of the war. It is very important for us to gather together, as we have today, to remember those lost in war.”
Takejiro Higa, who immigrated to Hawaii in his youth and later served as a U.S. military interpreter during the Battle of Okinawa, said, “When American troops handed me a picture that showed Naha burned to the ground, I was shocked. I learned that the U.S. military had mistaken traditional Okinawan turtle shell tombs for military facilities and were attacking them. I immediately explained the turtle shell tombs to them and made them stop the attacks.”
Shinsuke Uehara, who experienced the Battle of Okinawa at the age of twelve and is now a pastor in Hawaii, recalled his experience, saying, “A woman who called herself a nurse told everyone, ‘I’ve got poison, so everyone who wants some, come line up.’ Everyone wanted poison, but there was only a limited amount. Many people lined up, including me. I was praying that I would get some. But the poison ran out right before it was my turn, and I wasn’t able to get any.” He ended by saying, “Sometimes, it’s better when life doesn’t go the way you want it to.” Audience members nodded at his words.
As the sun was setting, attendees faced west, in the direction of Okinawa, and joined in a moment of silent prayer. The ceremony closed with a heartfelt sanshin performance by Derek Shiroma.
(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)
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