First memorial service held for 12 Okinawan POWs who died in Hawaii

First memorial service held for 12 Okinawan POWs who died in Hawaii

EX-POW Hikonobu Toguchi (the left of the front row) and Saneyoshi Furugen (third from the left of the front row) pray for the souls of the 12 fellows who died in Hawaii, at Jikoen Hongwanji in Honolulu on the afternoon of June 4.

June 5, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Chie Tome reports from Hawaii

On June 4 local time, at Jikoen Hongwanji in Honolulu, a memorial service was held to mourn 12 Okinawan POWs who died in Hawaii. The 12 were among many Okinawans who were held as prisoners of war in the Battle of Okinawa and transferred to Hawaii by the United States military.

It is the first time a memorial service for Okinawan POWs has been held in Hawaii.

More than 200 people, including two ex-POWs, bereaved families of the 12, who died in Hawaii, and other POWs, who returned to Okinawa, and Okinawan Hawaiians took part in the memorial service and prayed for the repose of the souls of the 12 POWs.

Prior to the memorial service, participants visited associated places, including the POW campsites in Schofield Barracks and Sand Island, where the POWs were buried.

The memorial service was organized by the Executive Committee (Hikonobu Toguchi and Choko Takayama, co-representives). Vice Governor Isho Urasaki took part in the memorial service.

Co-representative of the executive committee and ex-POW Toguch,90, said in his memorial speech, “When I think that the souls of the 12 are still wandering the land of Hawaii, my heart is heavy.” He called for early collection of remains still not identified. 

Chochi Terukina, 85, a national living treasure of Japan for Ryukyu classical music sanshin, performed the memorial song “Janna Bushi” for the deceased. The sanshin Tekiruna used in the performance was one of the musical instruments given by Okinawan-Hawaiians as a gift to the prisoners of war in camps. The instruments were brought back to Okinawa 70 years ago and were treasured.

The participants, who visited various camps, reflected on the experiences of the POWs, who had been forced to work by the U.S. military and died in a foreign country while feeling growing nostalgia for home. They prayed for the deceased, and wished for peace.

(English translation by T&CT)

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