On February 9, 2011, over 200 people gathered at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu to mark the tenth anniversary of the tragic accident in 2001 that resulted in the loss of nine crewmembers, including four students, aboard the Uwajima Fishery High School training ship Ehime Maru.
Seven of the nine bereaved families led a delegation of about 60 visitors from Ehime Prefecture and Uwajima City, the home port of the Ehime Maru. In attendance were the new Governor of Ehime Prefecture, Honorable Tokihiro Nakamura, Uwajima City Mayor Hirohisa Ishibashi, Uwajima Fishery High School Principal Kanji Nogami, and officials from Ehime Prefecture Government office and the Board of Education. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie led a list of local dignitaries to include the City and County of Honolulu Managing Director Douglas Chin who read a message from Mayor Peter Carlisle. Flower wreaths were presented by each of the dignitaries, led by Japanese Consul General Yoshihiko Kamo representing the Government of Japan and Rear Admiral Kathleen Gregory representing the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Precisely at 1:43 p.m. (the time of the accident), the gathered paused for a moment of silence while the names of the nine lost crew were read followed by the chiming of a bell. Ehime Governor Nakamura, Uwajima City Mayor Ishibashi, and City and County of Honolulu Managing Director Chin addressed the crowd, promising never to forget the incident that cost so many lives and to constantly work for the comfort of the bereaved, as well as for establishing and promoting good will between the people of Ehime and Hawaii. The bereaved families led the gathered crowd in presenting flower lei and offerings to the lost. White carnations had been prepared for all the attendees to give as an offering.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mr. Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, representing the bereaved families, addressed the crowd, commenting on how the memorial at Kaka’ako is always clean and well maintained, and flowers are presented by many people. . . “this allows the spirits of the nine to remain here without being lonely.” Mr. Mizuguchi thanked the various volunteer groups who clean and maintain the memorial.
Following the ceremony, dignitaries and bereaved family members planted three mikan (mandarin orange) trees near the memorial. The trees, which originated from Japan, were planted to symbolize the friendship that has developed between the people of Hawaii and the people of E
hime through various goodwill programs such as the Ehime Hawaii Goodwill Youth Baseball Exchange, sister school relationship between Uwajima Minami Junior High School and Kawananakoa Middle School, and an annual summer internship at Ehime Prefectural International Center for University of Hawaii students. On the same day, mikan trees were also planted in Uwajima City at the site of its memorial.
The following evening, the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH), acting as the Ehime Maru Memorial Association (EMMA), hosted a dinner reception for the bereaved families and various local volunteer groups at the Hawaii Prince Hotel. A video tribute by ukulele virtuoso and friend Jake Shimabukuro was presented to the bereaved families, along with letters from the Honolulu City Council and the Governor of the State of Hawaii. JASH and EMMA plans and execute these memorial events each year, assists the bereaved family members when they visit Hawaii, and promotes Ehime-Hawaii ties by establishing goodwill programs listed above.
The ceremony program, speeches, official documents, and photos can be found on the Society’s Facebook page.