Ehime Maru 17th Year Memorial Ceremony on February 9 Highlighted Enduring Hawaii-Japan Friendship Born from Tragedy

On Thursday, February 9, Ehime Maru Memorial Association (EMMA) — with dignitaries from Japan and Hawaii – held a memorial ceremony at the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park. The afternoon ceremony highlighted the gratitude and friendship that grew between Hawaii and Japan in the years following the 2001 collision of the submarine USS Greeneville and Japanese Uwajima Fisheries High School training ship Ehime Maru – a tragedy that claimed the lives of four students, two teachers, and three crew members.

“This year is the significant Jyuunanakaiki, or 17th anniversary memorial, in the Buddhist tradition,” said event Co-Chair Kenneth Saiki. “Because the next major anniversary memorial is not until the 33rd year, the bereaved families wish to now thank those who helped them during their period of distress when the accident occurred.”

Families of bereaved families and guests pay their respects at the Ehime Maru Memorial

Ehime Prefecture Governor Tokihiro Nakamura and Hawaii Governor David Ige recognized the friendship between Hawaii and Ehime that was forged in the tragedy’s aftermath. This friendship includes sister-city and sister-state relationships, and youth and college cultural exchange programs.

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro played a musical tribute to the bereaved families, premiering music he composed especially for the ceremony.

Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa, Japan Diet members, and Ehime officials also attended. According to event Co-Chair Earl Okawa, a total of 15 wreaths were offered, and over 200 local officials and guests attended.

Students from Saint Louis lay a wreath at the Ehime Maru Memorial
William Crider, one of the U.S. Navy Divers who assisted in the recovery, traveled from Florida to attend. He said, “As the lead Master Diver on the recovery team, I think of the families often, and I know all of us who participated in the recovery wish we would have been able to find Takeshi Mizuguchi. Please let the family know they are in our thoughts and prayers.”

That evening, the Consul General of Japan in Honolulu Yasushi Misawa and his wife, Yoko, co-hosted a reception with EMMA at the Consul General’s Official Residence in Nuuanu.

(Left) Consul General and Mrs. Yasushi Misawa welcome guests to the Japanese Consulate  (Right) Guests enjoy the reception held at the Japanese Consulate
At the reception, held in remembrance of the Ehime Maru 17th Memorial Ceremony, bereaved families and Japan officials thanked the volunteers of the many organizations involved in maintaining the granite memorial in Kakaako as well as those who support the relationship between Hawaii and Japan. Four students from Uwajima Fisheries High School delivered a presentation about life aboard the training vessel that continues to travel between Japan and Hawaii. Guests also enjoyed a delicious buffet that included Ehime cuisine.

Students from Uwajima Fisheries High School deliver their presentations

Jake Shimabukuro shares his  musical tribute with the audience
In December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted the upcoming 17th memorial anniversary by visiting the Ehime Maru Memorial to pay his respects to the accident victims during his historic visit to Hawaii to attend ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

A nonprofit organization comprised of volunteers, EMMA provides maintenance for the memorial and assists with organizing required memorial services. Local volunteers — including Japanese-American kenjinkai (Hawaii prefectural community associations) and students from Saint Louis School — continue to clean the memorial weekly. The Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) provides liaison and administrative services to EMMA.