This house and car were damaged by gusty winds in Ichihara, near Tökyö, on Oct. 12, just before Typhoon Hagibis made landfall. (Kyodo News Photo)
This house and car were damaged by gusty winds in Ichihara, near Tökyö, on Oct. 12, just before Typhoon Hagibis made landfall. (Kyodo News Photo)

Karleen C. Chinen

Japan was hit hard last month with two major disasters — killer Typhoon Hagibis, which hit northern Honshu, taking lives, and a devastating fire in Okinawa that burned historic Shuri Castle to the ground. The people of Hawai‘i are responding with aloha to both tragedies.

On Oct. 12, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall at Izu Peninsula, west of Tökyö. It was the most devastating typhoon to hit Japan’s Kantö region since 1958, causing massive flooding and wind and rain damage. At least 88 people lost their lives in the typhoon — seven people are still reported missing. More than 74,000 homes suffered massive flooding and over 17,000 were either destroyed or suffered damage. Nearly 4,000 people were forced to take refuge in evacuation shelters.

Damage from Typhoon Hagibis is estimated at between $8 billion and $16 billion. To aid in Japan’s recovery, the Kizuna Group, a consortium of various Japanese American organizations in Hawai‘i, recently launched a fund drive. American Savings Bank has offered to collect donations at its branches statewide. The relief funds will help those prefectures that were hardest hit by the typhoon — Nagano, Ibaragi and Fukushima.

Donations are being accepted at all branches of American Savings Bank through Saturday, Nov. 30. On O‘ahu, they can also be mailed to or taken to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (2454 S. Beretania St., Hon., HI 96826), the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (2454 S. Beretania St., Suite 201)) and at the Hawaii Okinawa Center (94-587 Uke‘e St., Waipahu, HI 96797).

Checks should be made payable to “JASH Kizuna Account.” Please add the notation “Hagibis Relief” in the memo section of your check.

An aerial view of Shuri Castle after the fire. (Kyodo News Photo)
An aerial view of Shuri Castle after the fire. (Kyodo News Photo)

A few weeks later, on Halloween morning, many of us awoke to our phones binging text messages about a raging fire at historic Shuri Castle in Naha. What visitor to Okinawa has not photographed the beautiful red castle building that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that is, more importantly, a treasured symbol of the Ryukyuan Kingdom?

Hawai‘i Herald advertising manager Grant “Masanduu” Murata shared a text with a group of friends and sanshin students. He said Unten-san, one of his good sanshin friends in Okinawa, had called him, crying. Unten-san lives in Shuri, the ancient capital of the kingdom, so he biked as close as he could get to the castle. The sight of Shuri-jo engulfed in flames brought him to tears.

NHK reported that the north and south halls of the castle were also destroyed. Destroyed also were priceless artifacts and ancient documents. The Japan Times reported earlier this month that an electrical problem may have caused the fire. Luckily, there were no human casualties from the blaze.

Shuri Castle was to have been a scheduled stop on the torch relay route to next year’s Olympics in Tökyö, according to Reuters news service.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki and the Japanese government have vowed to rebuild Shuri-jo.

Within hours of the fire’s start, Hawaii United Okinawa Association executive director Jon Itomura launched an online gofundme campaign on behalf of HUOA to help rebuild Shuri-jo. He set a fundraising goal of $1 million. As of the Herald’s Wednesday night (Nov. 13) deadline, the online campaign had raised $17,252 from 156 donors, all of which will be given to Okinawa to rebuild Shuri-jo. Others have been sending donations to the Hawaii Okinawa Center to add to the campaign.

Itomura said those more comfortable donating by check can make their check payable to HUOA with “Shuri Castle” in the notation line. Checks should be mailed to the Hawaii Okinawa Center at 94-587 Uke‘e St., Waipahu, HI 96797. All donations are tax deductible, he said.

Shuri Castle was destroyed in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and reopened to the public as a national park in 1992 after years of rebuilding. Wrote Itomura on the gofundme page: “. . . the ultimate ($1 million) goal is not as important as everyone having an opportunity to show their support for Shuri Castle in the hopes of seeing Shuri-jo rise very soon from the ashes like a phoenix.”


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