They Strengthened Their Bond as Brothers After Serving Opposing Sides in the Battle of Okinawa

By Byrnes Yamashita
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Do you sometimes think about how a simple twist of fate changed your life and the lives of others? As the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2020, the people of Okinawa observe Irei no Hi or “Okinawa’s Memorial Day” on June 23 (June 22 in Hawai’i), to reflect on a life-changing wartime experience.

“Irei no Hi,” which translates to “the day to console the dead,” is an annual remembrance observed in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture to memorialize the lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa.

The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground engagement of the Pacific War fought on Japanese soil. The Japanese Imperial Army and U.S. military forces clashed upon Okinawan land and water. Over 240,000 lives were lost (about half of those Okinawan civilians); numerous buildings on the island were destroyed along with countless historical documents, artifacts and cultural treasures. This destruction included many family registries or köseki, which now makes it difficult for Okinawan descendants living outside of Okinawa to connect with their relatives who live there.

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