On Tuesday, June 22, the Hawaii United Okinawa Association will hold its annual Irei No Hi remembrance, a now-online event that commemorates the multitude of lives lost in the Battle of Okinawa near the end of World War II. Every year across the world, Okinawans in Japan’s Ryükyü islands, and their descendants in immigrant diasporas overseas, hold Irei No Hi events so that their children and grandchildren never forget the tremendous violence that their ancestors and families had suffered in their homeland. Irei No Hi is both a testament to a people’s resilient survival and an opportunity for cross-cultural community education towards peace.

Considered the bloodiest conflict of the Pacific theatre of that war, the Battle of Okinawa between U.S. and Japanese Imperial forces (April 1-June 21, 1945), was initiated by the United States’ invasion of Japan as the U.S. military started its final push to defeat the enemy  which was heavily entrenched on Okinawa, the main island of the Ryükyüs.

In a coordinated assault considerably bigger than D-Day, U.S. ground troops, supported by powerful swarms of aircraft and ships, invaded the island. The ensuing conflict with defending Imperial Japanese forces led to about 241,000 deaths overall. This estimate includes those fighting on both sides but also, tragically, the demise of 15is0,000 Okinawan civilians, according to the Okinawa Prefecture government (which lists these numbers at pref.okinawa.jp/site/kodomo/heiwadanjo/heiwa/7812.html).

This year titled “Irei No Hi Through the Eyes of the Younger Generation,” the virtual event will be streamed from 7-8:30 p.m. over the HUOA’s Facebook (facebook.com/HUOA.org) and YouTube (youtube.com/channel/UC61hEnfb8TenI9Aq6o_dTnQ) pages.

“The program will feature members of our local Okinawan community ages 19 to 23 conducting interviews and discussing the impact of the [Battle of Okinawa] survivor stories,” says Eric Nitta, HUOA Vice President.

Survivors whose interview excerpts will be shown include Mr. Yoshio Iha, Ms. Shigeko Nakasone, Ms. Chiyo Hisanaga and Ms. Lois Kobashigawa. Also video clips will feature the daughters of the battle’s survivors such as Emma Smith, Tachiko Hisanaga, Yoko Engle and Naomi Imanaka.

Additionally, musical tributes will be offered by Travis Nitta and Jacob Higa playing “Tinsagu Nu Hana” (“The Balsam Flowers,” a much-adapted and favorite children’s song in the Ryükyüs that emphasizes Okinawan values of filial piety). The two represent the next generation of Uchinanchu leaders on O‘ahu.

On Irei No Hi in Okinawa, Japanese and Okinawan flags fly half-mast. (Photo Courtesy of The Power Of Okinawa: Roots Music From the Ryukyus website)

Local young adults are the latest generation to research and write about their response to this important time in Okinawan history. According to the March-April issue of Uchinanchu, one of the musical performers in the upcoming event, Jacob Higa, has been planning this Irei No Hi event for months — together with Travis Nitta’s sister Amanda, Madison Miyashiro and Kyra Pila (the granddaughters of HUOA President Patrick Miyashiro of Ginowan Shijin Kai), Cheyne Tanoue (Nishihara Chojin Kai) and Cody Kaneshiro. These six organizing committee members have been part of Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts, a cultural organization within the HUOA which teaches young people to perform the shishimai dance as a shishi or “lion dog” (facebook.com/hoca.shishimai) and other cultural-performance traditions.

Gwen Fujie, who wrote that Uchinanchu article, interviewed the young organizers from HOCA and found that

Through the planning and learning process they have been able to reflect on what had happened during and after the Battle and it has deepened their knowledge of their heritage as Uchinanchu. Having the opportunity to meet survivors and hear their stories has given them empathy and a greater understanding of how important it is to maintain peace in the world today.

Fujie, who belongs to Hui O Laulima and Yomitan Club of the HUOA, expects that the group will put together this year’s Irei No Hi “with the same heart and soul that they put into all of their shishimai performances.”

Eric Nitta sums up his son and other next-generation Okinawans’ motivation behind their months of planning by explaining that “The intent of this year’s Irei No Hi (Day of Remembrance) is to highlight the perspectives and the voices of young adults regarding the impacts of the Battle of Okinawa and to promote the significance of remembrance to future generations.

“Only through learning about the atrocities of war can we pursue the preservation of peace.”


This year (belatedly) celebrating 20 years since its founding in 1999, the Maui Matsuri festival will again host its Student Art Contest along with other much-missed events. Its organizers delighted Valley Islanders by recently posting to social media a fresh new festival logo — accompanying an announcement that the popular Maui Matsuri would indeed run again this year, after a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“Special thanks to Jonathan Clark for the beautiful crane design that will grace our festival shirt and to Casey Morrin for designing our 20th anniversary logo and this gorgeous graphic!” the Maui Matsuri Facebook message joyfully declared on May 5. An earlier FB post on Apr. 27, which also sported the new Japanese-style logo, playfully hinted “Summer events planned,” “Schedule to follow” and “Stay tuned.”

Basic entry and submission criteria for the art contest are as follows:

  1. Contestants are Maui County students.
  2. Completed hand-drawn work (not computer generated) on paper. May not exceed 8-1/2” x 11”(must fit into a sheet protector). No frames or mounted pieces. No names may be visible on front of artwork.
  3. Mediums allowed are: pens, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, chalk pastels, crayons, pencil, oil pastels and markers.
  4. All contestants may submit only ONE entry.
  5. Entry must have a completed official entry form, with disclaimer form (parental signatures are required) taped to the back of the artwork to be accepted. Entries will not be accepted if the form is not completed as indicated with proper signatures.
  6. Mail entries to Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, PO Box 5090, Kahului, HI 96733 (postmarked no later than August 14, 2021). Other drop-off options are being considered and will be announced after being confirmed.
  7. All entries will be posted online at the Maui Matsuri website, with select entries to be posted on Facebook and Instagram.
  8. Judging will be completed by August 21, 2021.Winners will be announced online.
  9. First-place winning artwork will be featured at the Ben Franklin Store at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center for a week after the event. These entries will be mailed back after being displayed. Please supply a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of artwork. Artwork will not be returned if an envelope is not provided.
  10. Submissions will be judged in four age divisions (grade as of August 14, 2021):
  • Grades K-2 ($25 1st place; $15 2nd place)
  • Grades 3-5 ($50 1st place; $25 2nd place)
  • Grades 6-8 ($75 1st place; $50 2nd place)
  • Grades 9-12 ($100 1st place; $75 2nd place)

Complete rules and the contest entry form can be found at mauimatsuri.com/pdfs/2021/2021ArtContestHM.2.pdf.

Interested children and their families should check mauimatsuri.com for updates.

The Maui Matsuri started out as a Japanese festival in Market St., a main small-business area central to Wailuku town, in May 1999.

Today it transforms the normally staid, grassy knolls of the UH Maui College campus into a traditional Japanese village — with food stalls, craft vendors, entertainment and activities for all ages. As the only Japanese festival on Maui, it is put together by a team of volunteers, largely but not only members of the Nikkei community on the Valley Isle.

For questions, fill in and send the online email form at mauimatsuri.com/index.php/contact-us, email mauimatsuri@gmail.com or call (808) 213-0711.


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