A Living Legacy of Nisei Soldiers in Maizuru
Lawrence M.G. Enomoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Sixty-eight years ago, a Nisei soldier from Hawai‘i arranged for the planting of 100 cherry tree saplings on a hill overlooking the war-torn Japanese port town of Maizuru in Kyöto Prefecture. As the trees began to blossom in their pink splendor recently, a group of Japanese citizens gathered to celebrate Takaki’s simple gesture of aloha.
That soldier, Fujio “Wymo” Takaki from Mokulë‘ia, O‘ahu, had been assigned to interview Japanese soldiers who were being repatriated from Soviet custody at Maizuru. One of them turned out to be his kid brother. To help the people of Maizuru recover from the devastation, Takaki ordered 100 cherry tree seedlings and arranged for them to be given to city officials.
Before the seedlings arrived, however, he was assigned to another area of operations, so he wasn’t able to witness their arrival and planting. He saw them for the first time in 1994 when the people of Maizuru invited Takaki and his wife to the city to participate in their cherry blossom festival.
The trees were planted on a hill in Kyoraku Park. Today, a monument there explains the origin of the “Aloha Sakura,” as they are known, as a symbol of friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.
I learned recently that Wymo Takaki and my father, Gulstan N. “Toshi” Enomoto from Maui, studied Japanese language together in the February 1944 class at the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Camp Savage, Minn. Both served in Japan during the occupation — Wymo at Maizuru in Central Japan, and my father at Hakodate in Northern Japan. However, unlike Wymo, who remained with the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps in Japan until the start of the Korean War in 1950, my father was discharged at the end of 1945 and returned to Maui.
In January of this year, a woman named Noriko Noguchi — nicknamed “Aloha Liko” — visited Hawai‘i. She introduced herself as the president of the Aloha Sakura Preservation Society, which she had formed just a month earlier (December 2017). Noguchi-san came to invite the Nisei veterans and their families to participate in the Aloha Sakura tree planting re-enactment ceremony that would be held in Maizuru’s Kyoraku Park on Saturday, March 10.
A gung-ho group of 20 Japanese and non-Japanese volunteers known as B Company, 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT Reenactment Group had actually planted the trees. They were led by Petty Officer 1st Class Hidenori Koda, who serves on the operational staff of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Mashu, a supply ship home-ported at Maizuru Base.
As the president of the Military Intelligence Service Veterans Club of Hawaii, I felt that I should represent our members at the ceremony. My son, Stephen, kindly offered to escort me on this short trip. I had notified all of the MIS club members about this event, but probably because of the advanced age of the veterans — most are in their mid-90s — only one MIS veteran, Glen Arakaki, expressed interest in attending the ceremony. Glen was stationed in Maizuru and knew Wymo. He and his grandson, Reed Kamimura, decided to travel with us to Maizuru.
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