Strengthening the Bonds of Friendship with Hawaii

If you have been to Hawaii and have met an Okinawan-American person there, you should know firsthand how kind they are to visitors from Okinawa. Okinawan-Americans have also supported Okinawa through difficult times. This is a relationship we should treasure.

Takeshi Onaga, governor of Okinawa Prefecture, announced that he plans to attend the ceremony in July, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Okinawa-Hawaii sister-state relationship. Governor Ige, the first American governor of Okinawan descent, will visit Okinawa in October. This opportunity should be used to strengthen the bonds between Okinawa and Hawaii.

The relationship between Hawaii and Okinawa dates back to 1900 when the first Okinawan immigrants arrived in Honolulu harbor by boat. After indescribable hardships, they settled down, and the number who immigrated to Hawaii grew.

However, when war broke out between Japan and the U.S., those who had emigrated from Okinawa had to endure harsh experiences. After the war, unable to stand by and do nothing when their homeland was scorched and devastated, Okinawans in Hawaii began transporting pigs. This was an important cornerstone in animal husbandry in Okinawa today. Without this support, many more would have died of starvation after the war.

Okinawans in Hawaii also greatly contributed to raising funds for the establishment of the University of the Ryukyus. Without a doubt, Okinawa would not be what it is today without the support of those in Hawaii.

On the other hand, Okinawan-Americans in Hawaii overcame discrimination to actively contribute to various parts of society in Hawaii. I take my hat off to the amount of hard work that was necessary to achieve this. Today, third- and fourth-generation Okinawan-Americans are passionate about passing on the Okinawan culture. They work hard at learning Shimakutuba, the Okinawan language, and also learn to play the sanshin and do karate. We who live in Okinawa could even learn something from them.

The Hawaii United Okinawa Association plans to build a new facility for the operation called the Hawaii Okinawa Plaza. The association is setting aside a portion of the budget it has for managing its current location at the Hawaii Okinawa Center. As its mother country, we should support it.

The governments of Hawaii and Okinawa, their research institutions and their businesses are also cooperating to find a solution to energy issues particular to island regions. The research aims to overcome the difficulties the islands have in finding large amounts of renewable energy sources. Should it be successful in overcoming these issues, the research would be significant worldwide. I hope groundbreaking results are achieved.

Gov. Ige has also made reference to the issue with the U.S. base in Okinawa. “I would like to contribute to finding a resolution to the issue,” he stated. “If I have the opportunity to lighten Okinawa’s burden, I would like to contribute by developing the relationship between the U.S. and Japan and Okinawa.”* I believe he should be able to closely cooperate and work together with Gov. Onaga on this matter.

*Editor’s note: Accurately translated, this quote could not be verified.

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