Yuimaaru is seen when communities support one another, especially in times of need. It is a reminder for all of us to live yuimaaru, in both small and big endeavors and decisions. (Haworth)
Uchinanchu is the term used by Okinawan immigrants and their descendants in Hawai‘i to identify themselves as an ethnic group distinct from the Naichi of Japan’s four main islands. Seven such were …
… Ryoshin Agena (native of Uruma City,) Yasuo Uezu (native of Uruma City,) Shinei Shimabukuro (native of Uruma City,) Yoshio Yamashiro (native of Uruma City,) Genbi Tonaki (native of Nanjo City,) Ushikichi Nakama (native of Itoman City) and Shohei Miyazato (native of the town of Motobu)
They are also referred to as the ‘seven heroes’ – a monument and musical, Umi Kara Buta ga Yatte Kita (Pigs from the Sea,) commemorate them.
Uruma City Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro commented, “We would like to show the bond between Hawai‘i and Uchinanchu to future generations through the monument and the musical performance.” (Ryukyu Shimpo)
Okinawa is located approximately 350 miles south of mainland Japan. It is the largest island in the Ryukyu Island chain, the southernmost prefecture of the then-Japanese Empire.
In WWII, the Pacific campaign started December 7, 1941 after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The campaign crossed all over the Pacific; the Japanese initially had the upper hand in the air and on sea and land.
After almost 4 years of naval, air, and land battles the tide had turned and by March 1945 the campaign had nearly reached its culminating point with American domination of the sea and air. It was now just Japanese territory that needed to be seized before the Japanese would admit defeat.
In a time when an invasion of mainland Japan was necessary to end the war, Okinawa was an essential preparation ground and jumping-off point for the impending invasion. (SSgt Frame)
The bombardment of Okinawa commenced on March 23, 1945 and lasted until the morning of the land invasion (codenamed Operation Iceberg) on April 1.
On June 23, 1945, all major combat operations ended on the island of Okinawa. Over the 3-month battle more than 8- million artillery and mortar rounds were fired, the equivalent of more than 1-round per second.
More than 12,000-American servicemembers were killed and more than 38,000-wounded or missing. The Japanese military lost more than 110,000, but the greatest loss of life by the Okinawan people.
Anywhere from 40,000 to 150,000 of the Okinawans perished during the battle. Even with all the carnage, it was at Okinawa that the largest number of Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner (more than 7,000 – an unprecedented number). (SSgt Frame)
“The ravages of the Pacific War (of WWII) brought disaster and catastrophic damage to the island of Okinawa. Under these harsh conditions, the people of the island were forced to eke out a living, even as they struggled to find food amidst the scorched landscape.”
“An indispensable source of food, Okinawa contained over 100,000 pigs in the prewar period. After the war, this number had plummeted to just 7,731 (according to the Ryukyu Government’s 1946 records), leaving Okinawa in a dire situation.” (Monument Text)
The above named seven Uchinanchu (Okinawan immigrants) stepped forward to help those from their homeland. They raised over $47,000 from Hawai‘i’s Uchinanchu community, purchased 550 pigs in Oregon and took them to Okinawa after World War II.
The ship that they contracted for the journey was called the USS John Owen; it departed for Okinawa on August 31, 1948, and the voyage became a life and death struggle as the ship was assaulted by raging storms and battered by tall waves.
The journey was further delayed by the need to take a roundabout route in order to avoid sea mines left over from the war. By the 3 week mark, the passenger’s water supply and the feed for the pigs was almost completely depleted.
After 28 grueling days at sea, the passengers finally caught sight of the Okinawan islands on September 27. The Owen made landfall on White Beach, in the Katsuren Heshikiya region of Uruma City. (Okinawa-jp)
These pigs helped revive the Okinawan pig farming industry and were a source of nourishment for the Okinawan people, who were starving in the aftermath of the war.
The pigs, which are easy to breed because of their high fertility rate, are believed to have helped ward off starvation and provided a steady food source for many Okinawans. (Japan Times)
This movement which began in Hawai‘i eventually spread to the American mainland and South America, and in time aid began to pour into Okinawa from all across the globe. (Okinawa-jp)