Displaying the journey, strengthening the bond

PORT ALLEN — Separated by an ocean, but connected in ways that dwarf distance.

Around 100 people gathered at Port Allen Monday to celebrate the unveiling of a display memorializing the 7,000-mile journey a piece of tsunami debris made from the shore of Iwaki City, Japan to its sister city of Kauai.

The buoy was picked up near the Pacific Missile Range Facility in January 2013, and will now be the center display at the Port Allen Marina Center.

“We are honored to host this incredible monument, which stands as an educational tool and a symbol of our strong ties to Japan,” stated Chris Benjamin, president of A&B’s, the company that owns Port Allen Marina Center.

A delegation of 19, including the vice mayor of Iwaki City, traveled from Japan to Kauai for the blessing and dedication. During the ceremony, a moment of silence, or “mokutu,” was observed in honor of the thousands who lost their lives following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Noe Kaui Naumu also rendered a special hula performance of “Hana Wa Saku (Flowers Will Bloom),” a best-selling hit in Japan which speaks of flowers which will “bloom again until there’s no missing sorrow and no reason left to mourn.”

“Three years have passed since the disaster, and we are committed to working hard to make Iwaki even stronger than it was,” Norio Miyazaki, vice mayor of Iwaki City, stated during the ceremony. “We appreciate this symbol of goodwill between our cities.”

The buoy was discovered floating in waters west of the island of Kauai in January 2013 by a naval vessel affiliated with the PMRF in Mana. Shortly after, the Japan Consulate on Oahu confirmed that the buoy was tsunami debris originating from Onahama Bay, the port serving Iwaki City, and that the buoy’s owner did not wish to have it returned.

Then Trinette Kaui of A&B Properties, John Berger of PMRF and Dave Walker of the Rotary Club of West Kauai, with the aid of Kauai Film Commissioner Art Umezu, spearheaded the project. The Rotary Club led fundraising efforts. 

“Due to the generosity of our community and our friends in Japan, we’ve raised more than $11,000, which covered the costs of creating the monument,” Walker said.

Fronting the buoy are two interpretive signs, one providing education on the hazards of marine debris and the other depicting the story of its amazing journey across the Pacific. The display is now open to the public.

“This monument belongs to all of us, and will forever stand as a symbol of friendship and goodwill,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

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