‘I remember’

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rev. Mieko Majima of the Kapaa Hongwanji Mission speaks with Takako Decker and Hiroko Kunioka, Monday following the Mokuto Shiki ceremony at the Moikeha Building where victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were honored and remembered along with victims of the more recent floods and landslides.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Hiroko Kunioka offers an orizuru to the growing collection that will be displayed during Matsuri Kauai festival in September.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Rev. Kohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission leads the Mokuto Shiki service that allows Hiroko Kunioka and Takako Decker, both survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan, to offer incense, Monday at the Moikeha Building.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Hiroko Kunioka and Takako Decker join others in offering prayers during the Mokuto Shiki ceremony, Monday remembering and honoring those who lost lives during the atomic bombings.

LIHUE — On Aug. 6, 1945, at 8:15 a.m., Hiroko Kunioka’s grandmother was in Hiroshima with her nephew. That was when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

“I remember everything,” Kunioka said. “I was seven years old, and I remember all the smoke, and how tall it was, rising in the sky. My grandmother and nephew died because they were in Hiroshima. I was at home located on the outskirts of Hiroshima.”

Kunioka was among the guests to the Mokuto Shiki, or Silent Prayer Ceremony, on Monday at the Moikeha Building with several ministers from the different Buddhist churches officiating.

Mokuto Shiki is a traditional event held in Japan on the anniversary of the tragic events where people’s lives are lost, said Art Umezu of the Kauai Economic Development office.

“This is the first time we’re doing this service, and I believe there are no other counties where they stop to remember the impact of the atom bomb dropping,” he said.

They also offer mokuto shiki, or silent prayers, for victims of the recent flood disaster in Hiroshima, Okayama, Ehime, and other areas in southwestern Japan.

Kunioka was joined by Takako Decker, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on 11:02 a.m., Aug. 9, 1945.

“I really appreciate what the people of Kauai do for the victims in Hiroshima,” Kunioka said. “I watch, and I cry because I am so grateful.”

Decker said she was in high school when the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

“I was 15 years old, and in high school,” she said. “It was the wartime, and I was called on to work in a factory outside of the town. That is the reason I survived. The factory was five, or six miles away from where the bomb dropped.”

Rev. Kohtoku Hirao of the Waimea Shingon Mission officiated over the mokuto shiki ceremony where the bombing survivors were given the opportunity to offer incense in memory of the victims.

“Here in Hawaii, there were many people who came from Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Hirao said. “That means our ancestors’ family or friends might have been in Hiroshima or Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped — so many precious human lives were lost by the first atomic bombing in human history.”

The total number of deaths estimated from the Hiroshima bombing was about 150,000 and from the Nagasaki bombing about 75,000. Some reports have higher total fatalities and some, lower.

Janine Rapozo of the county’s human resource office was one of the people in attendance, noting that she had traveled with the Kauai Yankees youth baseball team to Hiroshima on a goodwill baseball trip.

“We got to see the Peace Park and the museum,” Rapozo said. “Unfortunately, parts of the museum were closed, but I could see the impact the exhibits had on the kids. I’m glad we’re doing this.”

The ceremony was enhanced by a display on Hiroshima provided and the effects of the atomic bomb, including the story of Sadako and her battle against leukemia caused by the bombing.

“Nuclear weapon is not just a weapon,” Hirao said. “Nuclear weapons are a threat to peace. The radioactivity created by an atomic bomb causes radiation damage. There was black rain following the Hiroshima bombing. The black rain is called fallout and is an aftereffect of a nuclear explosion. The victims taught us a lesson on what atomic bomb brings. Atomic bombs must not be used again. Never again.”

Umezu said Mokuto Shiki is a vehicle for world peace, and invited guests to fold orizuru, or paper cranes that symbolize peace in Japan. These paper cranes created with the help of the Kauai Japanese Cultural Society will be displayed at this year’s Matsuri Kauai festival on Sept. 22.

“We are gathering here,” Hirao said. “Kauai is the place in the United States nearest to Japan, and we are offering a moment of silence for Japan from here.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

  1. harry oyama August 7, 2018 1:02 am Reply

    Yes nuclear war is a terrible event, but you have to realize the other option for the Allied forces in WWII was a massive invasion that would have made Iwa Jima a minor incident although the Marines suffered thousands of causalties while the Japanese fought to the last man losing almost 20,000 men. An invasion of this type would have lasted over a year of fighting and probably millions killed, so the dropping of those two weapons saved allot of American lives.

    Now that the facts are true that allot of Japanese labor workers came from both cities that were nuked, history does not say that had King Kalakaua been a mean leader, he would have demanded they be sent back to their origin when their sugar plantation contract expired after three years. But many over stayed their stay here and avoided being incinerated by those nuclear blasts. I don’t see or hear any appreciation of this historical factor being expressed towards native Hawaiians by this group of Japanese illegals, but hear yearly protests about being interned in prison camps during WWII when the later option was legally available in shipping them back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki a much more terrible fate.

    1. Just Saying August 7, 2018 1:57 pm Reply

      “Never Again” does not diminish Truman’s decision to drop the bombs. You seem to think it does. You are wrong again, to nobody’s surprise!
      My father was recuperating on a ship off Okinawa, the “Battle Of” he barely survived, when the bombs dropped. I was born 4 years later. I support Truman’s decision for obvious reasons. I also support “Never Again” for equally obvious reasons.
      Although I agree with the projections for the “Battle Of Japan,” it is an opinion, not a fact, and we’ll never really know what would have happened.

      There is absolutely no connection between the ruthless and ghastly imprisonment of American Citizens of Japanese ancestry in the early days of WWII and 19th Century Kingdom immigration issues. Your attempt to draw a modern parallel between them, using words from the current Lexicon of Bigots, like “illegals,” is intellectually bankrupt!

  2. hutch August 7, 2018 10:30 am Reply

    Please also remember the victims of Japanese atrocities in Nanking, Mukden, the Philippines and elsewhere. Also, please keep in mind that Japan would not have surrendered had it not been for the atomic bombs, and that far more precious lives would have been lost to the insanity of the Japanese Imperial War Machine had they not been dropped.

  3. harry oyama August 7, 2018 12:45 pm Reply

    Before you express sympathy towards the constant self-pity endeavors of these Japanese Americans during WWII about their internment camps, think about how they treated native Hawaiians and their political agenda to steal more lands that were reserved for their benefit after the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian nation.

    Then King Kalaukaua could have deported thousands of Japanese plantation workers back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after their 3 year contract expired, to be incinerated by those atomic blasts! Yet do you hear any of them or their descendants express any gratitude or appreciation that it was not done? No, but they sure took care of themselves at the demise of Hawaiians resulting in an unfair over representation of this race in all State agencies which amounts to 67% of the workforce while only comprising of 17% of Hawaii’s total population based on racist policies and nepotism.

    Maybe King Kalaukaua should have deported them back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    1. Just Saying August 9, 2018 3:47 pm Reply

      Stripping a group of people of their wealth, businesses, property and dignity and locking them up in dreadful conditions is just a little old case of self pity for Harry Oyama.
      Those words add up to a disgusting disgrace to humanity!

      1. Just Saying August 9, 2018 3:48 pm Reply

        I left out the following about those stripped: THEY HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG

    2. Dog whistle Harry August 11, 2018 12:26 am Reply

      Come on Harry, if you hate Japanese people, just come out and say it. Everyone would respect you more for being truthful than for you to try and justify your prejudice with your distorted historical views.

      According to you, Japanese descendants should express gratitude and appreciation for allowing their ancestors to immigrate to Hawaii… correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t this be true of every group that isn’t pure-blooded Hawaiian?

  4. peter mcloughlin August 7, 2018 10:49 pm Reply

    It is harrowing and moving to hear the accounts of those affected by the nuclear bombings of Japan. And yet we are once again moving towards war. It appears there is no means to stop it. We keep shutting out the ghosts of history.
    Why? The pattern of history is clear. Power (manifested as interest) has been present in every conflict throughout history – no exception. It is the underlying motivation for war. Other cultural factors might change, but not power.
    Power is the one thing we will destroy ourselves for, as well as everyone else. When core interests are threatened and existential threat looms nations go to war. There can be no compromise on these. As a result every civilization/nation eventually gets the war it is trying to avoid: utter defeat. This applies as much today as any other time in history. Deterrence doctrine, made for the 20th century Cold War, is irrelevant in the 21st and will ultimately fail us.
    Unfortunately, leaders and decision-makers delude themselves, thinking they can avoid this fate – they can’t. If survival is threatened, there is no alternative to war, however destructive. It seems they will not listen to the ghosts of history.

  5. Aloha Spirit Ikaika August 9, 2018 7:16 pm Reply

    I love that Harry and Hutch talk about casualties and atrocities, while in the same rant try to justify the use of nuclear weapons that killed thousands upon thousands of civilians. I guess killing children and civilians are just a part of war and chalked up as collateral damage/casualties of war in your book. Lighten up Francis!

    News flash Harry… it was not Japanese Americans that orchestrated the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, but someone much like you, if you catch my drift “Harry Oyama”.

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