Wednesday, June 18, 2003

A solemn ceremony took place yesterday afternoon at Kakaako Waterfront Park as everyone prayed after cleaning the Ehime Maru Memorial and laying flowers.

'Tender thoughts'

The new Ehime Maru arrives
in Honolulu to a loving welcome

Nineteen-year-old Daisuke Shinoto returned to Hawaii for the first time since the Japanese fisheries training ship Ehime Maru sank after being rammed by the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville more than two years ago.

He and 11 surviving crewmen of the Ehime Maru rode into Honolulu Harbor yesterday aboard the new Ehime Maru, which was paid for by the Navy as part of a settlement.

Shinoto, who doesn't speak English, took a while to respond when asked by reporters what his thoughts were upon returning here. Through an interpreter, he said this was a study trip and that he concentrated on his studies during the Pacific voyage.

After yesterday morning's welcoming ceremony for the new Ehime Maru, local resident Hiju Ashikaga reunited with Daisuke Shinoto and walked him back to the ship. In February 2001, Ashikaga helped survivors of the old Ehime Maru after it was hit by the submarine USS Greeneville. Shinoto was the only student of the sunken vessel to make the return trip to Hawaii.

Shinoto said he threw flowers overboard as the new Ehime Maru passed the accident site about nine miles south of Diamond Head.

The Japanese student also said he was touched by the welcome and didn't believe it would be hard to be back in the islands.

"I remembered the accident, but no longer have hard feelings," Shinoto said in Japanese. "The tender thoughts of the local people just warmed my heart."

On Feb. 9, 2001, the skipper of the Greeneville, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, was demonstrating an emergency surfacing maneuver for 16 civilians riding his boat when the sub smashed into the hull of the Ehime Maru. Nine of the 35 people on board -- four 17-year-old students, two teachers and three crewmen -- were killed in the collision.

Following a rare Navy Court of Inquiry, Waddle was reprimanded but allowed to retire, keeping his rank and pension. Besides recovering the bodies of eight of the victims, the Navy also paid for the replacement ship and agreed to a $16.5 million settlement with the families of the 35 victims.

Flowers at the Ehime Maru Memorial.

The new Ehime Maru, which is about the same size as the old one, began its maiden voyage from Uwajima, Japan, on May 7. On board were 14 students and two teachers from Uwajima Fishery High School and 20 sailors. Honolulu was its first stop.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona was among the dignitaries who greeted the ship yesterday. He acknowledged that "this was a very emotional journey," adding that he hoped it would be "another step in the reconciliation between Japan, the United States and the state of Hawaii."

Kazumitsu Joko, principal of Uwajima Fishery High School, read a message from Moriyuki Kato, governor of Ehime Prefecture, that said, "Since the Ehime Maru tragic accident two years ago, the people of Hawaii have shown compassion and warm support."

At a news conference after yesterday's one-hour ceremony, Joko said he had mixed feelings about the vessel's return to Hawaii.

He said he felt sad when he saw the boat come into view in Honolulu Harbor just past 8 a.m. However, Joko said there also was happiness because he knew how hard the students had worked to make the voyage possible.

Before the welcoming ceremony for the new Ehime Maru began yesterday morning, Uwajima Fishery High School students Yuuichi Miyagawa, left, and Kouich Honjou flashed the peace sign.

When asked about Shinoto's decision to come back to Hawaii, Joko said, "We were worried at first, but we believe he has grown from what he experienced."

Japanese Consul General Masatoshi Muto said the new Ehime Maru is "the symbol of a new start." The fact that the Ehime Maru chose Hawaii as its first port of call represents "a major milestone for Hawaii as well as the people of Ehime Maru," Muto said.

"The memory of the Ehime Maru tragedy will not be forgotten," he said. "The Japanese people will not forget the warmth of the people of Hawaii."

Both Muto and Sharon Ishii, who represented Mayor Jeremy Harris, talked about the possible creation of a sister-state relationship between Hawaii and the prefecture of Ehime and a sister-city arrangement between Honolulu and Uwajima, which is 420 miles southwest of Tokyo.

In a more solemn event later yesterday, Ehime Maru shipmates arranged their offerings around the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Ahren Miura, president of Saint Louis School's Japanese club, said the 15-foot lei of red hearts, blue beads and kukui nuts that was presented to the Uwajima students before the Ehime Maru docked at Pier 9 was a sign of friendship. The lei was draped over the bow of the Ehime Maru.

"The blue beads, besides being the color of the school, represents peace," Miura said. "The red hearts represent love and unity, and the kukui nuts show the strength of our schools."

Saint Louis students have cleaned the black granite monument in Kakaako Waterfront Park each month for more than a year. The monument was erected by the Japanese government to remember the victims of the Ehime Maru.

Japanese TBS television producer Renee Takahashi contributed to this report.


Ehime crew pays tribute
to those lost in accident

Using white cloths, the 36 students, teachers and crew of the new Ehime Maru polished every inch of the black granite monument that bears the names of the nine dead crew members of the first Ehime Maru.

In a private tribute at the Kakaako Waterfront Park monument just before sunset yesterday, the 14 students, two teachers and 20 sailors removed their caps, then bowed their heads in silent prayer.

They then placed a bouquet of white lilies and strings of rainbow-colored folded paper cranes on the monument.

The new Ehime Maru is on its maiden voyage and arrived in Honolulu yesterday morning to a public ceremony.

On Feb. 9, 2001, the first Ehime Maru, a training ship from the Uwajima Fishery High School, sank after being struck by the Navy submarine USS Greeneville, which was demonstrating an emergency surfacing procedure.

Four students, two teachers and three crewmen were killed in the accident.

After yesterday's observance, Daisuke Shinoto, the only student aboard the new Ehime Maru who is a survivor of the collision, said he thought of his friends who were lost in the accident.

When asked if he shed some tears, he shyly replied through an interpreter, "I really can't say I didn't."

Shinoto, 19, said he is serving as an engineer on the training vessel as he did on the 2001 voyage.

He and the other students spent time with Saint Louis School's Japanese Club yesterday afternoon.

Student sailor Kiyofumi Nakayama, 19, said the students also watched the school's training video together and exchanged e-mail addresses with the Hawaii students.

Prior to the arrival of the Ehime Maru crew, three visitors from the Ehime Prefecture made it a point to stop at the memorial to pay their respects.

"It's very sad," said Hideko Fukuda. "It's hard for everybody in Ehime Prefecture.

"I have two daughters," she said, beginning to cry. "I can understand the feelings of the parents who lost their children."

But Fukuda said the memorial is in a beautiful and peaceful place overlooking the ocean.

"Never again should this kind of accident happen," she said. "I'm praying for that."

Fukuda said she wanted to leave before the students and crew arrived because she couldn't bear to see the faces of the young people.

Kumiko Fukuhara, also of Ehime Prefecture, who was in Honolulu for her son's wedding, said that Ehime residents viewed the accident as "a submarine hitting a kids' ship."

"Everybody is aware that the American government did everything they could to handle the situation, but their lives were not returned," she said. "So we feel really sad about that."


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --