RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The family of Hiroshi Makizawa placed flowers and leis at the Ehime Maru memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park yesterday during a ceremony commemorating the accident in which a Japanese ship was struck by a U.S. Navy submarine off Oahu. Nine people aboard the Japanese ship were killed.
Victims of sub collision mourned
A Buddhist ceremony marks six years since nine aboard the ship Ehime Maru perished
Takako Segawa wanted her family's Hawaii vacation to be special.
So she turned down invitations from friends to join them on their trips here, hoping instead to experience the islands with her father, a radio operator on the Japanese fisheries training vessel Ehime Maru.
Before she got her chance, the Navy submarine USS Greeneville rammed into the Japanese fishing school ship during a surfacing maneuver demonstration off Honolulu six years ago, killing Hirotaka Segawa, four other crewmen and four teenage trainees.
Yesterday, the families of all nine victims gathered in Honolulu for a ceremony carrying special significance under Buddhist custom because it marked the start of the seventh year since the deaths. Last year, the families of only three victims made it.
"My father would often come to the Honolulu port, but he wouldn't get to visit much of the city. So we thought it would be a good place to come," said Takako Segawa, 37. "He was going to retire after this voyage, and we were going to come."
One by one, during a quiet, sober ceremony on a Kakaako Waterfront Park hill, family members laid white carnations and colorful leis in honor of the dead. Some families offered colorful strings of paper cranes, a Japanese symbol of peace.
Few cried. Most rather maintained solemn, drawn faces as they bowed before a granite memorial and photographs of those killed.
According to Buddhist tradition, yesterday marked the seventh year since the nine died because the religion counts the moment of death as the first year of passing. The seventh year is a special time for healing and remembrance for Buddhists.
Tatsuyoshi Mizuguchi, whose 17-year-old son, Takeshi, was the only one of the nine whose body was never found, poured sake into the ocean after the ceremony. "I told him we're here again and that we'll be back next year," he said.
The Navy's investigation concluded that the Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, rushed through mandatory safety procedures while demonstrating an emergency surfacing drill for the benefit of civilians touring the submarine. The sub's rudder sliced into the hull of the Ehime Maru.