The Hawaiian ship Hokule'a arrived today at Yokohama port, near Tokyo. The crew completed a five-month journey of more than 8,500 miles across the Pacific. The vessel was met by the sounding of conch shells, hula dancers and a crowd of several hundred.
Crowds at Yokohama greet Hokule‘a
Greeted by the sound of conch shells and hula dancers and a crowd of several hundred people, the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe Hokule'a sailed into Yokohama Bay today.
The 62-foot-long voyaging canoe completed its longest voyage -- 8,500 miles -- in the last 30 years in large part to commemorate the 1881 journey of King David Kalakaua to Yokohama to open the doors to Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
"It's been an awesome journey," said Bruce Blankenfeld, a native Hawaiian who has served as a navigator and captain on various legs of the trip.
Layton Tseu, a crew member and also a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, said he felt the arrival today in Yokohama (yesterday in Hawaii) was a reawakening of a historic moment and an opportunity for young people to gain an understanding of Hawaii's past.
"It was a fabulous trip. It's unbelievable," Tseu said.
During their stay, crew members have been invited to a dinner hosted by Hawaiian sumo wrestling grand champion Akebono.
"I am very familiar with the legacy of the Hokule'a," said Akebono, who greeted the crew. "I never dreamed in a million years that in Japan I would be able to see it."
Tseu said the crew will be meeting one of the princesses of Japan's royal family during a ceremony Monday.
The Japanese were the largest immigrant group to arrive in Hawaii. After Kalakaua opened the door to immigration, up to 220,000 Japanese laborers came to the Hawaiian Islands, many to work as contract workers in a growing sugar industry.
Hokule'a captain Bruce Blankenfeld accepted a bouquet of flowers today from Satomi Wakukawa, Yokohama friendship ambassador, during a welcome ceremony at Yokohama port in Japan.
As part of their educational mission, crew members will be touring schools to conduct lectures and also will conduct tours of the Hokule'a.
Nainoa Thompson, a Hokule'a navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, said the voyage strengthens friendships and develops a global kinship. The arrival in Yokohama also fulfills a dream of his father, the late Voyaging Society President Myron "Pinky" Thompson.
Myron Thompson's grandfather Isaac Hakuole Harbottle was sent by Kalakaua to learn Japanese history and culture at the Japan royal school as a way to establish closer ties to Japan.
Thousands of people have greeted the Hokule'a during its stops, including at Hiroshima where the crew members paid respects at the peace memorial, and at Uwajima, where they met with relatives of Ehime Maru crew members who died in 2001 when a surfacing U.S. submarine accidentally struck their vessel.
The Japan leg was the second part of a journey that included a trip from the Big Island through Micronesia with stops in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
During the joinery, crew members were hosted by dignitaries, including Palau President Tommy Remengesau, who rode on the Hokule'a from Yap to his home nation.
The mission of the Micronesian voyage was to deliver as a gift the double-hulled canoe Alingano Maisu to Satawal, the home island of Mau Piailug, the navigator who guided the Hokule'a on its historic Hawaii-Tahiti voyage in 1976.
Native Hawaiians wanted to express their gratitude to Mau, who had taught them wayfinding through observing nature including the stars, waves, wind and birds, and helped spark a renaissance in voyaging in Polynesia.
Thompson, Blankenfeld and three other native Hawaiians were inducted into a select Micronesian navigation society by Mau after their arrival on Satawal.
A ship is to carry the Hokule'a from Yokohama to Hawaii.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.