On the most famous Hawaiian avenue, most of the passers-by, customers and even residents are of Japanese origin, are subjects of the Emperor, on vacation, or emigrant workers who serve the former.
Many of the tall buildings along the waterline are owned by multimillion-dollar Japanese corporations financially supportive of their countrymen's historic presence and their latest bathing passion: Waikiki.
The first Japanese arrived aboard the Inawaka-maru, a cargo vessel that was caught in a snow and rain storm, strayed off the route between Kanagawa and Shimoda and ended up, mastless, stranded in the far west of the Hawaiian archipelago.
Between 1869 and 1885, imperial authorities barred immigration to Hawaii. But from then onwards, thousands of destitute Japanese could not resist the call of the sugar cane and pineapple plantations.
The Hawaiian monarchy refused to consider them citizens and the Japanese authorities acted to restore social respect for their own. At one point, the Japanese navy had a continuing presence and the Japanese began to influence Hawaiian politics.
The Americans feared that rivals would halt their annexation of the archipelago and cultivated a strong anti-Japanese feeling.
At the height of emigration in 1920, the Local Japanese or Kepani – as they are sometimes called – constituted 43% of the Hawaiian population.
The growing Americanization of their descendants had worried them for some time, and by that year they had built more than 150 Japanese schools attended by 98% of Japanese children. As we have been able to see, the care for the mother-identity continues to make sense.
On a weekend excursion to the interior of Oahu, we ended up with the Valley of the Temples and its Byodo-In temple, the local replica of the almost millenary shrine of Uji, located in the city hall of Kyoto.
There, in the gardens by the lake full of carp (koi), an event commemorating Japanese culture takes place and a hostess introduces, in Japanese and English, several exhibitions: “the simulation of a combat of kendo, a martial art that evolved from the skill of the samurai in using the katana in the Japan but becoming more and more popular in Hawaii.”
after the kendo, other Japanese expressions are presented and the public is mostly nikkei it rejoices in the elegance and civilizational refinement of its ancestors.
In December 1941, Emperor Hirohito and his retinue of military commanders inaugurated a long period of war in which they would dishonor. Driven by the expansionist Nazi example, they decided to extend the overcrowded Japanese territory to the vast Pacific.
They began with the conquest of Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies, where they hoped to supply themselves with rubber, oil and other raw materials. For that, they needed to cancel the US naval force in charge of patrolling that area of the world. The thousands of Japanese-blooded residents residing in Hawaii did not merit them any consideration.
On the morning of the 7th, six aircraft carriers launched 353 fighters, bombers and torpedo boats towards the island of Oahu. The Americans identified it at 252 km and issued the warning, but an official recently appointed to the position assumed that it was the expected arrival of 6 American B-17 bombers and chose not to validate the alarm.
The first planes arrived in Oahu at 7:48 am. The crew of American ships woke up to the sounds of alarms, bombs and gunfire.
They hurriedly dressed and rushed to their fighting posts while a loudspeaker message echoed “Air Pearl Harbor raid. This is not a drill” (Air Raid over Pearl Harbor, this is not an exercise) while the squad leader radioed the famous code “Torah, Torah, Torah” communicating that the mission was being accomplished perfectly.
Despite the surprise, some Yankee soldiers managed to respond to the 2nd and 3rd wave in vain. Ninety minutes into the attack, 18 vessels had been destroyed, as had 188 of the 402 planes parked there. Two thousand three hundred and eighty-six Americans lost their lives and 1139 were injured.
The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered a speech in Congress that began with the famous phrase “Yesterday, December, 7 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”.
The Americans formally declared war on Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy honored their commitments in the Tripartite Pact and declared war on the United States. The conflict thus became effectively global and would only end 4 years later.
The USA triumphed, prospered and confirmed itself as the great power of the world but never again forgot Pearl Harbor.
Only 17 kilometers of tarmac separates Waikiki from the cove, passed overlooking the tall buildings of Honolulu and the surrounding area, or in valleys bordered by verdant slopes. In the car park, there is a sign that warns that belongings left in vehicles can be stolen, but the authorities protect above all the security of the Military Base.
No backpacks or purses may be taken inside the complex. The cameras, these, have to be smaller than 30.5 cm and are filtered in detail by X-rays, which justifies the huge queue that makes visitors suffer under the tropical sun.
Almost all attractions are concentrated in the nearest dock area where – no longer surprised – photography is prohibited. The Submarine-Museum USS Bowfin and the Battleship Missouri stand out there, in which, later, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender that put an end to World War II.
Together, these three vessels represent the beginning, the middle and the end of the conflict and the Americans ensured that its main events were narrated and explained in their interiors.
But the complex's most striking historical testimony, the USS Arizona, lies offshore, at the bottom of the cove, and the military on duty insists on protecting it as the dogmatized monument that, over time, they transformed it into.
A covered ferry transports visitors to the memorial. During the short navigation, the boastful and exaggerated military orders and reprimands are repeated to the point of ridicule: “Mister, put your arm inside the boat”, “young people, sit in the chairs if you don't mind”.
During disembarkation, more than one person is warned simply because the one behind or to the side has passed, but castration does not stop there.
Much thanks to the efforts of Elvis Presley – who gave a meritorious concert and raised 50.000 dollars, more than 10% of the total value – the white structure of the sanctuary would be built over the central section of the vessel, with a geometry said to symbolize the initial defeat , the ultimate victory and eternal serenity.
The USS Arizona was directly hit by several bombs and sank in less than 9 minutes. It imprisoned its crew under water and over 80% of the men on board (1177) died. One of the 3 chambers in the sanctuary serves as his sepulcher.
The names of the victims are engraved on a marble wall and, from time to time, family members or friends come to pray for them or pay homage to them. It is the only permissible reason why the guards are so offended and furious every time someone embarks on dialogues, comments or even more noticeable whispers.
Pearl Harbor is one of the biggest wounds in the history of the American nation and the USS Arizona is still bleeding. We admire the top of its large surface chimney, through which a pump supposedly entered and, through the blue water of the lagoon, part of the remaining rusty structure.
The large cruiser contained about 5.5 million liters of oil "Bunker C”. After the attack, this fuel fueled a fire that lasted two and a half days, but that didn't even run out. It gradually submerges and renews colored stains that became known as the vessel's tears.
Environmentalists have already warned that if it is released, the oil left in the boat's deposits is enough to cause an environmental disaster and impede normal US Navy activity in the area.
But since 1982, authorities have allowed the ashes of 30 survivors of the USS Arizona to be deposited by divers under one of their gun turrets. The crew on it served before the sinking was and are allowed to drop theirs over the wreckage area.