GARDENA — On Sunday, June 25, at 2 p.m., the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host their annual “Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa” event both in-person and online via Zoom (hybrid).
Admission is free for current OAA members and $2 for the general public. RSVP is required; visit http://tinyurl.com/oaa-irei-23, call (310) 532-1929, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commemorating the 78th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Okinawa, this event will feature recordings of two in-depth lectures by special guest speakers Harumi Miyagi (Japanese with English subtitles) and Hanayo Oya (English), which were originally presented online during the pandemic. (Content warning: Both lectures contain verbal descriptions of violence and mentions of suicide.)
There will also be pre-recorded performances by Ricardo Kakazu and Bruna Mariko Ōshiro in Brazil (Okinawan folk song), Hanayo Oya (Yaeyama folk song), and Kyle Toyama (spoken word).
The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest land battles in the Pacific, with historians calling it a “war of attrition” by the Imperial Japanese Army to prevent the U.S. from reaching the Japanese mainland. In Okinawa, a memorial day known as Irei no Hi (慰霊の日) is observed annually on June 23. This date is officially documented as the end of the battle in 1945, although Okinawa’s suffering continued long after. The goal of the OAA’s Irei no Hi events is to memorialize the nearly 150,000 lives that were lost and to inform the next generation about Okinawa’s history and its connection to current issues.
The U.S. military landed in the Kerama Islands on March 26, 1945. Okinawan survivors state that the mass civilian deaths that occurred during this time were coerced by the Imperial Japanese Army. In 2007, Japan’s Ministry of Education ordered the incidents to be removed from high school textbooks. Harumi Miyagi, a historian, lecturer, and writer in Okinawa, will explore these horrific incidents based on her research and interviews with survivors.
While the Okinawa and Kerama Islands were ravaged by land battles and air raids, the Japanese Imperial Army forcefully evacuated civilians from Hateruma, Ishigaki, and neighboring Yaeyama Islands to malaria-infected jungles and mountains. According to the Yaeyama Peace Memorial Museum in Ishigaki, the military-ordered evacuation resulted in 16,800+ infections and 3,600+ deaths. Journalist and documentary filmmaker Hanayo Oya will explore this little-known chapter, referred to as “another Battle of Okinawa.”
The OAA Center is located at 16500 S. Western Ave. in Gardena. The parking lot is accessible behind the buildings off of 165th Place. The in-person event will take place in the Yamauchi Building. For the online event, the Zoom link will be emailed that morning.
Miyagi is currently vice chairperson of the New Okinawa Prefectural History Editorial Committee (Shin Okinawa-ken-shi Henshū Iinkai) and chairperson of the Women’s History Subcommittee. As a lecturer, she has spoken at Okinawa International University, the University of the Ryūkyūs, and the prefectural government office about women’s history and gender studies, peace and human rights, and the inheritance of tootoomee (Okinawan mortuary tablets).
Her books include “What My Mother Left Behind: New Testimonies of Mass Suicide in Zamami Island” (母の遺したもの：沖縄・座間味島「集団自決」の新しい証言), “Women’s History as a Minority” (マイノリティとしての女性史) (co-authored), and “Listen to the Damage of Sexual Violence” (性暴力被害を聴く) (co-authored).
Oya is a multi-award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and scholar whose work has contributed to the much-needed preservation of Okinawa’s war and postwar history. Her feature-length documentary, “Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa” (沖縄スパイ戦史), received Best Documentary Film from the prestigious Kinema Junpo Awards and the Excellent Film award from the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.
OAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture. Formed by first-generation Okinawan immigrants (Issei), the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year, including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities. 2019 marked the organization’s 110th anniversary as well as the 20th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena. Follow on Facebook/Instagram @oaamensore