GARDENA — On Sunday, July 5, at 2 p.m. PST, the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host their annual “Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa” event featuring a virtual presentation and talk by Hanayo Oya, a journalist, documentary filmmaker, and visiting scholar at the Center for Japanese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley.
The event will be in English and hosted on the Zoom software/application. Register here: tinyurl.com/oaa7520 (the presentation link and phone number will be emailed to you)
In her presentation, titled “Another Battle of Okinawa: Revealing the Truth of the War — Malaria and the Enforced Relocation on Yaeyama Islands,” Oya will talk about a little-known chapter of 1945’s Battle of Okinawa. 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. This tragic incident has been called “another Battle of Okinawa.”
Oya’s journalism and filmmaking work – including her acclaimed documentary “Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa” – has contributed to the much-needed preservation of Okinawa’s war and postwar history. “As the number of people who experienced the war is dwindling, it is our responsibility to not stop at simply sending the message that war is tragic, but to actively pass these stories on to the next generation to prevent wars altogether,” Oya said in an interview with The Mainichi (Aug. 4, 2018).
The event will also include a spoken-word performance by Kyle Toyama, a local fourth-generation Okinawan American, and an uta-sanshin performance of Yaeyama folk songs by Oya.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa. The goal of the OAA’s annual event is to memorialize the 150,000+ lives that were lost during the war and post-war years and to inform the next generation about Okinawa’s history and current issues. In Okinawa, a memorial day known as Irei no Hi (慰霊の日) is observed annually on June 23, the date that was documented as the end of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
OAA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture in the greater Los Angeles area. Formed by Okinawan immigrants (Issei) over a century ago, 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. Last year marked the organization’s 110th anniversary.