Ku Holo Komohana / 2007 Voyage to Japan
Oshima and Hiroshima (May 19-27)
May 20 passage through the Kanmon Strait (Shehata)
Today we traveled from Kanmon Straits to Shin-moji Harbor. This would be a short yet dangerous passage that would need everyone to be on attention. The charts that we looked at the other day, showed several areas that were marked in red stating “vessels commonly collide here” or “common for vessels to be grounded here.” I actually I think it is understatement to say that there were several areas marked, I should say that the majority of the straight had those warnings. Now for those of you who know Hokulea is a small vessel, especially when compared to a several 1000 container barge. We would be traveling along side these larger vessels, and would have to be extra cautious. We are lucky because we have a local pilot, Nishimura-san, who would be on his vessel, towing us through the strait.
Shipping taffic in the Kanmon Strait
We managed to hold a starboard course along the passage, and zigzag past vessels coming what seemed at us at from all directions, some at 90 degree angles, which we would watch and pray that they would make it past us, and not intersect our course. Along the way we actually had one vessel which may have been a floating restaurant, which looked more like a spaceship on a boat, make a U-turn on the harbor, and skid right along side of us, so that the spectators on the boat could take pictures. So yes, essentially we played dodge ball that day.
As we continued, through we pasted the shrine that we visited the day before, and crossed under the bridge, which would be the narrowest part of the straits. Overall the passage was thankfully uneventful, yet awe inspiring and humbling.
We made it into Shin-moji Harbor area, and this would be our home for the next few hours. This area is largely uninhabited and would give us reprieve, and time for a warm shower. Dinner tonight would be garlic potatoes and salmon patties, yum yum.
Tomorrow we would have to wake up early again, to make it to our next stop Oshima, with a short stop at one of the islands on our way.
May 19 through the Kanmon Strait, into the Inland Sea (Ferrar)
Hokule`a made safe passage through the Kanmon strait, despite heavy cloud cover and some rain during the early part of the trip, and plenty traffic of big freighters surrounding the wa`a through the strait.
About 50 local people who had been touched by Hoku in Fukuoka –including the coach of the high school rugby team that spent the night on board - showed up at the pier in the 3 a.m. darkness and chill to bid the canoe and her people sayonara-aloha.
After Hokule`a was hooked up to the Yanmar boat for the tricky tow through the narrow strait between Kyushu and Honshu islands, the pu sounded and the boats slipped through the marina’s narrow concrete entrance and out into the big bay in front of the city.
A cold rain fell for a while as we made our way to the narrow mouth of the bay, keeping a careful watch for approaching ship lights in the darkness. After about 6 hours of towing, the boats reached the entrance to the strait – a pretty bleak industrial landscape of smokestacks, electrical windmills, harbor cranes and huge factories. A low dark-gray sky added to the spooky atmosphere – which one crewmember described as “sailing into Mordor” (the evil land in the Lord of the rings.) The crew even spotted a couple of funnel clouds spinning in the distance.
With so many ships in the passage, Kalepa said it was critical to keep the canoe lined up behind the tow boat hugging the starboard side of the strait, which was wide at first but narrowed steadily as the it curved toward the choke point under the bridge between islands. The steering crew had a good workout doing that, with the big tide-flow sign on the bank showing a 5-knot following current and the wakes from the passing ships causing difficult side chop.
By the time we reached the bridge around 11 am – perfectly timed with the slack tide – the current was down and, the weather was quickly clearing. The passage under the bridge went smoothly, with the conch sounding and the crew waving to friends of the canoe who had gathered at the shrine under the bridge to watch her pass through.
Before you knew it, we were through the pass out of the South China Sea and into Japan’s Inland Sea, or Seto Naikai, and the weather was beautiful. We turned to starboard and cruised a few miles back down the coast of Kyushu to dock for the night in a small marina called Shimoji, out on the point of a bay front of pretty, forested hills with a small village tucked into the valley a couple of miles away. The docking maneuver at the marina proved to be the trickiest part of the passage, with Capt. Kalepa coordinating a dance of anchors, the steering sweep and the tow line to spin the wa`a around just a few feet from a massive concrete seawall and into a small berth in a floating dock,
The crew crashed for the night aboard the canoe and on the dock, then got up for another 3 a.m. departure. This morning we’ve had smooth passage through the glassy inland sea surrounded by pretty islands of steeps hills and forest.
The Inland Sea, surrounded by the main islands of Kyushu, Honshu and Shikoku, are filled with smaller islands.
Hokule'a in the Inland Sea. Photo by Kato Kosei
May 20 in the the Inland Sea; welcome at Iwaijima (Shehata)
Today we would continue our travels in Inland Sea, and get a tour of some smaller remote Japanese islands. The sky was clear, the forecast would be good weather today. We were able to see the changes in the landscape that are beyond dreams. There were numerous islands that we passed, with soft round edges, green trees, the sea lapping at its edges. Today would be how I imagined the voyage to be. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed Fukuoka, but this is a natural beauty, and today was one of the more amazing treats thus far.
We passed one island after another, each unique and beautiful in its own way. The waters on the Inland Sea are calm today, and flat, making towing much easier and smoother. Today we would pass Iwai-shima. We were given a handout out by the people of Iwai-shima which described the island as 12 km in circumference, and is situated at the southern end of Kaminoseki Yamaguchi prefecture. Historically this area was a key shipping landmark and believed by seafarers to embody the sprits of deities who would ensure their safe landing.
As we approached the island we were first approached by children in a large vessels hanging on both the bow and stern of the boat. Singing and screaming “Aloha”. They waved their hands in the hair with joy, and smiled from ear to ear. At one point they busted out a rendition of Yankee Doodle on the flute.
This had been a trip they had planning and anticipating for a while. As we came closer to the main island, a group were paddling in and cheering and waving with their arms, each had a bamboo branch onboard sticking straight up, with signs; some saying “welcome”, others saying “no nukes”, and yet others “peace”.
(Weblog at http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~jf-iwai/)
We continued to travel closer and began to hear taiko and chanting. As we got closer we noticed there was about a 30 man canoe, with a man standing on the edge with large pompoms in hand; dancing a traditional song and dance, which is done as part as the Kamimai Festivel, This dance and festival is done once every 4 years, which was started in the 800s, when a feudal lord’s delegation was stranded during a storm on the island, and were taken in by the families on the islands. As a sign of appreciation for what they had done, the island and the people were blessed by the priests. This festival is done in order to continue to the prosperity on the island.
(Weblog at http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~jf-iwai/)
Coincidentally, we happened to be around when a project was being performed. They were passing on an eternal flame from island to island which has been lit since the bombing at Hiroshima. We happened to arrive at the island, just as this flame was transiting through the islands. One of the older men, asked that we take part of this flame, and find an appropriate place to extinguish it, as a symbolic moment for world peace. It was so touching and moving that it brought me to tears. It is such a bigger global perspective, and reminds me how things in the past shape our future, and our actions today, although small and symbolic, can have a large impact for some.
We really wanted to spend more time on this island, but like everything else we had to continue with the “sail plan”.
Words can’t explain enough what we saw and experienced, but I hope at least this gives you a glimpse of it.
May 20 welcome at Iwaishima (Ferrar)
The canoe and her escorts were greeted by flotilla of fishing boats and kayaks bearing Earth flags and “No nukes thank you” signs flying from iwai ibata, traditional bamboo branches flown by fishing boats after a big catch. Kana explained they are protesting against plans to build a nuclear power plant in the area.
(Weblog at http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~jf-iwai/)
As Hokule`a floated offshore, a group of men rowed up in a traditional boat, playing a drum and chanting, with two incredibly balanced dancers, one with pom-poms at the bow and another making quick motions with a small paddle on a reed platform at the stern.
Taku said that this was a special ceremonial fishing dance unique to Iwai-jima that can normally only be performed during a specific festival once every four years, but the island people held a meeting and decided to make a special exception for Hokule'a's visit. According to Taku, among all the fishing communities in Japan, the people of Iwai-jima are the most concerned with spirituality and sustainability in drawing their livelihood from the sea, and the significance of this dance is to give thanks for the fish they have taken and seek blessings for the safety of the fleet.
The men in the boat presented Hoku with a kerosene lantern whose flame was lit from a fire that started in the Hiroshima bombing and has been kept alive since in honor of the souls lost in the bombing. They asked Kalepa to take the lantern out to sea and douse the flame to symbolize an end to war.
(Weblog at http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~jf-iwai/)
The group of kids sang and played recorder on “Glory Halelujah” and the crew reciprocated with the Aiha`a Hokule`a on deck before departing with a gift of delicious bentos and sashimi.
Everyone on the crew agreed that it had a really moving port call. Taku said that to him this is the real Japan, more so than the cities where Hoku has been lately.
Right now we are cruising through a narrow pass between two small, beautiful islands on our way to port at Oshima Island. A local fishing boat just pulled up and very kindly showed the tow crew how to avoid the shallows.
The scenery and weather are gorgeous with blue sky, warm sun and calm sea.
May 20 landing at Oshima (Shehata)
[Oshima ("Big Island," pop. 230,000), in Yamaguchi prefecture, is just offshore of Honshu and 30 miles southwest of Hiroshima City.]
We had two stops in Oshima, one was the Marina at Oshima, and the other Oshima proper. At the Marina we had a short ceremony, with a ship load of people standing at the dock, a band playing, and a presentation of flowers by children to the crew. The gave us leis and a small gift bag. They also had taiko at the dock with the drums about 2 feet in front of us, talk about feeling the beat.
At Oshima we were greeted by what we were told was a crowd of 3000 people. There were hula dancers, taiko drummers. We came off the docks, where we met with some of the other crew. At that time Chad Babayan had asked Nainoa to have the honor of extinguishing the flame here. A small but simple ceremony was held, which brought many to tears again, and the flame was extinguished.
We then came off the docks, and were greeted by people lined up in rows. We walked down shaking hands like politicians. At the end we were treated with taiko drummer, a traditional mochi toss, and lunch. All of this is truly an understatement of the sounds, and sights that we saw.
May 20 landing at Oshima (Ferrar)
On the afternoon of May 20, Hokule’a arrived at Oshima Island. First the canoe put in briefly at the town where the maritime college is located, with a welcoming ceremony on the dock featuring youth drumming and brass band music. Many spectators looked on from a passenger boat moored at the dock, with welcoming banners reading “Hokule’a – Link to Oshima and Hawai‘I migration.”
Next the canoe passed under a bridge that connects Oshima to the main island of Honshu – with crazy swirling current eddies caused by the intense tidal flow, which we were told can reach up to eight knots.
Several thousand people were at the dock to welcome Hoku amid a festival atmosphere featuring hula, taiko drumming and lots of folks in festive aloha wear.
Before joining the ceremony, the crews gathered on the dock beside the canoe for a short, special ceremony, Kalepa announced that he had asked Nainoa to douse the flame we had been given at Iwai-jima island to symbolize an end to warfare, because of Nainoa’s personal connection to this place through Yoshi Kawano, the milkman who looked after Nainoa when he was young, and who first taught him about fishing and the ways of the sea.
As the crews huddled around, a small candle was lit from the lantern flame (which in turn had been lit from a flame that has been kept burning since the Hiroshima bombing).
“It’s such an honor that our canoe has been asked to carry this symbol of peace,” Nainoa said as he held the candle. “And to all who have brought the canoe to this moment in time, I am eternally grateful to be here with you.”
As he poured seawater from a coconut shell onto the flame to put it out, he said: "No more, no more hatred in this world. Let’s just drown it.”
Next Kalepa, who will be leaving the canoe at this stop, presented gifts to Nishimura-san, the incredible pilot who has been guiding the voyage through unfamiliar waters. “Thank you for being our captain. If everybody in the world had a little bit of you in them, the world would be a perfect place – because you are the perfect man.”
Then he thanked the crew for all their hard work on the hectic but rewading journey through Japan, which has been so unlike “normal” sea voyages. “It’s been an honor to be your captain,” he said. “This has been a very different kind of voyage from what we are used to, and it has been a great challenge to adapt to the skills needed to deal with so many people who want to touch the canoe and learn from it. I thank all of you for stepping up and making it work. For me, it has been one of the great experiences of my life to sail with my daughter and with some of the best friends of my life.”
After a pule and Aiha‘a performance, the crew made up the gangway from the dock into a seemingly endless handshaking line with hundreds of local people who were clearly thrilled to be there. We’ve been told that around 70 percent of the families on the island have ancestors who went to work on the plantations in Hawai‘i in the early years of emigration and either stayed or returned home.
Hokule'a Crew performing the Ai'ha'a off Oshima (Weblog at http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~jf-iwai/)
Hula dancers and taiko drummers performed on stage next to a large model the people had built of Hokule‘a, replete with crew figures working and playing cards on deck.
Oshima built a 1/10 replica of Hokule’a to pray the safe voyage. Photo by Kato Kosei
Next, the crew were invited to try their hand at the drumming, which drew lots of laughter and applause. Then they observed a tradition of tossing wrapped red mochi pieces into the crowd, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Finally, we were taken to our hotel on a bluff with gorgeous views of the harbor and small town on one side, and the island-dotted inland sea on the other. Because of Oshima’s sister-city relationship with Kauai, the reception building of the hotel is a replica of the old Kaua‘i County building, and the rooms are in plantation-style cottages, although with tatami-style furnishings.
Crewmember Imaikalani Aiu, who works for the Kaua‘i county planning dept. joked that whenever he goes into that same building at home, it means that he’s about to get worked over by the county council.
Before crashing out for the night. A number of the crew enjoyed the communal Japanese baths on the property, like a series of large hot tubs tinged with various mineral concoctions. Verrrrry relaxing.
May 21 Iwaijima and Oshima (PVS)
Honolulu, HI – Under the leadership of Hokule’a captain Chad Baybayan and escort vessel Kama Hele captain Mike Taylor, the two vessels arrived in Oshima, Yamaguchi Prefecture yesterday afternoon. After spending the previous night at Shin Moji, the vessels had an early morning departure with a brief stop off Iwaijima.
At the island of Iwaijima, traditional fishing boats and kayaks went out to meet Hokule’a. A peace flame carried from Hiroshima was taken to Hokule’a and handed to Captain Baybayan. Those who brought it asked Baybayan to douse the flame to symbolize an end to war. Instead, Baybayan then handed it to PVS president Nainoa Thompson and suggested he douse it at Oshima, because of its strong connection to Hawai’i with an example being the Thompson family’s connection to the Kawano family whose ancestors are from Oshima.
Yoshi Kawano, who lived and worked on the Thompson family dairy, was the first person to take Thompson to the ocean and taught him fishing from age 4. He credits Kawano for exposing him to what became his great passion, the ocean, and to nurturing an instinct and skills that would later serve him as a student of navigation. Yamaguchi is where Kawano’s father is from and where he was taught fishing. Thompson did extinguish the flame at Oshima.
Thompson said “they wanted us to carry it and take it to a place that we would extinguish it in the hope it would bring peace to the world. Chad was honoring my mother and father and Yoshi and Miyoko (Yoshi’s wife).”
In reference to the symbolism of the reception they have been receiving and the flame, Thompson says “In many ways I sense the people in the world are sensing and recognizing a tipping point, where we as global cultures are coming to an understanding that the pressures of human need - and that’s all of us, we all contribute to that - are meeting the limitations of the pressures on earth. The other thing I sense is the cultural tipping point which I think humanity has always had to deal with, but we’re not just throwing sticks and stones anymore. We look at a smaller world and relationships coming closer and closer to each other as global cultures and the tipping point is whether we find a way by looking at diversity as strength and acceptance and treating each other with dignity as opposed to diversity being seen through the lens of fear and intolerance. The flame symbolizes respect, hope and healing between I think the culture of Japan and the culture of Hawai’i and the canoe. The journey here is a deep one. It’s not just voyaging to a country we’ve never been to before, it’s trying to find and forge a relationship based on strengthening peace. In many ways, we have to, as individuals, find ways to encourage and promote world peace between people and the flame was one single symbol of that.”
Crewmember and Hokule’a doctor Cherie Shehata says “It was so touching and moving that it brought me to tears. It is such a bigger global perspective, and reminds me how things in the past shape our future, and our actions today, although small and symbolic, can have a large impact for some.”
Yamaguchi is the prefecture from where the 2nd largest Japanese immigrant population came to Hawai’i. Crewmembers are visiting a museum dedicated to the immigrants. Thompson will be visiting the nearby island where Kawano’s father was taught fishing. Crewmembers are also participating in presentations, lectures, and canoe tours. The vessels will depart Yamaguchi on Tuesday, Hawai’i time, which is Wednesday Japan time.
May 21 events on Oshima (Shehata)
Today started off as a simple enough day in Japan. We woke up had a wonderful breakfast at our hotel, some had presentations to give, while others worked on rigging the canoe, and yet others gave tours. The groups touring the canoe were steady with about 30 at a time. Now I must also begin by thanking everyone for their emails back home. Yes Amy I did make a mis-spelling on my last story in the title, but give me a break the conditions I am in aren't ideal. Please also forgive any inaccuracies in place names, or my culture interpretations, I try to ask for help in translations when possible, but it is not always done.
Tonight we had a welcoming ceremony (yesterday was the festival). It was again over the top and more than I could imagine. Tonight we were greeted by children dancing hula, and later presenting use with crane leis and paper hats that they made. There was also a presentation and exchange of gifts between city officials and the canoe captains. A paddle, poster and several other gifts were given to the city and people of Suo-Oshima. They also gave us these great festival jackets, with Japanese characters on one side of the border saying Hokulea, and the other stating Oshima. The background was a deep blue sky with cranes flying, and below a lighter sea blue with ocean waves. The also presented us with beautiful silk scarves with the city's pride the mandarin orange embroidered on it. To top things off we were given fans that had the image of the canoe on it. We then had a traditional fan dance, with beautiful yellow and red umbrellas, and fans to match. At the end of the fan dance, they started a bon dance, and invited the entire party to join them. It was soo much fun. We were all sad when it ended.
Another interesting aside is the search for Yoshi Kawano's family in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Yoshi played an important role in Nainoa's childhood, he was the one who introduced him to the ocean and fishing as a young child. He is here now trying to retrace Yoshi's family here. Currently the emigration center has been working tirelessly to find the Kawano family that may be related to Yoshi.
This again was another wonderful day. Full of laughter, color and adventure, and can not imagine what the next day will bring.
May 22 exploring Oshima connections (Ferrar)
Last night (May 21 JST), the civic leaders of Oshima island threw an awesome welcome party for the voyage crews out on the big lanai and lawn at the hotel where we’re staying. The mayor of the island welcomed the crews by recounting the strong ties between Oshima and Hawaii, dating back to 1885, when 305 people from the island were among the first big boatload of 944 Japanese contract workers to arrive in Hawai`i. Those ties have grown and strengthened over the years, as Oshima continued to be a major source of emigrants to Hawai`i – even earning the nickname “emigration island” – and eventually became a sister island to Kaua`i.
[Oshima island is a national park and home to the Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, "Suo-Oshima [the main town, pop.22,070] is a sister city of Kauai, Hawaii. ....Office workers and bus drivers in town wear colorful aloha shirts as a uniform in summer.”]
An adorable group of preschoolers performed keiki hula and a trio of older ladies also did hula, but the big hit of the night was definitely the traditional fan dance, which was very colorful and brought the house down – especially when the crew was invited to join in.
Crew with schoolchildren. Photo by Ka'iulani Murphy
Oshima is a very beautiful island among many here in the Sentai inland sea, and there definitely seems to be an affinity between her people and the people of Hawai`i, many of whom are directly connected by `ohana.
Exploring Oshima roots
This morning (May 22 JST), most of the crew made an excursion to the Museum of Japanese Immigration to Hawaii as part of the mission of Ku Holo La Komohana / Sail On to the Western Sun to explore and strengthen the historical and present-day ties between the people and culture of Hawai’i and Japan.
On the way to the museum, we first stopped at a beautiful Jodo (pure life) Buddhist temple, which was apparently the model for the first Buddhist temple built in Hawai`i, According to Japanese crewmember Kana Uchino, the temple, located on a hill overlooking traditional tiled-roof houses and rice paddies, is 400 years old, although the current structure was built just 30 years ago after the old one burned down in a thunderstorm.
Kana said that when the 18th-generation monk from the temple went to Hawai`i to minister to the Japanese workers there, he took a Buddha image from the temple with him I n his bag and built a replica of the temple in Honoka`a on Hawai`i Island.
The exterior of the temple is beautiful, but the altar inside is spectacular, with a standing Buddha and exquisitely crafted hanging bells, lanterns and many more implements, all in radiant gold.
Next we visited the immigration museum, located in a large, traditional-style house originally built by an immigrant to the U.S. continent who was able to return home a wealthy man.
We were greeted there by still more adorable young schoolchildren, who had built a large, colorful model of Hokule`a and her crew.
Inside, the displays featured artifacts from Japanese contract workers’ lives, like irons, kitchen implements and carpenter’s tools, along with information displays on their long, hard hours of work on the plantation for just a few dollars a month – a large portion of which went back to the company to pay for their meals.
One thing that especially struck me was an immigration application letter from a local couple, whose characters were written in beautiful calligraphy. Another important feature was a computer station that allows relatives of government-contract emigrants to search for information about them. The database, and more information about the museum, are available online at www.town.oshima.yamaguchi.jp/hawaii/
At the museum, the remaining crew bid an emotional farewell to Capt. Kalepa Baybayan and several others who had been aboard since Okinawa and before, including Kalepa’s daughter Kala, Tim Gilliom, Lamona Shintani, Maka`ala Rawlins, Kaimana Bacarse, Ah Lun Yung and Mel Paoa. They were headed for a few days in Hiroshima – where several can trace ancestral ties – and then back home.
After the museum, some of the crew went down to the canoe to re-rig her with the crab-claw sails – which has us all hoping that we’ll have the chance to do some sailing on the next leg – while others accompanied Nainoa to several of the surrounding islands on a mission that really brought home this area’s immigration ties to Hawai`i in a personal way.
First we caught a boat from the local maritime college to Heigun Island, where Nainoa’s wife – and tireless PVS troubleshooter – Kathy Muneno has family roots. There, we were led to the temple that for centuries has served as the spiritual center of the fishing village on the beautiful island. On the wall, where they hang wooden plaques bearing the names of families that have contributed to the temple over the many years, were many bearing the Muneno name.
Nainoa paid his respects and placed a lei at the temple, and in the warm and generous way we’ve been experiencing from the people here all throughout this trip, the town leaders gave Nainoa a book of old photos, along with a Muneno family tree going back eight generations to the first ancestor who had come to the island, reportedly after losing a samurai battle. Not a bad place to be banished to, we all agreed.
Next we were led down a narrow lane to a cemetery with a section of old stone markers for Muneno kin. There, we were introduced to Miyamoto-san – the son of a Muneno brother who had returned to the island after having left to work in Hawai`i. High-spirited and in vigorous health at 83, he explained that he cannot remember exactly which marker was for which relative. “But we believe all the ancestral spirits become one anyway,” he said with a twinkling laugh.
Finally, we rode out along a very narrow road along the coast, with a sheer drop to the sea on one side, to the eastern-facing shore of the island. There, Nainoa located the point facing Hawai`i and placed another lei there for the tide to carry away – much like the tide of emigrants who had flowed in that direction from this area.
Then we returned by boat to another small island, Okikamuro, which is joined to nearby Oshima by a bridge. It is here, according to the research of a pair of local genealogists, that the father of a person who played a key role in Nainoa’s own life was taught about fishing by one of the island’s renowned master fisherman.
That person was Yoshi Kawano, a milkman at Nainoa’s family’s dairy farm who often cared for him when he was young, and who first taught him about fishing and the ways of the sea. Nainoa has been saying since he got here that he feels that Yoshi’s teachings when he was so young laid the foundation of navigation for him. And since Yoshi’s family was from one of the islands in this area, he’s said, “then in many ways the root of navigation, for me personally, may come from this area.”
To honor this connection, Nainoa brought with him two stones from Yoshi’s house – a piece of dense “blue rock” from under the house, and an imu stone that had become lodged in the roots of a tree Yoshi had planted.
The priest of the Buddhist temple in Okikamuro had agreed to care for the stones until surviving members of Yoshi:s family can be traced, which is difficult because his father emigrated under a private contract, rather than the Hawai`i government contract that was used for earlier emigrants, so the records are less complete.
At Okikamuro, the priest, Niiyama-san, met us at the dock and led us to the beautiful temple, where he and an young junior priestess received the stones and, dressed in resplendent robes, performed a powerful prayer chant – accompanied by gongs and block drums - for the happiness of Yoshi’s spirit, the well-being of the souls of those who had emigrated from the island to Hawai`i long ago, and the safe travels of Hokule`a and her crew.
“I heard that Yoshi taught Nainoa that human beings have the ability to become one with the ocean, and I believe that teaching is very important for us today,” the reverend said after the prayer. “In Buddhist teaching, we believe that the mountains, forests, grass, stones – everything – has a Buddha nature inside and is sacred. I believe that is a very important teaching, not only for us in Japan,
but everywhere around the world.”
“We will forever take care of these stones that were carried from Hawai`i to here,” he continued. “And I hope this meeting today will be the keystone for a greater connection between our island and Hawai`I –one that will make our friendship grow bigger and stronger.”
“It is with deep humility, appreciation and love that on behalf of the whole crew of Hokulea I thank you for allowing us into your sacred place, for sharing your prayer with us, and for receiving these stones from Hawai`I,” Nainoa said in return. “Yoshi’s family never returned here from Hawai`i, but perhaps these stones in some way bring him home.
After the service and many, many photographs with the congregation, the senior members of the temple community led us to a beautiful traditional tatami house and fed us the most amazing sashimi feast any of us had ever seen or conceived of – all presented with exquisite beauty and incredible graciousness, and all caught fresh by the local fishermen themselves.
Afterward, a master fisherman named Matsumoto-san demonstrated his techniques for hand-crafting fishhooks, an art he said he’s been refining for 40 years. The secret, he said, lies in heating the metal just enough to make it strong, but not so much that it becomes brittle. For that reason, he saidevery hook maker keeps his heating formula a secret.
As we were leaving, Nainoa summed the day up best when he remarked to one of the entourage: “The amazing thing about voyaging is that it takes you to places you’d never imagine.”
However, there was one poignant distressing overtone to the day’s amazing events, and that is that the population of these amazing islands is declining year by year. In Okikamuro, for example, we were told that there were once 600 fishermen who plied the waters as far away as Taiwan and beyond, and that, with their families, the total population was 3,000. Now it’s barely several hundred – if that. Even Oshima., which is much larger, is steadily losing residents.
What’s more, in a nation that now has negative population growth, the average age in these islands is among the highest in all Japan. On Okikamuro, we were told that it is 75. Such statistics can only make one nervous for the future of these beautiful islands and their ancient knowledge of living with the sea.
Which makes Hokule`a’s presence here, as a living symbol of the revitalization of traditional seafaring culture, all the more profound.
May 22 Pepeiao (Shehata)
While we were docked at Oshima, it was decided that we were going to switch the sails to the crab claw ones. In doing so however, we needed to add pepepiao (ear-shaped pieces made of wood, with a hole in it through which a tricing line runs). The problem was that one, we did not have the wood, and two we did not have the tools to make it with. If you remember Oshima is a very small rural island, with small mom and pop shops but really no commercialization in any grand scale. Most trade work is done by community members, and it would have to word of mouth to find the person.
Keala initially had found wood to work with, but it was not the ideal kind that he wanted. However, the work needed to get done so he did the best he could. He made the outline to make the new pepeiao, and asked around for a workshop he could go to. After asking around for a bit, he found exactly what he needed, or so he thought. He went to the workshop, which was really an elementary school shop, where they had nice equipment, but nothing really worked. He managed to find a small drill bit to make holes, and filled away the other portions, and made due with what he had. Keala, however, knew that the wood grain, texture and density were not the best; he hoped for better, but had to settle for what he had.
He set aside the makeshift pepeiao that night, and decided he would try to lash them onto Hokule'a the next day. When he woke up the next morning, he went to look for the pepeiao, but could not find them. All that hard work had been wasted. Again he asked and looked for someone who could help him. One of the crew said they thought that they had met a guy who did woodwork. He lived near a convenience store a few blocks away, up the mountain. That was all Keala had to go on.
So Keala and Stephanie made the trek to the convenience store, which they described being more like 40 blocks away. After finding the store, they asked if anyone knew the local carpenter and were redirected to his house. They went to the house of the carpenter, who was in his 80s. Now as an aside, we all remember meeting this man before, but we did not know he was a carpenter at that time. But he was a rascal, and asked all sorts of inappropriate questions that only a man of his age would get away with (I will just leave it at that). So Keala and Stephanie explained what they needed to the carpenter. He nodded, and told him he could make them that day. He went to his back yard, and found the heaviest iron wood he had, and said I will make them from this.
Fujii-san, the eighty year old master craftman of woodworking who made the pepeiao for Hokule'a that enabled the crew to hoist the crab claw sails. (Photo from the weblog of Miyazaki Masako)
The carpenter then took both of them to his shop, which was described as having all sorts of home made gadgets and gizmos, that he had invented. The carpenter asked to go back to the canoe so that he could see exactly what was needed and size and function to get the pepeiao made. They took him there and showed him and example, and he took his measurements and went back to his shop.
He worked non stop for 4-5 hours to get the job done. Keala and Stephanie returned, and helped him finish them off. After they were done he wanted to show them some of his handicrafts. Including, a cup and saucer (which he gave to Stephanie), and two pieces of wood that he fashioned into phallic pieces, that he showed to them so proudly.
Stephanie and Keala had asked him to sign the pepeiao for them so that his name would forever live on the canoe. He also had his wife sign the other part with him. He was so touched by the gesture that he was near tears, and his family was so proud of what he had done. The cute thing was that the family wanted to also keep a sketch of the pepeiao that they had drawn, and have them sign it so that it could be framed.
They then took the pepeiao to the canoe, placed them on the spar, and they fit perfectly. The entire family came, and the carpenter turned to his grand-daughter and said you see look up there I am going to Hawaii. The family was so proud of him, and we were all so grateful that he was able to pull through and help us.
Later that day, the missing pepeiao were found on the dock near the canoe. They were completely substandard, and would not have lasted on the voyage. It was a blessing that they were not found, otherwise we would have never met the carpenter and his family. There is always a reason for everything, and things at one point we think are devastating, may be actually opening a path to something more beautiful.
May 23 Miyajima (Shehata)
I know that it can become redundant but I am still amazed at each stop at the beauty and splendor of Japan. Today we sailed to Miyajima, tauted as one of the most scenic spots in Japan. We even made the front page of the local paper the next day, color photo and all. This island is known for Itsukushima Shrine and Daishone Temple, both of which we were treated to once in a life time experiences.
On arrival to Miyajima we were greeted by a crowd clapping together rice paddles, and cheering on dock. Overhead there were several helicopters circling the area, with many camera crews surrounding us. We managed to make a smooth docking entrance and secured the canoe.
Turning the canoe with the steering paddle
We were immediately ushered to a mini welcoming ceremony. This ceremony was held in the park next to the dock. Here we had local officials present gifts of flowers, rice paddles, and even a photo-op of the crew. Later they placed a traditional Japanese string instrument, and had older women dancing in traditional kimonos that were a brilliant teal color. On their heads they had straw hats that were pulled down over their ears, and tied with string under their chin. You could barely even see their faces. I love the traditional gowns and dances; to me it is one of the biggest treats.
After the ceremony were then directed to Itsukushima Shrine. This shrine was built in the 6th century. It is made primarily of wood, and has been maintained in the same traditional way for centuries. As we walked to the Shrine, a priest greeted us, and would give a special private tour of the shrine.
The most noted symbol is the O-torii, which is in front of the shrine, free standing in the sea. This serves as a direct portal to the shrine.
The building is a series of open pillars painted a brilliant orange color, with a wooden roof, made from trees that had been prepared for 20 years. The floor is all of wood, and the stilts also of wood sit in the sea. There are several statues along the Shrine, and centrally is located the heart of the shrine, which is open directly to O-Torii.
We then were directed from the Shrine to Daishoin Temple. The temple would be a short walk, down a narrow old road.
Along each side you can see wooden homes, with bansai style trees, tiny garages, with tiny cars in them. At the end of the road you see rainbow colored flags, which would mark the entrance to the Temple. As you look at the center of you see a long series of steps, about 100 of them, and centrally, you have vertical scrolls on the railing, that continue all the way up the steps. As you walk up the steps you are to roll the scrolls, which make a clanking sound as you do so. At the top would be the entrance to the Temple, where we would be sleeping that night. They allow special guests and school groups to come to the Temple to sleep at times. They even told us that recently the Dalai Lama had spent the night here. As we arrived we were shown our rooms, and then asked to be seated for dinner. Again, as at every port, we were greeted by local leaders, and spiritual leaders, who invited us to share the feast with them. The food as allows as exquisite, with a wonderful soup, tofu, chicken, rice, the list goes on and is endless. They even served everyone sake.
That night we folded some cranes to take to the A-Bomb Hiroshima Memorial tomorrow. As we were folding the cranes, one of the women who work at the temple, told us that her family had been affected by the bomb. And that she had effects later in life, as an adult (which had likely happened to her as a fetus, secondary to the radiation. Her heart had some anomaly that they had not known about before, that later appeared when she was giving birth to her daughter, and nearly killed her. There are many moments of silence and meditation while here. The people are not angry, they just want peace, and don’t want anyone to suffer the way that they had to. I would have a better understanding of this tomorrow, after I saw the museum, but we will save that story for later.
After folding several cranes we went to sleep. I wanted to wake early in the morning so that I would have a chance to tour the temple.
May 23-24 overnight on Miyajima (Ferrar)
On May 23, Hokule`a bid aloha to her Oshima `ohana and headed for nearby Hiroshima. While the canoe was in port at Oshima, Nainoa had the crew re-rig her with the classic crab-claw sails, and even though we were under tow, he had them raised as soon as we were away from dock, so throughout the short leg on the Seto Inland Sea, Hokule`a was proudly presenting her full Polynesian profile.
He even dropped the tow line briefly soon after we were out of port, so Hoku was sailing free for the first time since reaching Okinawa. However, he soon resumed tow, since the wind was very light, and as always during this cultural-exchange voyage through Japan, there was a schedule to keep. (Everything runs according to a strict timetable here– when the trains run even a minute late, the conductor comes on the speaker to sincerely apologize.)
As the wa`a neared the first stop of Miyajima, she was surrounded a by flotilla of welcoming boats – including a traditional Japanese wooden sailboat with striking junk-style sails.
“Utsumimaru,” a traditional fishing sailboat called utasebune. Photo by N. Yagi.
Miyajima, or “sacred island,” is a beautiful, steeply mountainous island that is home to a large number of ancient holy places. Considered a national treasure, Miyajima is also a World Cultural Heritage site.
The most famous of Miyajima’s sacred spots is the Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, with its enormous O-Torii, or Great Gate, which rises out of the water when the island’s hefty 12-foot tides are in. (When we were there, the tide was out, to the gate rose instead out of a sandy flat).
As Hokule`a approached Miyajima, she made a respectful pass in front of the gate, while a news helicopter buzzed overhead. The next morning, the dramatic shot of the canoe poised in front of the O-Torii made the front page of one of the local papers.
Hokule'a, framed by the famous torii at Itsukushima.
Miyajima is just a short ferry ride from Hiroshima and is one of the ttiy’s main attractions. The plaza next to the ferry terminal was packed with schoolkids on field trips and other visitors as the crew was greeted by an arrival ceremony featuring a stately traditional local dance by women in black robes and woven reed bonnets. Also in the plaza were the island’s tame deer – who show no fear because they are protected from hunting throughout the island preserve. When approached, the deer will readily nuzzle you and “shake hands.”
Just off the plaza, we made our way through a bustling lane full of souvenir shops. Since Miyajima lays claim to being “the birthplace of the rice scoop,” most of the shops feature rice paddles in various shapes and sizes, including one gigantic one on display that positively dwarfs Hokule`a’s main steering paddle.
Then we were given a private tour of the Itsukushima Shrine by one of the priests there. He explained that the vast shrine was established in the sixth century A.D. and in 1168 was reshaped by the famous general Taira no Kiyomori into its amazing present form, which is painted bright orange and sits atop a warren of low piers that suspend the structure over the water at high tide.
The priest explained that there are bigger Shinto shrines in Japan, but the unique quality of Itsukushima is its construction over the water. The reason for this, he said, is that traditionally the whole island was considered a shrine, to which Itsukushima is the point of entry.
He also explained that the huge O-Torii has no bracing structures and remains standing upright in the soft tidal flat purely by the downward force of its own massive weight. In addition, he said that the formation of the piers is designed to protect the shrine from the storm surges of frequent typhoons, such as the one that caused heavy damage on the island three years ago.
We were generously invited to spend the night farther up the hill at the Daisho-in Temple compound, an important site of the Shingon Buddhist sect founded by a sage named Kukai in the ninth century. The emperor Toba established a prayer hall at Daisho-in in the 12th century, and the temple historically was closely tied to the imperial family. Around the time King Kalakaua visited Japan during the Meiji era of the 1880s, the temple burned down and was rebuilt.
The compound is filled with gorgeously carved temple buildings and statues. We slept on futons in big traditional tatami rooms in the temple guest house, which was also filled with stunning Buddhist art.
That night our gracious hostess at the temple, the head priest’s wife, showed a few of us how to fold paper cranes to give as offerings of peace at the atomic bombing memorial in Hiroshima the next day. She explained that her father had lived through the bombing as a child, and that it had caused to her be born with a heart defect caused by radiation mutation, a fact she was unaware of until she nearly died while giving birth to her daughter.
“I don’t hold any grudge against Americans,” she said, “but I’m against all weapons that would kill people in that way. And nuclear power is the same – if there’s an accident, you can’t take it back.”
Early the next morning, the crew offered respects to a Buddha in the main temple that had once been carried in a samurai general’s ship and is renowned for protecting those who go to sea. Tthen we set off for Hiroshima proper.
At the dock, Hokule`a was given a welcoming ceremony from a high school that has sister-school relationship with Moanalula High on O`ahu (Honolulu also has a sister-city relationship with Hiroshima). The school band played, followed by boys offering traditional Japanese martial arts-like cheers, and Western-style cheerleaders offering acrobatic modern ones.
After the welcome, we jumped on a tour bus for a quick but profound visit to the atomic bombing memorial site.
We started out first though by being treated to loco mocos at a Hawaiian-style restaurant called `Ohana, run by a lovely woman called Kamaile, who also has a hula studio upstairs. It wasn’t until after we got to the memorial that the director of the Peace Museum told us that the restaurant was located almost exactly where the hypocenter – or Ground Zero – of the bomb had been.
The director showed us the amazing Atomic Dome, the building was miraculously left standing near the center of the bombing and has been preserved since as a memorial to world peace.
Crew Visits the Atomic Bomb Dome
Next, we presented the paper cranes we had made at the beautiful Children’s Peace Memorial sculpture in the park, a tradition started by a young girl afflicted with leukemia caused by radiation who had steadfastly folded 1,001 cranes for peace in her hospital bed before she died.
Sky Takemoto presents the creanes folded by the Hokule'a crew.
Then we visited an arch under which lies a stone casket containing a registry of the names of the 140,000 souls who died in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, and the 100,000 more who died later from the effects of radiation. Led by the youngest crew member, Sky Takemoto, we each presented flowers at the arch.
Nainoa, 'Onohi, and Maka at the Atomic Bomb Memorial
After that, we only had a short time to visit the peace museum, which contains many powerful reminders of the horror of the bombing and of the continuing tragedy of war. One of the museum officials urged us, as Americans, to wake up and get involved with trying to get our government to abandon the possibility of using even a “small” nuclear weapon in its war on terror or any other conflict – an effort he said much of the world is involved in, but many Americans ignore.
At the museum, I asked Nainoa his reflections on the significance of bringing Hokule`a to a place that is such a powerful symbol of the horror that humans beings can – and still do – inflict on one another.
“I think an experience like this really rocks you into realizing that peace is not an option for our world – it’s an absolute requirement,” he said. “And when you look at peace, it really is something that has to begin in the heart of each individual, and that depends largely on what we teach our children. I look at Hokule`a as a bridge across cultures to the core value of aloha that can allow us to navigate toward a more peaceful future. So I think Hokule`a has no choice to continue to sail, and to spend more time in different parts of Island Earth, in order to honor our own culture – which brings self-esteem and pride to our children – but also carry a message of aloha and respect for all cultures, as well as for our precious global environment and natural resources.”
Still lost in reflection over our experiences at the memorial, we were shuttled to a press conference for local reporters and then back to the dock, where the somber mood was lifted by a lovely welcome pa`ina thrown by local supports of the canoe, featuring oishi (ono) grilled food and lots of hula and kanikapila.
One special participant was a wonderful 85-year-old fisherman who had greeted the canoe at Miyajima and promised there to bring some fish to the party. True to his word, went out and caught 27 fish and fed us all!
Maka and the fisherman. Photo by Kato Kosei
“I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have you here, and to see how much you love the ocean,” he said. “For myself, I intend to go out to sea and fish until the end of my days."
May 24 Hiroshima (Shehata)
I am sorry it has taken me a while to get this email out. As always much has happened in the past week, and each day is filled with events to last a month.
Today was a heavy day to say the least. It has taken me some time to actually write about this topic for a number of reasons; mostly the gravity of what has happened in Hiroshima, and trying to grasp and express the aftermath in an appropriate manner. After we arrived in Hiroshima, and were taken to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was here that we were taken on tour of the Peace Memorial Park by the director of the museum. We were so honored to have him take time out of his busy schedule to help discuss the devastation that war can cause, especially with the use of nuclear weapons. The devastation caused by the A-bomb was atrocious. He told us the survivors all say that no one should ever have to go through what they did ever again. Their main mission now is to eliminate the nuclear weapons from the world leader’s arsenal, with the hope that US will take the initiative to do so.
We also stopped by the Children’s Peace Monument, where strings of crane are presented as a symbol of hope. This tradition was started by a girl, who believed that if she kept folding cranes that she would be granted her wish, and that the leukemia that she had which was caused by the radiation from the atomic bomb, would go away. Once she had reached her goal of cranes, she found she still had the cancer. However, she persevered and continued to fold cranes. Some cranes were so tiny, that she was using a pin to fold the paper over. Eventually the cancer would lead to her death. We now have the Children’s Peace Monument to remind us that there should always be hope and pace in this world, and that each person can make a difference. It starts with us, and each child.
Next we entered the actual museum. This museum was unbelievable and moving to all the crew members. The goal of the museum was to make everyone aware that war has no really good outcomes, and that innocent lives can be lost, and an entire city destroyed. Some of us could handle it and look at each picture; others could not do so easily. It is sickening how technology and advancement so powerful, can lead to such utter destruction and devastation. There were pictures of people who were really more dead than alive; drawings made in crayon showing bodies in rivers; houses on fire; and people screaming for water. They were soo thirsty that they would take sips from the river. When they did so however, they were dead within a few hours. The water had been contaminated by the radiation, and was so concentrated and lead to their death. The most difficult to look at were the models of children showing their skin melting off, and that they were still alive.
The Director did not soften the picture of the devastation that was caused by the bomb. He let us know that the Hokule’a was symbol of peace, and that if we wanted to make changes in this world, then that message needed to be carried by us throughout the world. It was his hope that we would support the push for global initiatives to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.
May 26 home in Japan (Shehata)
Today would be a personal day for me. I had the opportunity to meet up with my sister-in-law’s family. It was great her mother, sister, brother in-law, and niece all came by the docks to visit. They were able to get a tour of the canoe, and a brief history. It was really refreshing to see familiar faces on such a distant voyage. We went to an Italian restaurant near the docks for lunch. Had a great asian-italian meal. Aya’s grandfather speaks English, and was the main translator for me to communicate with the family. Although, everyone else understood English really well, they had a harder time expressing. We managed to get by it through sign language somehow.
After lunch they wanted to take me on tour of Japan. They decided to take me to Iwakuni, and show me Kintaikyo Bridge. This is one of the top three most reknown bridges in Japan, built in 1673. It spans across a river about 200 meters long, with 5 continuous arches. The points that touch the river are made of stone, and the arches are wooden, with the steps over the arch made of planks of wood. Looking down, you can see a fisherman fishing, with his pointed hat that comes done like a wide upside down cone. On one side of the river you see several smaller fishing vessels. As you come over the bridge, you enter the city. This was a quaint little town, with bright red and green banners. As you walk through town you can see small mom and pop stores selling fruits, and even an ice cream store with over 100 flavors.
Now they were taking me to a special place. Here is the place of the White Snake. Apparently, there is a population of albino snakes that evolved naturally in Iwakuni, and based on what the poster display said, this is very rare. Aya’s family told me coming here would be good luck, and gave me an omomori, with a white (fake, not alive) snake, and told me this would be a special one because it would be one that was meant for the sea and voyaging. I was so touched by this, you could not imagine.
They then took me to their home, which is absolutely beautiful. It is nestled up in the mountains, with a large river running in the back. They have a ice patty area. Aya’s dad took me on the tour of their garden. He told me just like your dad I too have a garden area. I was very touched. He had cucumber, potatoes, olive trees, citrus plants, eggplant, and many other fruits and vegetables. They cooked me dinner, much of which was from the garden, and had sashimi. It was nice to be in a relaxed environment. They made me feel like I was at my own home, but it was in Japan. Thanks to al of you for that special day.
May 26, 2007 departure from Hiroshima (Ferrar)
About a hundred people showed up at the dock to wish her a tearful farewell - including me, since I`ve stayed back in Hiroshima and will be flying home to Hawai`i tomorrow. It was very hard to to say a hui hou to the crew that has been my `ohana for the past two weeks, and especially to beautiful Hoku herself.
Hokule'a at Kanon Pier, Hiroshima. Photo by Kato Kosei
During Hoku`s short visit, around 1,400 people - from elderly couples to young families, stylish youngsters and wide-eyed schoolkids - came down to take a tour of the va`a, most of them clearly riveted by her achievements and mana, as well as the information provided by the hard- working crewmembers providing the tours.
On Saturday especially, when more than 1,000 people came aboard, the visitors waited in long lines in the hot sun to take their turn on deck. For me personally, the scene was very inspiring and provided much- needed perspective on our visit to Hiroshima. Like the rest of the crew, I was deeply affected by the scenes of horror at the atomic bombing museum, and it was hard to keep sight of Hoku`s mission of aloha here amid so many terrible reminders of the suffering of war and injustice that we humans continue to wreak on one another.
But seeing so many people being moved just by touching Hoku made me see again that this simple thing is in itself a powerful statement for peace. As Nainoa has been telling people again and again here, peace must begin in each of our hearts.
I think crewmwmber Keala Kai put it best when he was working the tours yesterday: "Look at all these people with smiles on their face. You no can beat that!"
As a final token of honor to those who suffered and died at Hiroshima, and for the wonderful people of this city who have chosen to transform tragedy into an indelible plea for world peace, just before Hoku departed a blessing was held on deck for 1,001 large paper cranes for peace, which were generously folded by Lita`s na hoa hana at Hawaiian Airlines and hand-carried by Lita, Bruce, Mary and Pomai when they arrived yesteday. After Hoku left, Lita, Bruce and Mary offered the cranes at the Children`s Peace Monument at the memorial park, adding to the many thousands that are presented there each day by people from around the world who pray for peace.
As my all-to-brief time with Hoku on her Voyage to the Western Sun comes to a close, I`d just like to express my gratitude to the crew, all of the wa`a `ohana and especially our warm and generous hosts here in Hiroshima and throughout Japan whose aloha has made my time aboard truly magical.
Ku holo mau!
Hokule'a crew in Hiroshima with the crew of “Utsumimaru,” a traditional fishing sailboat called utasebune. Photo by N. Yagi.