During World War II, a time of one of the fiercest battles to ever take place in the history of the Pacific, about 3,000 Okinawans lost their lives in battle. And as death is perceived extremely important in Okinawan culture, the Palau-Okinawa Friendship Association have organized a program to memorialize the lost lives of loved ones during World War II. This association have impressively continued this program—or in essence, tradition—for over 35 years.

This year a cohort of 28 Okinawans had the opportunity to come to Palau and were greeted and welcomed by the former Palau Ambassador to Japan, and recently presented the prestigious award “Order of the Rising Sun”, Dr. Minoru Ueki, Palau Visitors Authority’s (PVA) Managing Director, Stephanie Nakamura, and PVA Staff, Lu Santos and Maisar Tmakiung on Saturday, November 10th.

This particular group comprises of descendants of those fallen during the brutal war and many are daughters or sons to those who (through this program) have travelled numerous times to Palau over the years, but have since, passed.

In the early 1970’s, an area located in Ngarchemai, Koror was established as a cemetery and named Sakura-kai, named after the famed Japanese flower called, Sakura and, Kai meaning club. This place began as a holy burial ground for any individual of Japanese descent and now, other nationalities have been laid to rest there as well.

On Tuesday, November 12, the group visited Sakura-kai cemetery, where an intimate memorial service took place to honor the lives of fallen Okinawans during the war. The Chairman of the Palau-Okinawa Friendship Association, Tanaka Junichi along with, Dr. Minoru Ueki, Governor Franco Gibbons’ Chief of Staff, Joleen Ngoriakl, Mr. Francisco M. Ueki Jr., Mr. Scott F. Yano, and PVA staff, Ms. Corrine Vickery were present to commemorate alongside them. (PR)