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Black and white image of Himeyuri students and faculty at their school
Image from the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibit (Courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum)

Discover the powerful and poignant story of the Himeyuri Student Corps—female students who were mobilized as assistant nurses in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa—in “Himeyuri and Hawaii,” a traveling exhibition from the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Okinawa that will be on display from September 5 to January 31, 2024, at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu’s James & Abigail Campbell Library.

Black and white image of bombs dropping on a ship at sea
Image from the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibit (Courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum)

The exhibit examines the connection between Himeyuri and Hawaiʻi and shares the story of the Himeyuri Student Corps—consisting of students from the Okinawa First Girls’ High School and the Okinawa Female Normal School—who were mobilized in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. These adolescent students served as nurses for the Japanese and Okinawan soldiers; their horrific wartime experiences speak eloquently to the insanity of war and to the importance of peace. About 240 Himeyuri students and teachers were sent to war, and 136 of them became casualties.

“Both the Ryukyu Kingdom and the Hawaiian Kingdom were illegally annexed in the late 19th century by Japan and the U.S., respectively,” said Masahide Kato, UH West Oʻahu associate professor of political science. “The Himeyuri school students’ experience of the Battle of Okinawa exposed the vulnerability of the people under foreign occupation whose lives were sacrificed for the occupiers’ destructive contest for geopolitical supremacy.”

Black and white picture of students in class
Image from the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibit (Courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum)

Kato continued, “Both Okinawans and Native Hawaiians have endured depopulation, displacement, deculturalization and the destruction of the natural landscapes they hold as sacred. And they have overcome their plight with resilience, cultural revitalization, and nonviolent mobilization for justice.

“The Himeyuri exhibit takes us to the abyss when war intersects with prolonged occupation. It also tells us the story of surviving students who broke their self-imposed silence and committed to the establishment of the museum to preserve their memories and spread the message of peace.”

The Himeyuri memorial in Okinawa
Image from the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibit (Courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum)

“Himeyuri and Hawaii” is an educational initiative of the Himeyuri Peace Museum, the Himeyuri Peace Resource Center and the Okinawa Prefecture. Learn more about the exhibit.

The exhibition opens September 5 with an opening reception at 11 a.m. near the library’s entrance. The ceremony will feature brief remarks from Professor Masanori Nakahodo, chairperson of the Himeyuri Peace Museum and Joyce Chinen, UH West Oʻahu professor emeritus. For more information and a series of related special events at the James & Abigail Campbell Library visit the library website.

—by Zenaida Serrano Arvman
Read more at Ka Puna o Kaloʻi.

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