The strong ties between Hawaii and sister-state Okinawa were reaffirmed Friday with a proclamation honoring seven early immigrants and their families.
The first Uchinanchu in Hawaii brought a strong work ethic and expertise in farming, particularly of the porcine genus. It was an endeavor that earned them disdain and derision from their island neighbors, who considered pig farming a lowly occupation.
But the stalwart immigrants who cultivated those farms are being recognized for saving their native land.
The battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest of the Pacific War, claiming the lives of 150,000 civilians, more than half of Okinawa’s population. Those that survived were left with no food and no hope.
But Hawaii kin galvanized.
“They raised $50,000 in order to get 550 pigs, a lot of planning and research into what kind of pigs, 550 pigs to go over and restore their livestock,” said Jon Itomura, a descendant of one of the seven heroes.
Those 550 prime swine increased to 100,000 in just four years. Not only was the island’s meat supply replenished, but piggy poop fertilized fields of rice and vegetables.
On Friday, Gov. David Ige, himself hapa Uchinanchu, honored the relief effort by proclaiming Sept. 27, 2018, as Pigs from the Sea Day.
Accepting was Lily Horio, daughter of Shohei Miyasato, one of the original magnificent seven.
“I’m sure the families must be proud today, those who did have pig farms,” Horio said.
The gesture was not forgotten. When Hawaii Uchinanchu were in need, Okinawa came to the rescue.
“Okinawans in Okinawa were very thankful for everything we did for them when they were in need, so in return, when the Hawaii Okinawa Center was built, that is our home base in Waipio on the island of Oahu, they assisted us with funding for the building itself,” said Courtney Takara, Hawaii United Okinawa Association.
They never forgot that even in post-war America, when loyalties were still being questioned, Hawaii Uchinanchu cared enough to send a life-saving gift of pigs from the sea.