The Hiroshima connection to Hawaii begin on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. This surprise attack triggered the Pacific War. Four years later America dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima to bring it to a close.
The connections between Hiroshima and Hawaii is much deeper than that brought on by war. In many ways this Hiroshima connection was a financial connection. This connection goes back to the late nineteenth century to a boom in the Hawaiian sugar industry. This boom attracted a large numbers of male Japanese migrant workers who were seeking to escape difficult economic conditions in Japan as that country underwent modernization.
Early workers came from the Yokohama area of Japan. These workers did not prove satisfactory, so more docile and harder working Japanese from rural areas such as Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures were preferred to work the sugar cane plantations.
The young men who went to Hawaii found that there were no Japanese women around whom they could marry. A new industry therefore sprang up which is referred to as “picture brides”. Girls wanting to marry would send photos to an agency and receive a selection of photos of eligible Japanese men. Once a choice had been made, the young woman would get on a boat and sail to Hawaii to meet and marry her intended husband.
Those Japanese who emigrated to Hawaii were know as “first generation” or “issei” in Japanese. It was impossible for them to get American citizenship. Their children, however, born in America, grew up as American citizens and are known as “second generation” or “Nisei” Japanese Americans.
However, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and brought America into World War Two, the Japanese community found itself in a difficult situation. On the American West Coast the Japanese, both Japanese nationals and American citizens, were arrested and concentrated in “war relocation” camps.
In Hawaii, however, the situation was different as the Japanese made up a large minority of the population, about 34% in 1941, and were considered by Lt. General Delos Emmons to be necessary for the war effort.
There was deep suspicion of those Japanese-Americans who were serving in the US armed forces at the outbreak of the Pacific War, with fears that they might act as enemy agents. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1942 a new Japanese-American unit was formed out of the nisei soldiers and called the 100th Infantry Battalion, serving under Caucasian officers.
In 1943 the unit went into action on the Salerno beachhead in Italy. The 100th was later absorbed into the 442nd, a unit of new Nisei recruits. By the end of the war the 100th/442nd had fought in seven campaigns in Italy, France and Germany and been awarded 18,000 decorations for valor.
Because so many of the first generation of Japanese-American migrants went to Hawaii from Hiroshima, many of the Nisei soldiers would have had relatives living in the Hiroshima area when the atom bomb was dropped on 6th August 1945.
After the war, the Hawaiian Nisei veterans returned home changed by the experience of war and determined to fight for their constitutional rights. Many took advantage of the G. I. Bill of 1944 to get a college education. Many of them entered the legal and other professions.
In 1952 the first generation were granted U. S. citizenship and voting rights and two years later dozens of Japanese Americans became candidates for legislators in Hawaii. At that time, Hawaii was a Territory and not a State of the U. S. A. so full voting rights were denied until the Japanese Americans and others succeeded in their campaign to have Hawaii made a U. S. state, which happened in 1959.
Today, Hawaii remains one of the most popular overseas destinations for Japanese tourists, many of whom travel from Hiroshima and feel quite “at home” when they arrive in Hawaii and find they have many opportunities to speak Japanese, and perhaps even the Hiroshima dialect of Japanese.
~Submitted by a Supporter of Kids Speak for America~