Japan’s Pearl Harbor Visit
On December 7th, 1941, Japanese bombers flew in to Pearl Harbor, dropping bombs, torpedoes, and machine gun fire on unsuspecting American servicemen and citizens, marking a strong and evident divide between the United States and Japan.
Since the end of World War II and the reparation of the American and Japanese relationship, Hawaii and Pearl Harbor have both seen an incredible number of Japanese tourists paying their respects at the World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial. So much so, in fact, that incoming tourism from Japan has become a vital source of income for Hawaii and the memorial. There has been, however, an apparent lack of Japanese government officials visiting the harbor with only 4 allegedly making the trip.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed that on December 27th when he stood up on Kilo Pier, which overlooks the USS Arizona Memorial, and addressed both nations. During Abe’s speech, President Obama stood by his side, symbolizing the alliance between Japan and the United States that Abe touched on during his talk.
Prime Minister Abe at Pearl Harbor
During his time at Pearl Harbor, Abe powerfully addressed the fallen soldiers of the USS Arizona, many of whom call the wreckage their final resting place. Abe pledged an alliance of hope, playing well off of Obama’s typical “Yes we can!” attitude.
“To the souls of the US Servicemen who lie aboard the USS Arizona, to the American people[,] I pledge that unwavering vow,” Abe had spoken. The powerful delivery emphasized the importance of the peaceful alliance moving forward.
To some degree, Abe’s poignant speech mimicked Obama’s when he visited Hiroshima, especially in the fact that neither offered an apology for their country’s actions at the time, a sort of nod to the necessity of the action at the time or an acknowledgement that, over 70 years later, no apology would be needed.
As Obama and Abe stressed the importance of reconciliation and the impact it may have in more than just the respective countries, their actions and speeches during this historical visit were more about sending a message to the rest of the world, one that emphasizes the need and possibility of peace.
After honoring the fallen of the USS Arizona, the Japanese Prime Minister moved on to other attractions of the World War II Valor in the Pacific Memorial. He stopped at the Punchbowl Crater National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a resting ground for hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers that gave their life protecting the United States. Here, he laid a wreath down and paused for a moment of silence for the lives lost in the Pacific theater of World War II.
With such an open peacefulness between the United States and Japan, one can only hope it spreads to other tense countries around the world.
To experience what Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did during his Hawaiian visit, explore the Pearl Harbor memorial, including the still-standing Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin memorial, and the exhibits available in the Pearl Harbor Visitors’ Center.