70 Years after WWII: Nagaoka Fireworks Set for Pearl Harbor Rite

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

70 Years after WWII: Nagaoka Fireworks Set for Pearl Harbor Rite


Fireworks similar to those seen in Nagaoka's annual summer festival in Niigata Prefecture will be set off in Pearl Harbor on Aug. 15 in a gesture aimed at consoling the spirits of the deceased in the Pacific War.

The fireworks display in Pearl Harbor, located in the suburbs of Honolulu, is one of many events held to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

"The 70th anniversary is a big event. It's what we call one of the milestones," said Edwin Hawkins, president emeritus of Japan-America Society of Hawaii, who wants the fireworks display there to be remembered in connection with the start of four years of hostility between the two nations in World War II.

Nagaoka is the birthplace of Isoroku Yamamoto, who served as commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy's combined fleet until his death in 1943.

Despite Yamamoto's objections to starting a war with the United States, he commanded Japan's Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Nagaoka was also devastated by a U.S. air raid on Aug. 1, 1945, which killed about 1,500 residents.

A big part of the city's summer festival, Nagaoka's Grand Fireworks Festival has been held since before World War II with a hiatus during the war.

Two years after the U.S. air raid on the city and the war's end, the Nagaoka fireworks display was revived in the hope of comforting the souls of the war dead and praying for postwar reconstruction.

Today, the annual summer event is one of the largest and spectacular fireworks shows in Japan. Fireworks include "shiragiku," or white chrysanthemum, which was first displayed as a symbolic flower of condolence offered by a local pyrotechnician to a comrade soldier who died in a Siberian detention camp after the war.

Nagaoka and Honolulu became sister cities in 2012. Since then, fireworks from Nagaoka have been launched at Waikiki Beach in the Hawaiian capital every March.

Setting up the fireworks display was no easy task, given the naval port was home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. There are strict entry restrictions.

About 2,400 Americans died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many of the victims lie inside USS Arizona, which was sunk in the attack. …

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