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Okinawan Roots: Jikoen and the Okinawa Relief Effort

Jikoen’s Okinawan Roots

Jikoen and the Okinawa Relief Effort
A member story by Takejiro Higa

Takejiro Higa wearing lei with flags in the background
Takejiro Higa was honored as a 2018 Living Treasure of Hawaii.

Following the end of the terrible battle of Okinawa and after a three month assignment in Korea, I came home on December 23, 1945.

Soon after I got back I received several phone calls from the late Rev. Jikai Yamasato wanting to know what it was like in Okinawa during the nearly three months of terrible fighting.

When I told him that several thousand Okinawan civilian survivors had ended up barely alive with only the clothes on their backs, he said, “Oh soka, dewa sugu kimono okuraneba” (Oh, is that so — then we must send clothing to these poor survivors right away).

When Rev. Yamasato appealed to the public for help, people responded by the thousands without regard for their ethnic identity. Many Jikoen members came forward. Many picked up the donated clothing and delivered them to the temple. As you may recall, Jikoen, at first, was located on Houghtailing Street near the corner of North King Street — directly across from the Board of Water Supply Pumping Station in the Ewa direction.

At the temple hall below the hondo, many ladies worked very hard many nights to segregate the tons of clothing into five separate groups. Clothing suitable for: (1) men (2) women (3) boys (4) girls (5) very young children.

Another group of ladies came to fold the segregated clothes neatly so that they could be crated. When the crating was done, the US Navy was notified and they transported the crates to Okinawa — free of charge.

As you can see, the late Rev. Yamasato and the many Jikoen members — too many to name — played a vital part in assisting war-ravaged Okinawa. The survivors have not forgotten the tremendous relief effort Jikoen and the people of Hawaii provided. They are forever grateful for what we did in 1946.

After the organized big relief project was over, small groups and individuals continued to send relief goods for months.

Jikoen also actively participated in the “Pigs from the Sea” project with the larger community.

Note: “Pigs from the Sea” was a project in which Jikoen members joined other Okinawans from the community to gather live hogs and ship them to Okinawan. They traveled with the hogs to insure their safe and healthy arrival. This gesture enabled the Okinawans to restart their hog industry after it was devasted by the Battle of Okinawa.