The USS Arizona Memorial is a site of great historical significance and intense emotions. Nearly 70 years ago, 1,102 USS Arizona crewmembers and an additional 1,245 military personnel and 57 civilians were killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, in what was described by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy”.
Each year, approximately 1.5 million people visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial – a top tourist destination – to learn about the events of December 7, 1941 and America’s consequent entry into World War II. Visitors come from around the world to pay their respects to the lives lost there.
But today respect will be paid in a new way. Grand tea master of the highly regarded Urasenke School of Tea, Dr. Genshitsu Sen, will perform a traditional Japanese tea ceremony inside the USS Arizona Memorial. During World War II, Sen served in the Japanese naval air force and would have been considered an enemy. However, today the grand tea master will not only meet with two Pearl Harbor survivors, the current commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (Adm. Patrick Walsh), and the Japanese consul general in Honolulu (Yoshihiko Kamo) at the site of the USS Arizona Memorial; Sen will actually prepare and serve them Japanese green tea in the style of traditional ceremony.
Hosting a Japanese tea ceremony at Pearl Harbor could potentially be seen as disrespectful to the memories of those who died there. However, Superintendent of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Paul DePrey, explained, “The USS Arizona Memorial is a special place of healing which represents our nation’s Pacific War history, from engagement to peace. It is particularly significant that Dr. Sen will perform a tea ceremony at this sacred site, and our hope is that this event will further strengthen the friendship between our two countries”. (Source)
The tea ceremony is a tradition that has been an important part of Japanese culture for at least 500 years. It involves prescribed movements and deep consideration for the guest. Today it will be a gesture of respect, and a celebration of partnership and peace.
Daniel Martinez, the National Park Service’s chief historian for the USS Arizona Memorial offered his perspective and support of the event, stating, “This goes a long way, I think, in reminding people that that terrible war is over and these two countries have been at peace and allies for the last 65 years”. (Source)
So while that day – December 7, 1941 – may very well, as Roosevelt suggested, live on in infamy, this day – July 19, 2011 – is planned as one to be remembered for the friendships forged and honor given to those who lost their lives. The USS Arizona is indeed a site of sorrow, but perhaps today it can be a place of peace, reflection and respect.
The ceremony is expected to begin at 7:30 am. As the event is closed to the public, tours to the USS Arizona Memorial will be closed until 9:45. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will remain open throughout the day.