The Nagaoka Fireworks from Niigata Prefecture, Japan will be held at the 17th Annual Honolulu Festival. This is an opportunity for people around the world to think about peace, which we hope that this event will serve as a catalyst for world peace. We believe that the peace can be achieved by people giving empathy and compassion to one another which is connected to the sub-theme of this year’s festival, “We are all neighbors, around the world”.
Masakazu Asanuma, who is the Executive Director of the Honolulu Festival Foundation conducted an interview with Tamio Mori, who is the Mayor of Nagaoka City and also President of the Japan Association of City Mayors.
Asanuma: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. I’ve interviewed Kazuo Nizawa, who is Vice President of the Committee for Developing a Bridge of Friendship between Japan and USA on December of last year. Today I would like to ask questions regarding the Nagaoka Fireworks which will be displayed in Honolulu. First of all, what is the purpose of your visit to Honolulu?
Mayor: The purpose of my visit is to meet with Peter Carlisle, who was elected as the new Mayor of Honolulu in October of last year, which we’ve never met. Hence, I’m planning to address our purpose for displaying the Nagaoka Fireworks in Honolulu and discuss about our future relationship between both cities with him.
Also, I’ve explained in details about our purpose to Mr. Kunikata, who is the former consulate general of the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu. However, I haven’t met Mr. Kamo who is the current consulate general, so this is my opportunity to explain about the Nagaoka Fireworks and reveal my feelings to him.
Asanuma: So that means there will be another new bridge of peace between the city of Honolulu and Nagaoka City and or between 2 countries.
Mayor: That’s correct. The Nagaoka citizens feel special about the city of Honolulu because of Pearl Harbor. As of now Japan and the U.S. have good relations. However, it is also true that the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor which is what really sticks in my gullet. It is important for Japan and the U.S. to understand the reason behind the attack on Pearl Harbor and why the war did happened to establish amicable relations between both countries.
Asanuma: I heard you visited Pearl Harbor today. What was your impression?
Mayor: The scale of the USS Arizona Memorial was expanded and there were new contents since I last visited. Especially, as being the Mayor of Nagaoka City, the exhibition of Isoroku Yamamoto who was the Commander-in Chief of the Combined Fleet from Nagaoka City caught my attention. His life was thoroughly been explained which mentioned about how he opposed to war against the U.S. and that the U.S. was aware of it. His exhibition gotten bigger than the last time I visited as well, which I was impressed that it was presented fairly without prejudice. The exhibitions were mentioned from both perspectives of Japan and the U.S. in which I felt the equality of both views.
Asanuma: So that means there is a chance for the Nagaoka citizens to visit Pearl Harbor in March.
Mayor: You are correct. In a way we are both culprits and victims of war. I think it is a great opportunity to understand each country’s perspective because it’s over 60 years since the war ended. I believe if the Nagaoka citizens took their time to see what I saw, they will understand.
Asanuma: Can you explain the significance of displaying the Nagaoka Fireworks at the 17th Annual Honolulu Festival?
Mayor: Sure, but first let me explain about the Nagaoka Fireworks itself. 1480 civilians died from the air raid on August 1, 1945, in Nagaoka City. In the following years, the Nagaoka Fireworks was launched to commemorate those victims and recovery with a wish for world peace which became a tradition for the city. Thus, it is held on August 2 and August 3 every year. Also, the fireworks will remind the Nagaoka citizens about peace which has a historical significance.
I think the fireworks is mainly for celebration purpose in American culture. On the other hand, the direct translation of Japanese word for fireworks “hanabi” is “hana (fire) bi (fire)” which can also mean a floral tribute.
We always wanted to display the Nagaoka Fireworks for Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, especially since the theme of the firework is “A Prayer for World Peace” in which came to fruition this year.
However, displaying the fireworks is not our final goal. Indeed, the Nagaoka Fireworks delivers a strong impression and shows the best dynamic display in the world. Also, we are pleased to show it to everybody across the world, but like I’ve mentioned previously that the theme of the fireworks is “A Prayer for World Peace”. Hence, I hope that the Nagaoka Fireworks will be a catalyst for people to think of peace and for the real interactions with one another.
Asanuma: You’ve mentioned that the final goal is not simply displaying the fireworks, rather you hope to be a catalyst for interactions. Do you have any plan with the city of Honolulu in the future?
Mayor: We’ve already started various programs with the support of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii from last year. Also, we are sending out the middle school students as well as the school teachers from Nagaoka City to be involved in those programs, which I hope they can establish a strong friendship with the students in Hawaii. We are going to be actively involved in various activities for the future with the city of Honolulu.
In addition, the Nagaoka citizens feel an affinity for Hawaii. There are many groups of hula dancers out of adoration for Hawaiian culture. Hence, besides the formal socialization, I’m looking forward to see interactions among the citizens of both cities through the Nagaoka Fireworks.
Asanuma: What were the reactions of the Nagaoka citizens?
Mayor: To be honest, we were concerned whether they will going to understand about our purpose of this event. However, when we began recruiting groups of people that want to visit to Hawaii as well as the Honolulu Festival, there were more applicants than expected. Nearly 300 Nagaoka citizens will be visiting to Honolulu which includes official and private tours. At first, there are some that wondered “Why the fireworks in Honolulu?” which eventually turned to anticipation.
Asanuma: There will be great economic benefits for Honolulu.
Mayor: That is true, but there will be economic benefits for Nagaoka City as well. We wanted to show our best fireworks to the world and let people know about Nagaoka City, which we hope this will eventually lead to the economic benefits of our city. Nagaoka City is known for having a famous sake, where there are 17 sake breweries in the city. Also, the city is well known for heavy snowfall ad hot spring. We hope that people in Hawaii will come and visit to see such beautiful snow scenery.
Asanuma: I’ve heard that after the Honolulu Festival, the Nagaoka Fireworks will be held to celebrate for the 100-year anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.
Mayor: That idea came up when we decided to display the fireworks in Honolulu. We were given an opportunity to demonstrate our fireworks to the chairman and director of the executive committee of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, when their group made a visit to Nagaoka City during the end of last year. They seemed to really like it and we were offered to hold our event at their festival. It is not definite yet, but the plan is heading in the positive direction. It is our blessing and honor to show the Nagaoka Fireworks to celebrate their 100-year anniversary in which the city of Honolulu served as a catalyst.
Asanuma: As I recall, Isoroku Yamamoto was assigned to the Consulate General of Japan in Washington DC right?
Mayor: That’s correct. He was assigned as a naval attaché and he was well aware of the national power of the U.S. by observing the oil fields in Southern area and so forth during this period. Then you can understand the reason why he was against the war with the U.S. from the beginning to the end. However, due to his position, he had to serve his best for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It is to say that because of Isoroku Yamamoto, we have a special connection to Washington DC.
Asanuma: Lastly, I know that you have a desire to develop a new relationship between the city of Honolulu and Nagaoka City. Can you elaborate on that idea?
Mayor: I’m hoping to deepen the relationship with the city of Honolulu since long ago. Also, as you may know that it is our tradition to display the fireworks for 2-days on August 2 and August 3 every year which is after the air raid. I have been longing to tell about it as well as the dedicated spirits of the Nagaoka citizens.
The discussion about displaying the Nagaoka Fireworks in Honolulu began about 4 years ago. We wanted to make this happen but it wasn’t confirmed. However, we were deeply moved when this plan came to light in March of this year. I have mixed feelings of astonishment that we’ve accomplished this far along with a sense of anticipation.
Asanuma: I’m aware that you are busy and all, but we hope your return with the Nagaoka citizens in March.
Mayor: Yes indeed, I feel like this is my calling so I will be returning to Honolulu no matter what.
Asanuma: Thank you very much. We are looking forward to see you in March.
Mayor: Yes, see you again in March.