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Exhibition from peace museum in Okinawa coming to UH West Oʻahu


Exhibition from peace museum in Okinawa coming to UH West Oʻahu

An image from the "Himeyuri and Hawaii" exhibition. Image courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum

Discover the powerful and poignant story of the Himeyuri Student Corps — female students who were mobilized as assistant nurses in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa — in “Himeyuri and Hawaii,” a traveling exhibition from the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Okinawa that will be on display from Sept. 5 to Jan. 31, 2024, at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu’s James & Abigail Campbell Library.

The exhibit, which examines the connection between Himeyuri and Hawai‘i, shares the story of the corps — consisting of students from the Okinawa First Girls’ High School and the Okinawa Female Normal School. These adolescent female students served as nurses for the Japanese and Okinawan soldiers; their horrific wartime experiences speak eloquently to the insanity of war and to the importance of peace. 240 Himeyuri students and teachers were sent to war, and 136 of them became casualties.

Dr. Masahide Kato, associate professor of Political Science at UH West O‘ahu, addressed the significance of the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibit for the community.

“Both the Ryukyu Kingdom and the Hawaiian Kingdom were illegally annexed in the late 19th century by Japan and the U.S., respectively,” Kato said. “The Himeyuri school students’ experience of the Battle of Okinawa exposed the vulnerability of the people under foreign occupation whose lives were sacrificed for the occupiers’ destructive contest for geopolitical supremacy.”

Kato continued, “Both Okinawans and Native Hawaiians have endured depopulation, displacement, deculturalization, and the destruction of the natural landscapes they hold as sacred. And they have overcome their plight with resilience, cultural revitalization, and nonviolent mobilization for justice.”

“Himeyuri and Hawaii” takes us to the abyss when war intersects with prolonged occupation, Kato noted.

“It also tells us the story of surviving students who broke their self-imposed silence and committed to the establishment of the museum to preserve their memories and spread the message of peace,” he said.

The “Himeyuri and Hawaii” traveling exhibit is an educational initiative of the Himeyuri Peace Museum, the Himeyuri Peace Resource Center, and the Okinawa Prefecture. Kato said the idea of UH West O‘ahu hosting the exhibit was initiated by Dr. Joyce Chinen, UH West O‘ahu Professor Emeritus, before her retirement. During the traveling exhibit of “Americans and the Holocaust” last year, Kato revisited Chinen’s idea and thought it would be a fitting sequel event.

“By doing so, UH West O‘ahu can continue to facilitate the community-wide conversation on the lessons from the historical episodes of the genocidal war that Hawai‘i has an intimate connection with,” Kato said.

“Himeyuri and Hawaii” opens Sept. 5 with an opening reception at 11 a.m. near the Library’s entrance. The ceremony will feature brief remarks from Chinen and Professor Masanori Nakahodo, Chairperson of the Himeyuri Peace Museum. For more information about the exhibit and a series of related special events at the James & Abigail Campbell Library, go to

More images from the “Himeyuri and Hawaii” exhibition:

Image of trees and a building from the "Himeyuri and Hawaii" exhibit.

Black-and-white image of students and a teacher in a classroom from the "Himeyuri and Hawaii" exhibit.

Black-and-white image of a military ship at sea from the "Himeyuri and Hawaii" exhibit.


Images courtesy of Himeyuri Peace Museum and Zenaida Serrano Arvman