Zero in Hawaii

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Burning of ZERO #BII-120

December 13th – Following the assault of Pearl Harbor, the Zero pilot Nishikaichi and the Japanese American Harada died after burning Nishikaichi’s Zero on Niihau Island - exactly 65 years ago. After 50 days of assembly and exhibition, the Zero was carried out from the UH Art Gallery. It took about 50 volunteers to carry the airplane, and over 200 people came to see this event.


The volunteers first carried the Zero to the Peace Memorial, turned around, and continued to Hawaii Hall, the historically significant site on the University of Hawaii campus. There was a bunker against the Japanese bombing during the war. The Zero was quietly set on the ground in front of Hawaii Hall. The march took about 30 minutes. People commented that when the Zero circled around the parking lot in front of Hawaii Hall, the march went fast and it was rather comical.


I placed a small stack of old newspapers in the cockpit. An elderly volunteer gave me these newspapers from WWII era and asked me to burn them with the Zero. (He said it was sad news.) I set the right wing on fire first, and the Zero began to burn quickly. The Zero caught fire very fast and it was really hot. This was the fastest burning I had ever experienced. In the past burnings, small fire and smoke remained for a long time, but today the Zero burned quickly and completely. It was faster than we expected and had told the State Department of Health. The wind blew the ashes. The firefighters were on standby, but they didn’t put water on the Zero because they understood the importance of re-growth of the grass for the Zero Project.


One of the people in the crowd was Seizaburo Taba, the member of the 100th Infantry Battalion. He gave me the poster of the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor assault, and the US flag, which was used in the anniversary ceremony and flown on December 7th. Do I really deserve to receive these? The weight of these presents is overwhelming. Just like the old newspapers I was asked to burn, the Zero provokes memories that participants have almost forgotten or kept deep inside. My father also flew from Japan. During the symposium at the Japanese Cultural Center the night before, he was asked to say a few words. It was probably his first time in public to talk about his experience as a Zero maintenance crew in Nagasaki. He is scheduled to go through an operation for liver cancer as soon as he gets home.

A senior pastor whose father was a Zero pilot asked me for the ashes of the Zero as a keepsake. I was told that she cried while the zero burned. I lost words as I faced her. As the Zero Project continues, it has absorbed all the memories, and the project unexpectedly grew much larger than I initially anticipated.

I would like to thank Lisa Yoshihara, the director of the UH Art Gallery, Thomas Klobe, the former director of the gallery, and the gallery staff for making this project happen. I also would like to thank Aaron Kerner, an excellent curator and a good friend. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the volunteers and participants. Arigato!

この様子をみていた、あの勇敢な日系の100部隊の生き残りである、タバ セイザブロウさんから、開戦65周年のアニバーサリーに使ったポスターと星条旗を頂いた。果たして,こうしたものを私がもらっていいのだろうか? あまりにも重すぎるプレゼントである。新聞といい,国旗といい、このプロジェクトを見守る多く参加者のひとり一人が自分の抱いている重い記憶をこのプロジェクトに重ねてくれている。今回は,とうとう日本から私の父もこのバーニングに参加してくれた。昨夜の日本文化センターでのシンポジュームにおいて、特に指名され自分が長崎で零戦の整備士であったことを発言をしたところである。おそらく人の前で公に話をしたのは,初めての筈だ。彼は帰国後すぐに、肝臓がんの検査の為に入院する。
回を重ねるごとに,ゼロプロジェクトは人々の重く哀しい記憶を吸収し、誰も予想もしない大きさに成長している。このプロジェクトを企画してくれたハワイ大学の美術館のディレクター、Lisa Yoshihara、前ディレクターのThomas Klobeをはじめとする,美術館関係者の皆さん、そして友人であり優れたキューレターであるAaron Kernerに最大の感謝を捧げたい。そして、ボランティアの皆さん、参加者の皆さん、本当にありがとう。