A large group gathered today at Port Allen to unveil a display that memorializes the 7,000 mile journey of a piece of Japan tsunami debris from waters off of Iwaki City, Japan to its sister city of Kauai.
"It's incredible that this buoy would travel for 22 months and end up here on Kaua'i: from sister city to sister city," stated Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr. "It demonstrates how powerful the forces of nature are, but also how the power of friendship can bridge all distances and obstacles."
A delegation of 19, including the Vice Mayor of Iwaki City, traveled from the Tohoku region of Japan to Kaua‘i for the blessing and dedication. During the ceremony, a moment of silence, or "mokutu," was observed in honor of the thousands who lost their lives following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on March 11, 2011.
During the ceremony, the Vice Mayor of Iwaki City, Mr. Norio Miyazaki, stated: "Three years have passed since the disaster, and we are committed to working hard to make Iwaki even stronger than it was. We appreciate this symbol of goodwill between our cities."
The buoy was discovered floating in waters west of the island of Kaua‘i in January 2013 by a naval vessel affiliated with the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mānā. Shortly thereafter, the Japan Consulate on O‘ahu confirmed that the buoy was tsunami debris originating from Onahama Bay, the port serving Iwaki City, and that the buoy's owner did not wish to have it returned.
"The idea of using the buoy to create an educational display relating to the environmental hazards of marine debris was already being discussed," said Beth Tokioka, Director of Communications for the County of Kaua‘i. "When we found out it originated from our sister city, the project took on a whole new meaning."
The Tohoku region was particularly hard-hit by the disaster, and is home to Spa Resort Hawaiians, a unique resort that features five spa theme parks, three hotels, and a golf course. In September 2011, Mayor Carvalho led a delegation from Kaua‘i to visit Iwaki in support of their recovery efforts. During the trip, the group visited the port at Onahama and observed the devastation. "It was heartbreaking," said Carvalho. "I remember looking out into the waters of the bay, not knowing that at that moment the buoy was well on its way to the west coast of the United States and then back to Kaua‘i."
Alexander and Baldwin, Inc., which owns Port Allen Marina Center, agreed to erect the buoy at the shopping area, where thousands of visitors every year embark on ocean recreational trips to the Napali Coast. "We are honored to host this incredible monument, which stands as an educational tool and a symbol of our strong ties to Japan," stated A&B's President Chris Benjamin.
The Rotary Club of West Kaua‘i enthusiastically "adopted" the project, and spearheaded a fundraising effort to pay for construction of the display and design and manufacture of the interpretive signs. "Due to the generosity of our community and our friends in Japan, we've raised more than $11,000, which covered the costs of creating the monument," stated Rotary member Dave Walker.
Fronting the buoy are two interpretive signs, one providing education on the hazards of marine debris and the other depicting the story of its amazing journey across the Pacific.
Closing his remarks at the ceremony, Mayor Carvalho said "This monument belongs to all of us, and will forever stand as a symbol of friendship and goodwill."