6/23: Battle of Okinawa 79th anniversary with hybrid lecture to take place by Okinawa Association of America

On Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m. Pacific Time, the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) in Gardena will host their annual Irei no Hi: Remembering the Battle of Okinawa event. Admission is free for current OAA members and $2 for the general public. Registration required: www.tinyurl.com/oaa-irei-24, (310) 532-1929.

In observance of the 79th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Okinawa, this event will feature a presentation by Kazuyuki Nakazato, Director of the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) Washington D.C. Office. (Note: This event is not sponsored by the Okinawa Prefectural Government)

The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest land battles in the Pacific, with historians calling it a “war of attrition” by the Imperial Japanese Army to prevent the U.S. from reaching the Japanese mainland.

In Okinawa, a memorial day known as Irei no Hi (慰霊の日) is observed annually on June 23 with messages of peace from the Governor and local students. This date is officially documented as the end of the battle in 1945, although Okinawa’s suffering continued long after.

Presenting live from Washington D.C., Nakazato will outline key points of the battle and introduce the unwavering efforts of the Okinawan government as well as nongovernmental groups to promote and perpetuate peace through the preservation of wartime and postwar history; establishment of educational facilities, memorial sites, and guided tours; Governor Denny Tamaki’s recent formation of the Peace and Subnational Diplomacy Promotion Division (平和・地域外交推進課); and more.

The goal of the OAA’s Irei no Hi events is to memorialize the nearly 150,000 lives that were lost and to inform the next generation about Okinawa’s history and its connection to current issues.

Past speakers have included the late Governor Masahide Ōta, Government Representative Keiko Itokazu, historian and educator Harumi Miyagi, and documentary filmmaker Hanayo Oya.

This event will be held in-person at the OAA Center’s Yamauchi Building (16500 South Western Avenue; on-site parking accessible behind the Western Ave. buildings off of 165th Place).

For long distance community members, the event will also be online via Zoom.

Kazuyuki “Kaz” Nakazato is the Director of the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) Washington D.C. Office. The office plays a key role in gathering information and reaching out to relevant officials, organizations and individuals in the U.S.; providing them with accurate information and facilitating discussion about Okinawa, a host to the majority of U.S. military presence in Japan, to resolve various issues the prefecture faces. It also promotes the history, culture and industries of the prefecture that was an independent kingdom until the late 19th century.

Mr. Nakazato joined OPG in 1996 and has been in D.C. since April 2021. Before this assignment, he was responsible for promoting the prefecture in the fields of commerce and industry, as well as tourism. He also served as head of OPG’s Shanghai office from 2007 to 2010 and has extensive international experience.

Mr. Nakazato earned his B.A. in international politics and economy from Aoyama Gakuin University, and his M.A. in public policy from the University of Southern California.

Awarded as one of 2023’s California Nonprofits of the Year, the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting Okinawan culture.

Formed by first generation Okinawan immigrants (issei), the OAA has grown into a multi-generational organization that hosts numerous events throughout the year including cultural lectures, performances, social gatherings, and senior-focused activities. 2024 marks the organization’s 115th anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of the OAA Center in Gardena.

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