World War II Background
Nagaoka is the home of Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (1884-1943). Yamamoto, as the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, planned the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Nagaoka was also bombed by American B-29 bombers in the waning stages of the war. A squadron of B-29 Superfortress aircraft dropped incendiary bombs on the city at 10:30 p.m. on August 1, 1945. The bombing continued for two hours and left 80 percent of the city in ashes and killed more than 1,400 people.
On Aug. 14, 1945, it was announced that Imperial Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Since then, both Aug. 14 and Aug. 15 have been known as “Victory over Japan Day” or “V-J Day.”
World War II was a horrific chapter in U.S.-Japan history, as well as the history of the Asia-Pacific region. Since that time, the world and Japan have changed in significant ways. Japan is a healthy democracy and a major contributor to peace and prosperity worldwide. Today, what defines the U.S-Japan relationship is the deep-rooted mutual trust, friendship, support, and cooperation between our two countries.
The people of Nagaoka have committed themselves to honor the victims of the bombings and hold annual fireworks celebrations dedicated to peace.
Sister Cities: Honolulu and Nagaoka
Nagaoka and Honolulu share the common thread of war experience. As the Mayor of the City of Nagaoka, Tamio Mori has worked over the past several years to promote mutual understanding about respective war experience of Nagaoka and Honolulu.
Today, Nagaoka and Honolulu represent the peace and reconciliation that is possible between former enemies. The two cities officially became sister cities in 2012.
Every year on Aug. 2 and 3, the anniversary dates of the bombing, Nagaoka holds a fireworks festival. The event has grown each year, now attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators from Japan and around the world. For the last three years, Nagaoka has brought part of their fireworks display to Honolulu for the people of Hawaii and visitors to enjoy during the Honolulu Festival in March.
Nagaoka has also promoted cultural and educational exchanges with the people of Hawaii in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Hawaii. Students have visited Hawaii, engaged in peace discussions with University of Hawaii and public school students, and attended the annual Pearl Harbor Day anniversary events to learn how Americans honor their heroes and remember history.
To conduct a fireworks display in Pearl Harbor has been the long-cherished wish of the citizens of Nagaoka, Japan, where fireworks are launched annually in memory of war victims and with prayers for peace.
Because 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of the conflict between the two countries, Mayor Mori proposed to stage a fireworks display in Pearl Harbor to honor the dead and survivors of the Dec. 7th attack and war victims, and extend a hand of friendship and peace and to mark a significant date for both countries.