Hawai'i pays respects to Ehime Maru home
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By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer
Music united nearly 200 Uwajima Fisheries High School students with 100 children from a Kamehameha Schools chorus today, as a Hawaiian contingent including Gov. Ben Cayetano visited southwestern Japan to pay respects in the harbor town that was home to the Ehime Maru.
|Gov. Ben Cayetano pays respects to victims of the Ehime Maru crash.
For residents of the rural Ehime region of 65,000 people, the last outpost on the island of Shikoku, the gesture provided a moment of peace in a week marred by more bad news. The Ehime government's public health officials announced that most of the 17 crew members rescued from the Ehime Maru are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The aftermath of the tragedy has been tough on the students as well as the crew, said Chizuru Taniguchi, a case worker at Midori dormitory, the Uwajima orphanage where 16-year-old survivor Daisuke Shinoto lives.
Shinoto was among 13 Uwajima Fisheries High School students half of the school's second-year ocean engineering class aboard the Ehime Maru. His favorite teacher and one of his best friends were among those lost at sea.
Taniguchi attended today's performance, grateful for the positive gesture. Only two of the nine students who survived the wreck have gone back to school, she said.
Shinoto goes to school but doesn't attend regular classes because he's having stress disorder symptoms including sleeplessness, poor appetite and irritability, the case worker said. But the boy refuses medical treatment.
"I am an instructor of recreation," Taniguchi said. "We go to camp and have dinner parties with his friends. I think these activities will cure him rather than medical treatment."
The governor and his wife, Vicky, along with mayors of the Big Island, Maui and Kaua'i and a representative for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris and members of Hawai'i's visitor industry, attended today's children's chorus performance.
In addition to expressing condolences, the politicians and Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau representatives are having informal meetings with government, business and travel industry to strengthen Hawai'i's business and tourism relationships in Japan.
Earl Okawa, executive director of the Japan-America Society in Hawai'i, visited Uwajima last week and gave families of the victims a $160,000 donation, from hundreds of donors in Hawai'i and around the world.
Signs of pain are still showing for survivors, according to results of psychiatric and psychological tests conducted between May 23 and June 2 with Ehime Maru crew members, Ehime government officials said.
Eleven surviving crewmen, who have been working at the high school because their ship has not yet been replaced, are suffering from stress and guilt associated with the deaths of the others.
Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato said one thing that might ease their pain is something victims' families have asked for: a monument in Hawai'i that would serve as a memorial for the tragedy.
Interpreter Toshi Erikson contributed to this report. Staff writer Tanya Bricking can be reached at 525-8026 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.