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Why raise Ehime Maru?

by Yuki Ohashi, staff writer

It has been more than six months since the tragic collision of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries training vessel, with a U.S. nuclear submarine. The bodies of nine people remain on board, including four 17-year-old high school boys. The delay was due to the expense involved and concern about hazards to the environment.

On June 15, the Navy released its environmental assessments. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, to minimize the impact of the proposed $40 million salvage operation on local marine life, the Navy will ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service to “station observers on skimmer vessels to identify any birds, mammals, or sea turtles that may come in contact with the diesel fuel or lubricating oil from a spill.”

In addition, Rockwater 2, a construction-support vessel owned by Halliburton Engineering and Construction Company, the sub constructor for this salvage operation, will move the Ehime Maru to a spot just a mile south of the airport and to a depth of 100 feet. Here normal salvage operations can more easily and safely proceed.

Many Americans are still a little perplexed about why the Japanese want the Ehime Maru to be salvaged. On February 19, Hirohisa Ishibashi, the mayor of Uwajima, released a message that reflected the Japanese viewpoint. According to CNN, “Whereas in Christianity the soul of the person is considered of paramount importance, in Japan, the body takes a much more important role,” and “when the funeral is held, the custom is to say a final farewell to the deceased before cremating them.”

Many Japanese people are strong believers in Buddhism, in which it is believed that if the deceased are not given a proper burial, their souls will not rest. At this point, since the Ehime Maru is still in the ocean, not only the victims’ families, but also most Japanese, believe that the victims’ souls have been lost. The raising of the Ehime Maru is actually not only for the benefit of the victims’ families who want to recover the bodies, but also to satisfy the beliefs of most Japanese.

The Ehime Maru accident continues to be an emotional and political issue, so it is important for the people of both countries to get as much relevant information as possible from all angles in order to better understand the situation.


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