Pearl Harbor tea service conjures spirit of peace

Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:43am EDT
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By Suzanne Roig

HONOLULU (Reuters Life!) - A Japanese war veteran in black robes sought to silently conjure the spirit of peace and reconciliation as he prepared tea over the watery graves of 1,177 Americans killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 70 years ago.

The tea ceremony, an ancient Buddhist ritual, was performed on Tuesday for a group of dignitaries and hundreds of onlookers on a memorial built above the sunken remains of the USS Arizona, a battleship sunk in Japan's surprise bombing of the U.S. Pacific fleet.

The loss of life aboard the Arizona, which exploded and crumpled into the sea within minutes of being hit, accounted for nearly half of the 2,390 Americans who perished at Pearl Harbor and other attack sites on the island of Oahu on December 7, 1941.

The attack drew the United States into World War Two against Japan and Germany on the side of the Allies.

The tea service, symbolizing harmony, reverence and purity, was intended to strengthen the bonds of U.S.-Japanese friendship that have developed between the two nations over more than six decades since the war ended.

Although Japanese dignitaries have regularly attended Pearl Harbor remembrances each December over the years, the tea ceremony was the first of its kind conducted there.

"Tea is the perfect tool to calm our hearts and to show consideration to one another," said Genshitsu Sen XV, an 88-year-old grand tea master of the Urasenke School of Tea and a World War Two veteran of Japan's imperial military.


<p>Pearl Harbor survivors Alfred Rodrigues (L), Ray Emory and Sterling Cale (R) are seen at the start of the Japanese Tea Ceremony onboard the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu July 19, 2011. REUTERS/Marco Garcia</p>