Pearl Harbor, Oahu
Don't be surprised by the number of Japanese tourists that you'll see at Pearl Harbor. At times, it seems like they outnumber the American visitors. More importantly, if you are an American reading this, don't be upset at their presence -- welcome them.
I know many Americans who resent the number of Japanese visitors. I know many older Americans who came of age during World War II that still haven't overcome the feeling of enemnity that they felt during 1940's. That's sad.
While the attack at Pearl Harbor was a calamitous shock for Americans everywhere and tragic for those men caught unaware, Japanese pilots and mariners also fought and died in this battle. Japanese visitors have as many reasons to visit the battle site as American Southerners have reason to visit Gettysburg or French citizens have the reason to visit Waterloo or, dare I say, Americans to Hiroshima. While one could argue that Pearl Harbor is different because of the dastardly nature of a surprise attack against a nation at peace, that shows a shallow understanding of history. Tensions were growing between Japan and the US and war seemed imminent -- in fact, the Commander at Hickam Air Base ordered all the planes onto the tarmac to prevent acts of Japanese sabotage. The US SHOULD have been prepared. The Japanese realized that an attack on the US was necessary to achieve its war goals -- and the US understood this as well. Given this, should the Japanese have surrendered their best tactic -- that of surprise -- to appease the gods of chivalry? There are many Japanese actions in that war worthy of criticism -- the surprise at Pearl Harbor isn't one of them.
But the best reason to be understanding of the Japanese visitors is that Pearl Harbor, by bringing the US into the war, sealed the defeat of the Empire. As a man I dined with in Japan once said "We Japanese are so much better off that we lost this war -- our individual lives are much better under democracy than they would have been has we won."
This is the most important thing to see if you have never been to Hawaii. The Memorial is located about 2 miles west of the Honolulu Airport in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. The Memorial is managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and consists of a shoreside visitor center (VC), where the tours begin, and the Memorial located in Pearl Harbor. The Memorial is accessible only by the NPS tour from the visitor center.
The VC is open 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week except New Years Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tours begin about every 15 minutes from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. The tour programs are free and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis. During busy summer and winter holiday periods, it is recommended that you arrive at the VC before 1:00 pm to ensure getting a tour program ticket. There are no age or size restrictions, but children under 5 years old must be accompanied by an adult. Appropriate dress is required, i.e. no bathing suits or bare feet.
Fondest memory: If you are an American and haven't visited the AZ Memorial please do so!
You will not regret it!