DVIDS – News – Tomb cleanup at 18MUNS in preparation for Shimi
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan – 18th Munitions Squadron Airmen came together to clean up Okinawan ancestral tombs on March 23, 2023, in preparation for Shimi, an Okinawan memorial festival.
“Every year we have the locals come out to 18th MUNS for their traditional event called ‘Shimi’ that they hold once a year at the beginning of April,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edward N. Love IV, 18th MUNS precision-guided munition crew chief.
“We have our Airmen come out here and assist in cleaning up the tombs for the locals to facilitate their traditions, and help them spend more of their time connecting with their ancestors instead of cleaning the tombs themselves.”
During Shimi, the tombs are cleaned up and family members come together to kneel in front of the tomb, providing offerings to their ancestors and bringing along food dishes to have small gatherings in front of the tombs. This is one of the major observances in Okinawan customs.
“The tombs are regarded as sacred places where the remains of bereaved family members related to the father’s side are kept, such as your father, his spouse, his grandparents, and so forth,” said Mr. Hideaki Sakihama, 18th Wing Public Affairs community engagement specialist. “The remains are placed inside of modestly decorated pottery inside of the open space of the tomb, which is why they are so large being made for a family instead of an individual.”
Families are authorized to visit their family tomb once a year and have a 5-hour window to provide offerings and pray. For family members, especially elders, cleaning a year of jungle vegetation build-up is a burden, so several Airmen who wanted to do more for the community volunteered their time to clear the tomb vegetation, giving families more time to spend with each other and their ancestors.
The tombs inside the Munitions Storage Area are family tombs built before 1945, most of which belong to families from Kina, Yomitan Village.
“It’s a pretty rewarding experience, I think anyone would feel that way getting to help the locals celebrate their traditions,” said Love. “We have a good group of Airmen, they were motivated to do their job, ready to give back to the community that hosts us, and did a great job doing it.”
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