Japan suspends annual funding for Hawaii telescope project

Japan has suspended its yearly funding for a giant telescope project in Hawaii, citing an ongoing stalemate over its construction

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim announced a two-month moratorium on construction in late December.

Kim said Monday he had not received a reply from telescope representatives to his February request for a two-month extension of the moratorium.

“We are not prepared to move forward with construction on Maunakea anytime soon,” telescope spokesman Scott Ishikawa wrote in an email Monday.

Some Native Hawaiians believe the project will desecrate sacred land and demonstrators blocked the access road to the construction site from July to December.

Telescope opponents gathered at the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu Monday.

Group leader Kahoʻokahi Kanuha said, “We’re calling upon the Japanese people to recognize the kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) as a people with a living culture, history, language and spiritual/religious practices, who have a sacred and revered mountain in Mauna Kea as they do in Mount Fuji,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Copies of the letter in English and Japanese were presented to a representative of Consul General Koichi Ito outside the consulate.

Japan and Canada are the only two countries in the consortium using public funds to finance the project.

Former Tokyo resident Ikuko Kurata, who helped organize a meeting between telescope opponents and consulate staff, told Hawaii Public Radio that the project may not be known in Japan.

“Not many Japanese know about this issue,” said Kurata. “They don’t know 135 million yen (in) tax money is being used for TMT.”

The current value of 135 million yen is about $1.2 million.