Jan 26, 2018
The Second World War is a big topic in Japan’s history. Most of you might only know about the atomic bombs that destroyed large parts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing a huge number of people. But also the island of Okinawa has its own stories from the war time. In the so called Battle of Okinawa more than 200,000 people were killed from April to June 1945.
I visited three War Memorials in the southern part of the main island of Okinawa, which you really shouldn’t ignore next to all the fun things the island has to offer such as beaches and food. Take a moment to remember and get to know a few details behind the culture of the people in Okinawa.
Memorial Peace Park
One of the most important war memorials in Okinawa is the Memorial Peace Park. In this huge area you can find several monuments, such as the impressive Cornerstone of Peace. It shows a collection of stone plates where all the names of the fallen soldiers and civilians are written down. There are so many that you can get a small feeling about how big the number of “200,000” really is.
Main building is the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, which is bigger than I expected. The permanent exhibition is located on the second floor and has five different rooms. Learn about the historical facts of the war and see many samples. You even can read the testimonies of eyewitness which will bring you out in goose bumps.
Another site is the Okinawa Peace Hall, which was opened in October 1978. With its unique shape it is not only impressive from the outside – inside you will find the Okinawa Peace Prayer Statue and a collection of Peace Stones from all over the world.
Admission Fee (Museum): ¥ 300
Admission Fee (Memorial Hall): ¥ 450
Address: Okinawa, Itoman City, Mabuni 614-4
Not so far away from the Memorial Peace Park the Himeyuri Monument is located. Inside the museum here you can learn about the Himeyuri – that is how the female students of the Okinawa Women’s Normal School and the First Women’s Prefectural High School were refered to. The young women were assigned to work as nurse assistants in the army hospitals located in caves. Most of them didn’t survive the Battle of Okinawa.
Medical instruments and personal belongings such as photos are exhibited – even a display with 227 portraits and names. You can see a cave diorama which gives you an impression of the life in the caves. The testimonies are touching as well and brought up some tears to my eyes thinking of how young these students were.
Admission Fee: ¥ 310
Address: Okinawa, Itoman City, Aza Ihara 671-1
The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters
The third place we visited was the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters located not so far from Naha City. At the entrance you first find a small museum, telling you the history of the battle and the Underground Headquarters featuring several exhibits. After this you can enter the tunnels.
Back in 1944/45 the tunnel complex was 450 meter in length. Nowadays a section of 300 meters has been restored and is opened to the public. Walk through the tunnels - see areas such as the commanding officer’s room, generator rooms, staff rooms and more – and get this special feeling you only can get at places like this.
Admission Fee: ¥ 440
Address: Okinawa, Tomigusuku City, Aza Tomigusuku 236
To get to all these locations you can use Okinawa’s bus system, but check the time table beforehand, because they don’t run too often (partly only once an hour). It is easiest to use a rental car when you are traveling around the main island of Okinawa – all facilities have free parking space. Also, check the closing times, which are between 17:00 and 17:30 depending on the season.
German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016 with Japanese husband. Loves music, cats, traveling and food.
Also take a look to my German blog and my Youtube Channel (new video every Friday) → https://www.youtube.com/c/YokoLostInJapan