Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
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Well delivered experience and an important one at that
The Okinawa Peace Memorial Park houses a number of monuments and facilities offering sobering reminder of, as well as educating about, the bloody events that took place in Okinawa at the close of WWII, namely the Battle of Okinawa. This invasion of Okinawa by allied forces was one of the largest assaults during the Pacific campaign and the only fighting “on the ground” on what is now Japanese soil. The initial invasion started on April 1, 1945 with the battle lasting until June 22, 1945. The resulting loss of life was astonishing particularly on the Okinawan side which lost a large percentage of its population many of whom were civilians. People say that the battle, the war, and the subsequent occupation have shaped the character of the population in profound way. An understanding of this will surely help deepen any experience of the Peace Memorial Park and the features within. The worst of the fighting took place in southern Okinawa and it’s here, around the tip of the island that you’ll find the Peace Memorial Park. I started my visit to the park in the northern section where the Okinawa Peace Hall is located. It’s an impressive structure in brilliant white with a tower that seems to soar. Entrance is 450 yen. Inside, the experience, as the name might suggest, is one of spreading the word / messages of peace. It’s moving stuff but is not to be confused with the more informative and sobering Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. The hall sits on a small rise in the park and affords a sweeping view down to the southern reaches of the park. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum is arguably the main attraction (if that’s the right word) of the park. Save time for this. Like the museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum can be a heavy experience if you’ve got the time to take it all in. Admission is free and the museum is open from 9:00 - 17:00. The museum looks out over the Cornerstone of Peace where a collection of stone displays / plaques are engraved with the names of soldiers and civilians whose lives were taken during the battle. On a personal level, in other such parks / museums as this, it’s something so simple as a display of names often moves me the most. This was true of the Cornerstone of Peace. The Peace Memorial Park covers a large space and given its sometimes lofty geography there are some sweeping views to be had from the park. There’s much to see here as this is much to contemplate and get your head around. In this sense, not only is the park an important experience, it’s also one that is deserving on the visitor taking their time. In my opinion. On more practical matters, we arrived here by car. Being a site of such significance we found the park pretty easy to access with enough signs pointing the way to prevent any navigation problems. Parking was plentiful (there seemed to be few people here during our visit - mid-afternoon on a Thursday). I think it should also be noted that, despite the ocean breezes, large swathes of the park are exposed to what can be brutal sun. Take care with this as there’s a lot of ground to cover. We drove here from other attractions in southern Okinawa. There roads were fairly free of traffic and the driving easy going. From the park we headed pretty much directly back to the airport at Naha which we must have done within an hour.