|Landing site of the U.S. Marines|
You should honor all of those who died, both American and Japanese! Those words I remember my Jukujo saying. I came to Okinawa with the intent to recognize Okinawans as the sole victim of the war. I read the history books. I have seen the photos. I have heard the rhetoric. However, there is just simply no comparison unless you actually visit the war memorials and burial tombs dotted round the islands of Okinawa. I was excited on my way to Haneda Airport.
I remember the nostalgia I felt just after take-off as the plane circled over Mount Fuji. Passengers clamoring for a view of Japan's most venerated mountain in all of Asia. Continuing southward over the seas, we flew over a series of small islets. I was moved by the beauty of the Amami Island chains dotted with islets as far as the human eye could see from the plane window. The ocean was exceedingly beautiful and deep blue. I even saw an American aircraft carrier making its way southward to protect the sea lanes, presumably. The tail stretched on and on and the flat top had a peculiar shape to it that all aircraft carriers have, so it was easily recognizable from 30,000 feet!
As we began our decent in to Naha, I had a lot going through my mind. A lot of anxiety and answers I need answering. I needed to connect the beauty of Honshu with that of Okinawa and the dark history of war both have suffered. The "Typhoon of Steel" as it was called back then lasted for 90 days disfiguring mountains and destroying so much of the cultural legacy of the Ryuku people. Over a quarter million Okinawan souls were claimed during the worst ground fighting on Japanese soil. Civilian death toll was 100,000 souls snatched away by the frequent shelling and firefighting.
Yet, I still remember the words of my Jukujo. We lay a flower for all the victims of the war, even the Americans. It wasn't all about the killing, but also the humanitarian aid given to the victims when their own government refused. Japanese soldiers ordered civilians to jump to their deaths in the first picture. " You Jump!" Where were the evacuation orders? What about the children....
The museum is a cultural library on the war built in Ryuku style, called the Okinawan Heart.
There's an information Library, Observation Room, Peace Memorial Hall, Special Exhibition Room, Conference Room, and Quiz Corner. Like an institution of peace and reflection. There is an interaction room for children that nurtures the ideals of peace prosperity. The exhibition rooms amazingly well organized and put together, so that you can get some idea of what it was like during war.
The Okinawans do not harbor any bitterness or ill will towards the Americans. All has been forgiven and the general attitude, contrary to what you see on the news, is a people who have established a harmony with the American forces. I felt no tension, in fact, the few foreigners I did see were mostly well dressed single men in groups traveling on orders somewhere. This is a peaceful place.
You could easily spend all day here. General directions: Naha Bus Terminal. Bus 89 one-way fare is 590 yen. Bus frequency is every 20 minutes. Change buses at Itoman Terminal. Take bus 82. Fare is 460 yen one-way. If you take a taxi from Naha to Itoman Peace Park it would run you about 3000 yen. Admission is 300 for adults and 150 for children. 9am to 5pm. I strongly recommend renting a car instead. It's easy driving around the island. Surprisingly, English is not widely spoken.
I will comment more in the coming days about a similar topic.