I decided to make a separate post for our visit to the Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters and Peace Prayer Park since these are both such big parts of Okinawa's tragic history during WW2. This is also a continuation from my post when my parents came to visit here
The next morning, it was rainy and dreary out, which seemed appropriate for the sites we would be visiting. We decided to visit the Japanese Naval Headquarters located near Naha. #historylesson It was here over 5,000 Japanese soldiers made their last stand against the US fighting on Okinawa, many only armed with rudimentary spears, and where over 2000 Japanese soldiers died.
Inside the Headquarters there is a museum as well as the tunnels themselves. The museum has artifacts, pictures, a timeline, as well as a complete translation of the message left by Admiral Ota just before he killed himself. In this message, General Ota details the sacrifice of the Okinawan people and asks that they be given “special consideration” by the Japanese government. Not all of the Headquarters has been restored, but we were able to walk through about 300 meters of the original 450 meters. Among the rooms, there is the Commanding Officer’s room where General Ota left his final message. On the wall, Ota wrote the words to his favorite waka, or Japanese poem, before he, too, committed suicide: “Born as a man, nothing fulfills my life more than to die in the name of the Emperor.”
There is also a staff room where you can clearly see the holes in the walls left by the shrapnel from a hand grenade when someone committed suicide.
Okinawa opened the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters so “future generations might understand the tragedy of war, and to invite prayers for lasting world peace." All in all, it was a sombering and interesting experience.
Peace Prayer Park is located on Mabuni Hill, where the Battle of Okinawa came to a sad end and where a majority of the bloodshed happened. The park and the museum commemorates the 100,000 soldiers and the over 100,000 civilians who died in the Battle of Okinawa. The Peace Memorial (Prayer) Park has a museum and monuments spread throughout. The day World War II ended, August 15, 1945, in Japan is known as Shuusen-kinenbi (終戦記念日), which literally means the “Memorial day for the end of the war”. In 1982 the Japanese government issued an ordinance that designated August 15 to be “the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace”.
The Cornerstone of Peace (平和の礎 Heiwa no Ishiji) was unveiled on 23 June 1995 in memory of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa and the end of World War II. This memorial was erected to remember those lost in the war (and pray for perpetual peace), pass on the lessons of war, and serve as a place for meditation and learning. It has the name of those who died during the war (240,000 people both civilian and military) etched into the stone slabs throughout the park.
We spent time reflecting on the sad history and taking it all in.
Follow in our Footsteps:
Former Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters
236 Aza Tomishiro, Tomishiro City, Okinawa, Japan
Price: 420 yen (adults), 210 yen (children)
Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum
〒901-0333 Okinawa Prefecture, Itoman, Mabuni, ６１４−１
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!