The Battle of Okinawa is probably the fiercest battle ever seen in history. This ground warfare was the only one fought on Japanese soil and was also the largest-scale campaign of the Asia-Pacific War. This war, also called ‘Typhoon of Steel’ which began late in March 1945 lasted for 90days and destroyed much of the island’s natural and cultural legacy. A significant aspect of this battle is the loss of more than 100,000 civilian lives, outnumbering the military death toll.
The people’s tragic experience of war and their struggle against the pressures of many years of U.S. military control developed in them a strong and resilient attitude to life. This attitude is popularly called the ‘Okinawan Heart,’ which respects personal dignity, rejects war-related acts and cherishes culture. War has made the Okinawan people strongly aware of the value of realizing international peace for future generations.
I wasn’t aware of this battle’s full extent until I set foot on Okinawan soil. Joining a tour group to visit these war monuments was an excellent decision. Getting around the island is not as easy as it is on mainland Japan because public transit isn’t extensive. I mean, there are buses and trains, but they operate on a tight schedule and limited routes. And transportation is costly. So for those traveling on low budget, I would highly recommend taking advantage of a tour group. (There are a lot of tours available. Simply get brochures at the airport upon arrival or at the train stations.) But if you do drive, want to explore the places leisurely, and you aren’t pressed with time and expenses, then a car rental service is best.
UNDERGROUND HEADQUARTERS OF JAPANESE IMPERIAL NAVY
It is an underground structure which served as the Japanese Navy’s headquarters during the 2nd World War. It runs several hundred meters of corridors and rooms. Toward the end of the battle, the situation had grown hopeless. Thus many sailors committed suicide in these tunnels.
During the war, female high school students volunteered to work in army field hospitals located in caves. Most of them did not survive the harrowing conditions succumbing to starvation and malarial infection. This monument was established to commemorate the young girls’ ill-fated bravery.
PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
This park spreads wide on Mabuni Hills in Ito City, near the southern tip of Okinawa island. Its scenic expanse gives a breathtaking view of the ocean. On the garden grounds stand the Cornerstone of Peace. The stone design is entitled ‘Everlasting Waves of Peace.’ Names of every person who fought in the warfare and lost their lives regardless of nationality are inscribed on these stones.
The main attraction of the memorial park is the Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. It gives a sobering overview of the road to the battle, the battle itself and its progress. It displays personal testimonies and the reconstruction of Okinawa. Also, there is a children’s exhibit that teaches children the importance of life and the responsibility to create an even better life for the future.