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February 19, 2018 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa WW2 Sites

For my last day in Okinawa, I visited some of the main sites in south which are based around the American invasion in 1945. The sites visited today include:

(1) Itokazu Abuchiragama Cave (250 yen entry 100 yen for torch)
(2) Peace Memorial Park (300 yen entry)
(3) Himeyuri Monument (310 yen entry)
(4) Navy Battleground Headquarters (440 yen entry)

The first site I visited today is not well known and had the biggest impact on me today. That was the Itokazu Abuchiragama Cave, which was one of the largest caves used by the army as a hospital, storehouse and was home to some of the Himeyuri girls which acted as nurses.

This site is very different than other sites, as you actually visit a place where people died, where chemical weapons were used and a place where you can still see the scars of war in it's entirety. It costs 250 yen to enter and another 100 yen to hire a torch. Unlike most caves, a torch is needed and there are no lights inside. It is slippery, claustrophobic and humid. It gives you a real feel what it was like for the people in this cave at the time.

The cave is around 600 meters in length, but I travelled through 2-300 meters which takes around 30 minutes with a guide. Note that it's best to come here with a Japanese speaker to fully understand the history but also for safety. You must have a guide on this trip which is provided for in the entry fee, but unlike most times this is definitely needed for safety and also for information.

Entry to the cave

My second stop for the day was Okinawa Peace Park, a large Japanese run park to commemorate the death of all people who died during the Okinawan invasion. Note that the grounds are quite large and there is a highly recommended museums with english translations for 300 yen entry.

On top of the main hill at the park is a section where each prefecture could have a monument for the people who served and died in the battle

Monument for Mie Prefecture - with a Tori gate which is apt as it's the home of the Ise Shrine
Names of people who have died who participated in the battle

As mentioned above, the museum was quite impressive and no photography is allowed in side. The exhibits do show some bias towards the Americans and even Japanese government at the time towards the Okinawan's, but what is hardest to hear is the English translations of survivor tales. I listened to an old lady tell of her time on Ie Island and going to locations I visited only a few days before.

My third stop for the day was the Himeyuri Monument with an adjacent museum telling the story of what happened to a few hundred schoolgirls during WW2. The monument does not seem like much, but the back story told in the museum (including in English) is quite extensive.

My last stop for the day was the Navy Battleground Headquarters, a series of underground tunnels used in the last days of the war. It costs 440 yen to enter and is something I've read about a lot in the past couple of years learning about how Japan came to where it did during WW2, it's struggles after the defeat to understand where it came today.

The Navy Headquarters allows you to walk through a couple of hundred meters of tunnels and shows what life was like at the time. A lot of misery occurred here.

Note the bullet and shrapnel holes from suicides
One of the many tunnels

The last time I felt so hopeless about humanity was the time I visited the females gulag Alzhir when I was working in Kazakhstan. Today's site (specifically the first two) are not places for small kids, but are an important lesson for all individuals on the hell caused by war.
Out of the sites, the Itokazu Abuchiragama Cave has left the largest impression on me but it's not for everyone. If you need to speak English, expect a lot of volunteers or do not have a good footing then this is not the site for you. As mentioned above, it's best to come here with a Japanese speaking friend as they are not allowed to take people without an English guide which they don't often have. We managed to get by with my bad Japanese and their slightly better English. For tomorrow, I'll be heading to Ishigaki for a few days.

Further Information:

Itokazu Abuchiragama Cave: http://abuchiragama.com/en/
Okinawa Peace Park: http://sp.heiwa-irei-okinawa.jp
Himeyuri Monument: http://www.himeyuri.or.jp/EN/info.html
Navy Battleground Headquarters: http://kaigungou.ocvb.or.jp/english/index.html

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List of Posts:
2018/02/23 - Southern Odyssey - Taketomi
2018/02/23 - Southern Odyssey - Ishigaki City
2018/02/22 - Southern Odyssey - Ishigaki Island
2018/02/21 - Southern Odyssey - Iriomote
2018/02/20 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa to Iriomote
2018/02/19 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa WW2 Sites
2018/02/19 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 5 Southern Attractions
2018/02/18 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 4 Naha
2018/02/17 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 3
2018/02/16 - Southern Odyssey - Ocean Expo Park
2018/02/16 - Southern Odyssey - Ie Island
2018/02/15 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Hanami Report
2018/02/15 - Southern Odyssey - Okinawa Day 1
2018/02/14 - Southern Odyssey - Amami to Okinawa
2018/02/13 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 3
2018/02/12 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 2
2018/02/11 - Southern Odyssey - Amami Day 1
2017/07/04 - Shikotsu Lake to Noboribetsu - Hokkaido
2017/07/03 - Otaru to Shikotsu - Hokkaido
2017/07/02 - Otaru - Hokkaido
2017/07/02 - Yoichi - Hokkaido
2017/07/01 - Biei to Sapporo - Hokkaido
2017/06/30 - Sounkyo Onsen to Biei - Hokkaido
2017/06/29 - Shibetsu to Sounkyu Onsen - Hokkaido
2017/06/28 - Hokkaido: Wakkanai to Shibetsu
2017/06/27 - Rebun Island - Lake Kushu & Kafuka
2017/06/26 - Rebun Island - Momoiwa Course
2017/06/25 - Rishiri Island - Hokkaido
2017/06/23 - Imaicho - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/22 - Asuka & Sakurai - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/22 - Nara Yamoto 4 Temple Pilgrimage
2017/06/21 - Yoshino - Nara Prefecture
2017/06/20 - Sakai - Osaka Prefecture
2017/06/19 - Osaka - Namba Area
2017/06/19 - Western Osaka
2017/06/18 - Kansai & Hokkaido Trip Intro & Central Osaka
2017/02/06 - Closed Kurume - Fukuoka
2017/02/05 - Miyazaki to Kobayashi
2017/02/04 - Obi Castle Town - Miyazaki
2017/02/04 - Nichinan Coast - Miyazaki
2017/02/03 - Gardens & Museums of Miyazaki City
2017/02/02 - Shrines of Takachiko - Miyazaki
2017/02/01 - Usuki City - Oita
2017/01/31 - Hita & Surrounds - Oita
2017/01/31 - Yufuin Onsen - Oita
2017/01/30 - Hells of Beppu
2017/01/30 - Oita City - Oita
2017/01/29 - Kitsuki Castle Town - Oita
2017/01/28 - Hiji Castle Town - Oita
2017/01/28 - Templing in Kunisaki Hanto
2017/01/27 - Nakatsu to Yamaga Onsen
2017/01/27 - Eastern Kyushu Trip Info & Nakatsu
2016/08/02 - Ohori Park - Fukuoka
2016/08/01 - Fukuoka's Gion Temple Cluster
2016/07/31 - Unzen Onsen - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/31 - Shimabara - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/30 - Nagasaki City - Northern City Attractions
2016/07/29 - Nagasaki City - Southern Attractions
2016/07/29 - Hashima - Nagasaki Prefecture
2016/07/28 - Huis Ten Bosch Day 2 (Day)
2016/07/27 - Huis Ten Bosch Day 1 (Night)
2016/07/26 - Hirado Part 2 - Nagasaki
2016/07/26 - Hirado Part 1 - Nagasaki
2016/07/25 - Gardens of Takeo - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/24 - Yutoku Inari Shrine
2016/07/24 - Ureshino - Saga
2016/07/23 - Yoshinogari Park - Saga
2016/07/23 - Saga City - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/22 - Yobuko - Saga Prefecture
2016/07/21 - Karatsu City - Saga
2016/07/20 - Mojiko - Fukuoka
2016/07/20 - Kokura - Fukuoka
2016/07/19 - Dazaifu - Fukuoka
2016/07/18 - Nokonoshima Island - Fukuoka
2016/07/17 - NW Kyushu Trip Info & Yanagawa
2016/03/02 - Shikoku Highlights
2016/02/21 - Hadaka Matsuri: Saidaji Temple Okayama
2016/02/20 - Okayama Museum Cluster - Okayama Prefecture
2016/02/19 - Marugame & Kotohira - Kagawa Prefecture
2016/02/18 - Matsuyama - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/17 - Uchihiko - Ehime
2016/02/17 - Ozu - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/16 - Seiyo
2016/02/16 - Uwajima - Ehime Prefecture
2016/02/15 - Kochi to Otsuki
2016/02/14 - Kochi - Kochi - Kochi
2016/02/13 - Toyo to Yasu via Aki
2016/02/12 - Naruto to Toya
2016/02/11 - Takamatsu to Naruto
2016/02/11 - Artsy Naoshima: Honmura Art Project
2016/02/11 - Artsy Naoshima: Tsutsuji-so to Miyanoura Port
2016/02/10 - Takamatsu - Kagawa Prefecture
2016/02/10 - Shikoku Trip Info & Artsy Teshima
2015/07/19 - Accommodation in Japan - Last Post
2015/07/19 - Food in Japan
2015/07/15 - Hongu Taisha - Wakayama
2015/07/14 - Shingu & Ogi Matsuri - Wakayama
2015/07/13 - Nachi Taisha & Kii-Katsuura - Wakayama
2015/07/12 - Kii-Tanabe & Kumano Kodo - Wakayama
2015/07/10 - Wacky Wakayama City - Wakayama
2015/07/08 - Tottori City - Tottori Prefecture
2015/07/06 - Izushi - Hyogo
2015/07/05 - Kinosaki Onsen - Hyogo
2015/07/04 - Yamanaka Onsen - Ishikawa
2015/07/03 - Wajima to Wakura - Ishikawa
2015/07/02 - Eastern Noto Peninsula Drive - Ishikawa
2015/07/01 - Kanazawa to Wajima - Ishikawa
2015/06/30 - Itoigawa Salt Road - Niigata
2015/06/29 - Coastal Itoigawa - Niigata
2015/06/28 - Kurobe Dam Railway - Toyama
2015/06/27 - Iiyama City & Madarao Kogen - Nagano
2015/06/26 - Rural Iiyama & Nozawa Onsen - Nagano
2015/06/24 - Manza Onsen - Gunma Prefecture
2015/06/23 - Kusatsu Onsen - Gunma
2015/06/21 - Dewa Sanzan - Yamagata
2015/06/20 - Tsuruoka to Dewa Sanzan - Yamagata
2015/06/19 - Tsuruoka Town - Yamagata
2015/06/18 - Haruna Jinja - Gunma
2015/06/17 - Japan Trip Intro, JR Pass & Yokohama
2014/10/25 - Koyo In Japan - A Collection of Photos
2014/06/22 - Narita & Sawara - My Last Post!
2014/06/14 - Yahiko - Niigata
2014/06/07 - Ajiro Onsen
2014/05/17 - Gifu City
2014/05/17 - Cormorant Fishing - Gifu City
2014/05/11 - Shorin-zan Daruma-ji Temple
2014/05/10 - Gunma Flower Park
2014/04/27 - Obuse - Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/26 - Togakushi & Nagano
2014/04/13 - Toyokawa & Toyohashi
2014/04/12 - Futagawa - Cherry Blossom Report
2014/02/09 - Ono - Fukui Prefecture
2014/02/08 - Eiheiji & Fukui City
2014/01/19 - Nokogiri-Yama - Chiba
2014/01/03 - Izumo Taisha & Adachi Museum of Art
2014/01/02 - Matsue - Shimane Prefecture
2014/01/01 - Hagi - Yamaguchi Prefecture
2013/12/31 - Yamaguchi
2013/12/30 - Akiyoshido Cave - Yamaguchi Prefecture
2013/12/29 - Miyajima - Hiroshima Prefecture
2013/12/28 - Hiroshima
2013/12/27 - Onomichi - Hiroshima Prefecture
2013/12/26 - Kurashiki
2013/12/25 - Bitsu-Takahashi: Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/24 - Kibi Plain - Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/23 - Inujima Art Park - Okayama Prefecture
2013/12/22 - Okayama
2013/12/22 - Himeji Castle & Kokoen Gardens
2013/12/21 - Shoshazan Engyogi Temple Walk - Himeji
2013/12/16 - Tsumago to Magome - Spring & Winter
2013/12/08 - Ito - Through The Seasons
2013/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Central Kyoto to Higashiyama
2013/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Arashiyama Part 2
2013/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Arashiyama Part 1
2013/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Report - Tofukuji & Night Illuminations
2013/11/17 - Showa Kinen Koen
2013/11/10 - Kofu City - Autumn Report
2013/11/09 - Shosenkyo Gorge - Autumn Report
2013/10/26 - Hirosaki - Apples & Temples
2013/10/25 - Hirosaki Castle Park & Surrounds - Autumn
2013/10/24 - Oirase Stream - Autumn Report
2013/10/23 - Lake Towada & Yasumiya - Autumn Report
2013/10/22 - Rural Tono - Autumn Report
2013/10/21 - Tono - Shrine Cluster
2013/10/20 - Central Tono - Iwate
2013/10/19 - Urabandai - Autumn Report
2013/10/02 - Kamikochi - Autumn Report
2013/09/29 - Mito - Ibaraki Prefecture
2013/09/28 - Rural Fukuroda & Ibaraki Flower Park
2013/09/14 - Atami - Shizuoka Prefecture
2013/08/16 - Noboribetsu - Summer & Autumn
2013/08/12 - Mt Asahidake - Daisetsuzan National Park
2013/08/11 - Asahiyama Zoo - Asahikawa
2013/08/10 - Sapporo - Summer & Autumn
2013/08/08 - Lake Toya - Hokkaido
2013/08/07 - Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
2013/08/06 - Osorezan - Shimokita Peninsula
2013/08/04 - Akita Kanto Matsuri
2013/08/03 - Yumoto Onsen to Chuzenji Lake Walk
2013/07/11 - Kyoto - Daigo-ji Temple
2013/07/10 - Kyoto - Mt Hieizan
2013/07/09 - Kyoto - Ohara
2013/07/07 - Kyoto - Koryuji Area
2013/07/06 - Uji - Summer
2013/07/05 - Hikone
2013/07/04 - Kyoto Station & Surroundings Attractions
2013/06/01 - Tokyo Parks & Gardens - Part 2
2013/05/26 - Tokyo Parks & Gardens - Part 1
2013/05/19 - Ouchijuku (Fukushima)
2013/05/18 - Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima Prefecture)
2013/05/13 - Geibi-kei Gorge & Ichinoseki
2013/05/11 - A Rainy Hiraizumi
2013/05/07 - Matsusaka Walk
2013/05/06 - Nara - Horyuji Temple & Koriyama Area
2013/05/05 - South West Nara Temple Trail (Golden Week)
2013/05/04 - Ise Naiku & Geku Shrines (Golden Week)
2013/04/29 - Western & South Eastern Kamakura Bike Ride
2013/04/28 - Yamadera Mountain Temple - Spring
2013/04/27 - Yamagata Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/27 - Yonezawa Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/20 - Nikko's Main Temples & Shrines
2013/04/20 - Nikko - Gardens & History Walk
2013/04/14 - Meiji Mura Park - Inuyama
2013/04/13 - Inuyama Town & Castle
2013/04/05 - Koyasan - Okunoin Temple & Temple Stay
2013/04/04 - Koyasan Bike Ride: From Daimon to Karukayado
2013/04/03 - Nara Park Cherry Blossom Report
2013/04/02 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report - Kiyomuzi & Nanzen-ji
2013/04/02 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report - Philosophers Trail
2013/04/01 - Kyoto Report - Temples, Shrines & Geisha
2013/03/30 - Furukawa - Takayama's Impressive Little Brother
2013/03/27 - Hakone Day Tour Loop
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report - Odawara Castle
2013/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report - Yokohama @ Honmoku
2013/03/16 - Kamakura - North Western Bike Ride
2013/03/11 - Shimoda & Irozaki Coast
2013/03/09 - Minami-Izu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/03/09 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Matsuri & Kawazu Falls
2013/03/08 - Kamakura - Hase Area Walk
2013/03/03 - Kawaguchiko - Fuji Five Lakes
2013/02/24 - Kawasaki - On & Off The Beaten Track
2013/02/17 - Yamagata - An Unexpected Day Trip
2013/02/16 - Half of Yamadera & Zao Snow Monsters
2013/02/15 - Sendai - Winter
2013/02/14 - Matsushima - Winter
2013/02/09 - Yamanouchi Snow Monkeys & Nagano Zenkoji Temple
2013/02/06 - Shizuoka - Temples & Plum Blossoms