Near the end of World War Two, Okinawa Honto became the site of one of the war's bloodiest battles, when the US forces invaded and occupied the island. An estimated 200,000 people, including more than 100,000 civilians and 12,500 Americans were killed in the battle, which lasted from April to June 1945.
The devastating effects of the war had a profound impact on the Okinawans, and there are a number of monuments and museums relating to the period throughout Okinawa Honto. The worst fighting of the battle took place in the south, and that is where some of the larger monuments have been constructed.
The main memorial to the Battle of Okinawa is the Peace Memorial Park, which is located near the southern tip of the island. Its main attraction is the Peace Memorial Museum, which gives a sobering overview of the lead up to the battle, the battle itself and the reconstruction of Okinawa.
Other monuments in the park include the "Cornerstone of Peace", a collection of large stone plates with the names of all fallen soldiers and civilians, including Koreans, Taiwanese, Americans and Britons. There is also an area with memorials donated by each of Japan's 46 other prefectures.
A few kilometers west of the Peace Park stands the Himeyuri Monument (Himeyuri no To) with an adjacent museum. It commemorates the fate of female high school students, who worked in army field hospitals in caves under horrendous conditions. Most of them did not survive the war.
Another thought provoking, war related site is the Former Navy Underground Headquarters, which consists of several hundred meters of underground corridors and rooms that served as the Japanese navy's headquarters during the war. Many sailors committed suicide in these tunnels, after their situation had grown hopeless towards the end of the battle. Visitors can see in one area a room whose walls have been riddled with shrapnel from a grenade.
Peace Memorial Park
Take bus number 89 from Naha Bus Terminal to Itoman Bus Terminal (糸満バスターミナル, 60 minutes, 580 yen, departures every 10 minutes), transfer to bus number 82 and get off at Heiwakinendō-iriguchi (平和祈念堂入口, 20 minutes, 480 yen, departures every 1-2 hours). By car, it takes about 50 minutes from central Naha.
Take bus number 89 from Naha Bus Terminal to Itoman Terminal (糸満バスターミナル, 60 minutes, 580 yen, departures every 10 minutes), transfer to bus number 82, 107 or 108 and get off at Himeyuri-no-tō-mae (ひめゆりの塔前, 20 minutes, 330 yen, 1-2 buses/hour). By car, it takes about 45 minutes from central Naha.
Former Navy Underground Headquarters
From the Naha Bus Terminal/Asahibashi, take bus number 55 or 98 to Tomigusuku Minami (とみぐすく南, 15 minutes, 260 yen, 3-5 buses/hour) from where the Former Navy Underground Headquarters are a ten minute walk up the hill. By car, they can be reached in about 10-15 minutes from central Naha or Naha Airport.