December 26


Kochibara Akahigibara MonchuWe took a bus to the city of Itoman, near the south coast, and then walked to the 1) tomb of tombs of the Kochibara and Akahigibara Monchu (clan). The area of this complex of tombs is the 5400 square meters, the largest set of tombs in Okinawa. Over a period of 300 years, some 2500 people have been buried there. (We noticed that tombs in Okinawa are distinctive. They are almost like small houses.)




Shiraume no ToCape KyanWe took a taxi to see some of the scenery and war memorials in the South. First, we went to Shiraume no To, which is a monument dedicated to 132 students and teachers from a girls high school who had been mobilized to assist battlefield nurses. Next, we went to Cape Kyan (Kyan Misaki), which has a monument called Heiwa no To.The view of the cliffs and the ocean from the cape is very beautiful. However, the cliffs along here were scenes of a great deal of tragedy. Heiwa no ToThe American military pushed South, and many people were trapped and committed suicide by jumping off these cliffs into the sea. We also went to another spot that had some monuments in memory of the dead from various prefectures.



Himeyuri no ToNext we went to Himeyuri Park, a sad place to visit. It is the site of one of the caves that was used as a medical facility. The Japanese army impressed high school girls into service as nurses. They were forced to care for sick and wounded men in caves under terrible conditions. Himeyuri no ToSometimes they went onto battlefields to help transport wounded men. When the army retreated, it left the girls behind but would not allow them to surrender.Some 200 of them committed suicide. We could see the opening of one of the caves that was used as a hospital, and one of the caves where the nurses committed suicide. This memorial is associated with a group of survivors, and one of them talked to a group of people who were visiting the museum about her experiences. It was very moving, and some of the people were in tears, listening to her.Kenji no ToThe museum had artifacts from the caves and reconstructions of the caves, as well as pictures of some of the girls. They were so young. As I said, it was a very sad place. The next place we went to was Kenji-no-to, which is a monument to 307 teachers and students who committed suicide.



Okinawa Prefectural Peace MemorialWe walked over a hill (with great views of the ocean) to the rest of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.Peace Memorial Museum stepsIncluded on the museum grounds were memorial monuments for various prefectures and rows and rows of marble slabs, with the names of people who died in the Battle of Okinawa from each prefecture.Battle of OkinawaIn the museum proper, we saw displays about what lead up to the Battle of Okinawa, the battle itself, and the aftermath, including controversies related to the occupation of Okinawa by the US military after the war.  In one room, there were notebooks with eyewitness descriptions of the battle, especially its effect on civilians. Peace HallThe civilians of Okinawa suffered terribly during the battle, as much from the Japanese military as the US military.Peace HallBut when the war ended, they had more suffering, since the US took over the island and often took land for bases and other military purposes without sufficient compensation. >From the museum, we went to the Okinawan Peace Hall, which has a great Buddha statue, a display of art, and stones that have been gathered from various countries as a symbolic foundation of the statue.



GyokusendoWe planned to go to the Gyokusendo Cave, but when we got there, we found that it is associated with the Kingdom Village. You can go to the Kingdom Village only, or you can go to the cave and the Kingdom Village, but you can't just go to the cave, so we decided to go to both. Gyokusendo CaveWe went through the cave first.Okinawa is riddled with limestone caves, but this one is supposed to be the largest and most impressive. It is the most impressive cave I can ever remember seeing. The entire cave is about five kilometers long, and about 900 meters of the cave are open to the public. As you walk through the cave, you can see tens of thousands of stalactites hanging from the ceiling. (The entire cave has perhaps a million.) Most of them are small, but some are huge. There were also stalactites on the floor of the cave. Some of the stalactites and stalagmites had been given names, based on their shapes, or someone's imagination of their shape, anyway. It was a wonderful experience, walking through the cave and seeing all these structures.



KingdomRyukyu GlassAfter we emerged from the cave, we doubled back and when through the Kingdom Village. (As I understand, the cave runs under the village, so you walk under the village through the cave and come up on the opposite end, and then walk back toward the entrance.) The village features a variety of crafts, and we can see people working on the crafts as well as the products. We saw large buildings where craftspeople were doing glass blowing and making ceramics. The glass blowers made vases, chopstick rests, etc. The most common item made in the ceramics workshops seemed to be shisa (lion dogs). EisaIn houses more than 100 years old that had been moved from various parts of Okinawa, there were other crafts, such as weaving, dyeing, and paper making. In one shop, they made objects from snake skin. The traditional three-stringed musical instrument from Okinawa has snakeskin covering the body. We stopped for a little bit to watch the exhibition of traditional Okinawan drumming (Eisa), which also includes a dancing shisa (two people in a costume). It was very entertaining. We stopped by the brewery and learned a little about "habu sake," which is awamori made with a snake in it. (Not very appitizing, in my opinion. Kenji did try a sample, but I didn't.)



Sefa UtakiSefa Utaki altarsNext we took a taxi to Sefa-Utaki. (Utaki were sacred groves to the Ryukyuans, and the Sefa-Utaki were the most sacred of all.) At the foot of the steps, there were several small stones that served as altars. Since this area was so sacred, only the members of the royal court were allowed to go there. The people who were not allowed to go there burned insense or left offerings at the foot of the hill.We climbed up the stairs and followed a path through the forest. There were six sacred places. One was where they highest ranked priestesses were ordained. Another place was where prophesies were made. There is a triangular space between two rocks, and if you go between them, you can see a view of the ocean and Kudaka Island, which was believed to be the island of the gods.