Okinawa Travel Blog

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View from the top of the hill outside the Underground Naval Museum

Our first introduction to Japan was not great. We arrived in Okinawa around 11 a.m. to discover that the Japanese wanted to "quarantine" our boat and they insisted that everyone be scanned before we could disembark. We were told that they were going to take everyone's temperature and they gave us assigned times for this...but since nobody on this boat can follow basic directions, everyone lined up at the same time, resulting in a mile long line snaking through the boat covering three floors. Luckily the temperature was taken (?) by walking past a scanning device, which was a very quick process. Being a conspiracy theorist I did not believe they were actually taking our temp, but scanning our souls, for use in some future plot.

Chips in plaster from suicide grenade blast
...ok, that sounds crazy and really we were just happy that they did not take our temps the old fashioned way. :)

Once scanned and approved we finally left the boat and headed downtown. Okinawa is actually made up of a chain of islands with the city of Okinawa on the largest island. It is tropical, about the same latitude as Miami, and it was hot and sunny all day. Once downtown we boarded the monorail south toward the Navy Underground Museum. Once at our stop we realized that the museum was still not quite on the map and we were concerned at how far of a walk it would be, so we jumped in a cab. I practiced saying Konichiwa and the cab driver smiled. We had a map that had the museum name printed in Japanese and English, which was very helpful. After dropping us off, (good thing we didn't walk.

Street performer at festival was quite far and we would never have found it) our cab driver very helpfully showed us where to hail a cab for the ride back.

I think it was important to tour the Navy Underground Base prior to seeing the memorial at will provide a fuller understanding of our use of the atomic bomb to end the war. The soldiers and sailors in Okinawa built this unbelievable structure deep in the earth for their Okinawa operations command. They lived there and operated this theater of the Japanese Naval operations from this base. The entire cavern structure and the tunnels were carved with pick should have taken decades to carve out this immense base, but apparently it did not.

River in Okinawa
On June 13, 1945, when it was apparent to the Okinawa commander that the Japanese were losing on this front, he telegraped a message to Tokyo extolling the virtues and values of the Okinawa people and their efforts in the war and then he and over 100 men used grenades to kill themselves in the underground base. The room where this occurred still has pockmarks on the wall where the grenade blasted bits out of the wall. This is viewed by the Japanese as an "honorable" death and there are many temples around the base and peace offerings in the museum where family and friends can honor the fallen soldiers.

Seeing this base made me realize how serious the Japanese soldiers were, how they intended to fight and fight and fight to the death and if they feared capture or defeat how they would simply take their own lives. Would the war have ever ended without the atomic bomb? I don't think so, and even though there were countless lives lost as a result of its use, we had to show that we were serious too.

While riding on the monorail on the way to the museum we noticed a large festival and after leaving the museum we headed that way. There were hundreds of stalls, lots of food, music and live entertainment and after strolling through and sampling many things, Brian and I decided it was the "Taste of Okinawa" festival or something very close. It was a lot of fun, the park was located along the river and with the sunshine and good food, it was a great way to soak up Okinawa culture.

We took the monorail back downtown and walked through the shops on the main street. There were countless souvenir shops, liquor shops and many things to see. Brian and I were looking for an internet cafe, and would have never found one, but for the tourist information office who helpfully showed us the way. We spent an hour on the internet, at least 10 minutes of which was figuring out how to change the keyboard from Japanese to English so we could type! :)

I enjoyed Okinawa and would return here, there are many other sights we could have seen, but we enjoyed just wandering around and soaking up life here on the island!

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View from the top of the hill outs…
View from the top of the hill out…
Chips in plaster from suicide gren…
Chips in plaster from suicide gre…
Street performer at festival
Street performer at festival
River in Okinawa
River in Okinawa
photo by: momiji