A Beautiful Park for Terrible Memories
Hidden away in a remote corner of the small island of Okinawa, Japan, there is a beautiful park. However, it represents something very ugly in history – the Battle of Okinawa. The 1945 WWII battle lasted 90 days and claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, half of which were civilians. It was this battle that prompted US President Truman to drop the atomic bomb to end the war and avoid another land invasion. The park was built to mourn those lost in the battle, share the historic lessons learned with the world, and in doing so, attempt to establish peace.
Okinawa Peace Memorial Park is a collection of several monuments, so I tried to get as many as I could in this week’s picture. The tower on the far left is Okinawa Peace Hall, which included prayers and paintings to honor those killed. In front is the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, with exhibits detailing the battle and effects on the people. In this picture, I would have been standing in front of Peace Hill, which features a large memorial arch. Not shown is the Cornerstone of Peace, Himeyuri Monument, and the Former Navy Underground Headquarters. The Cornerstone of Peace is one of the highlights of the park. The set of 116 black granite slabs includes over 240,000 names of people who died in the Pacific wars from March-Sept 1945. Now, a cooperation of several universities and computer graphics companies are developing an interactive program to better visualize the impact of the war.
The museum guide states, “The ‘Okinawan Heart’ is a human response that respects personal dignity above all else, rejects any acts related to war, and truly cherishes culture, which is a supreme expression of humanity.” This philosophy was developed from the war experience, and is a key to understanding Okinawan culture.
Do you like to visit any war memorial at times? What meaning does it hold for you?