I was running out of time before I needed to return my rental car to Naha but I managed to squeeze in one final bit of sightseeing at the Peace Memorial Park on the southern shore of Okinawa. The Battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest conflict of the Pacific theater of WW2 and the Peace Memorial Park is one of several memorials you can find on the island that honor the people who died in the battle. It was here that the last major pocket of Japanese soldiers on Okinawa was defeated, and tragically the nearby cliffs were also where many Okinawa civilians committed suicide by jumping to their deaths, having been convinced by Japanese propaganda that American soldiers were barbaric monsters. The memorial grounds cover a large area and I wish I had more time to explore them.
In the southern part of the park are individual memorials that have been donated by each of Japan’s prefectures.
At the heart of the Peace Memorial Park are rows of black stones with the names of the deceased carved into them. Both American and Japanese names are inscribed here and walking through this part of the park helps visitors to better understand just how bloody the Battle of Okinawa was. The total number of deaths is not known for certain but the estimates I’ve seen put it at around 200,000 to 240,000. Civilian deaths are thought make up at least half of the total.
Though I was moving at a brisk pace I soon ran out of time and needed to get back on the road. If I had another hour I would have visited the memorial’s museum (pictured above) and the Peace Hall but unfortunately that would have to wait for whenever I next visit Okinawa. This stop at the Peace Memorial Park concludes my collection of photos and stories from Okinawa and hopefully you’ve enjoyed these posts. Tomorrow I’ll announce where the next phase of my 2019 journey took place.