Monday, September 11, 2006

Two days and counting...

On Saturday, I went with a group of ALTs to the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum in the southern part of the island. It was an interesting glimpse into Okinawan history and culture. Okinawa is very different from mainland Japan and the people were essentially forced to become "Japanese" in the late 19th and early 20th century. Their names were changed and they were forced to give up many traditional ways of life. And then World War II came around and Okinawa became strategic for both sides. It is the site of the only land battle in Japan and the casualties were tremendous. What strikes you at the museum is how these peaceful islanders got dragged into a war for mainland Japan. There were 200,000 casualties once the fighting was done and over half of those were civilians. No village was untouched and the footage is heart-breaking. Families would hide in the giant tombs like those that I walk by each day. Children were killed for crying and potentially giving away hiding areas. There were abuses by Japanese soldiers and many civilians were kicked out of their hiding places in the middle of a battle in order to house the Japanese. There are monuments in caves on the island where mass suicides took place.

You expect to get a different view of history when you visit museums in different countries. Everyone has their own take. But at this museum, the focus really is rather neutral, focusing on peace and the future, not past mistakes. It is an excellent place to reflect by the sea. The markers point to the ocean and have all of the names of Americans, Japanese soldiers, and Okinawan civilians.

After our history lesson of the day, we headed to a fantastic Thai restaurant that took a bit of time to find, but was worth it in the end. After some naan and conversation, it was time for a short trip to the beach and then back to Naha. I headed back on the bus in order to be around the next morning for Theresa to pick me up for a good old-fashioned American breakfast buffet. Yum! (Thanks, Theresa!)

I have a short week at school because on Wednesday (!) I get to fly to Hiroshima to celebrate Ken's birthday. We're throwing a party with his friends and I can't wait to enjoy a feast and to meet all of these people I've heard about. And get away from Okinawa for a bit... the humidity... the traffic...

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