Friday, February 15, 2013

Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters and What I Learned from Visiting.

A rainy Saturday afternoon was spent wandering around in the underground tunnels and rooms that used to be the underground headquarters during WW2 for the Japanese. But it is mostly remembered as the place where the Japanese military all fled to and tried to protect during the Battle of Okinawa. So much propaganda had been spread about the Americans, that thousands of Japanese committed suicide here in these cramped tunnels, rather than surrender, including the commanding officer, who wrote one last telegram about the battle, and then killed himself. 
The commanding officer's room:
His last telegram: really humanizes a side of the war we rarely go into. 
It was all pretty eerie and morbid. I have never really toured a place in war history where all the narrative is coming from the losing side. Here I am in Japan, visiting their museum that narrates their struggle and gives battle charts that show how my country came in and beat them. I was expecting harsh feelings here. After walking around all the tunnels and seeing where they were defeated, we visited the adjacent museum, and I was touched to see all the photos of Americans that were included in the exhibit: photos of them helping the innocent civilians who didn't have much at all to do with a world war. 
I love this one. Doesn't this soldier seriously look like he is from some backwoods hick town and here he finds himself on a tiny island in the Pacific in a culture so different from what he knows? Or maybe that's not the story, and he just looks goofy. Victor and I like to believe the first story. 
I am living here in Okinawa right now because of the fact that in the definition of war, America won, and Japan lost. But being here now is a real testament of forgiving and forgetting. We are here in Japan now, because we are friends. Japan is now one of America's closest allies, and sure, there are a few people here who protest us being here (well, mostly the ospreys), but they are a small number, and even then, their protests are still polite and dignified. The Japanese are welcoming and wonderful hosts. We love being here and getting to know them. 

This is the view from the entrance of the tunnels overlooking the city of Naha. Naha was completely flattened by the war. It's now back to being a thriving and bustling city. And I'm glad it is. 

And on a completely unrelated (and nerdy) side note, as we explored, I couldn't help but imagine all those tunnels and military rooms as a more primitive version of "the Nut" in The Hunger Games. I know, I know, I'm a dork.

Anyway, we had a nice day, and it was another good Saturday in Okinawa. So much history here to be learned, and so much beauty to explore.

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