So today I decided to take a drive down to the Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. I’m not sure how many people know about the Battle of Okinawa that read this, but I did not know much before I came here. Let me say the people of the Ryukyu islands have been at the mercy of many governments for centuries and have not been treated all that well.
There seems to be a little misunderstanding out there that Okinawa is Japan and that Okinawans are by default Japanese. This is simply not the case. The Ryukyu people are as different from Japanese as Hawaiians are from Main-landers. So with that in mind, at the end of World War II took place in what became known as the “Typhoon of Steel”. The US forces and the Japanese army threw all their might into one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The Typhoon of Steel was a three month siege on Okinawa which claimed more than 200,000 civilian and soldiers lives. People were hiding in caves from the onslaught of the attack. Civilians and troops were fleeing US forces and scrambling from cave to cave. When it became clear that they could not win, Japanese troops slaughtered civilians or forced them to commit mass suicide.
This is from the pamphlet
“Whenever we look at the truth of the Battle of Okinawa we think there is nothing as brutal, nothing as dishonorable as war. In the face of this traumatic experience no one will be able to speak out for or idealize war. To be sure it is human beings who start wars. But more than that, isn’t it we human beings who must also prevent wars? Since the end of the war we have abhorred all wars, long yearning to create a peaceful island in our unwavering devotion to this principle we have paid a heavy price.”
This peace memorial was established to help the Okinawan people honor and mourn for those who perished in the war, and to pass on to future generations the lessons of the Battle of Okinawa.
I was a little overwhelmed, there was such a deep sadness to the place, standing where people were so desperate they took their own lives or were forced to commit suicide. We left a little early and I will return again another day, but it made me realize that we as Americans have never known that kind of anguish. We have never had to face anything like these people have. And they are kind to us Americans, they somehow have it in them to welcome us.
So I am practicing my Japanese and redoubling my efforts to be a polite and respectful visitor.
During the week I took my first Survival Japanese class and practiced out in the community, even a little with Sensei at the end of training. He tolerates my incompetence on many levels very well! He kept patiently trying to teach me to say ‘take care’ in Japanese…after two days of practicing, I finally got it right…wow!
So speaking of training, my muscles are aching and bruised, I couldn’t be happier! I am having the thrill of a lifetime training under the tutelage of Sensei. I feel so incompetent and awkward and a complete fool at times, he patiently guides me back. What an experience!!
So last week my friend Amanda and I decided to check out the Yomitan Pottery Village. They have this wonderful Ryukyu glass that is created from recycled glass. It’s gorgeous, so I ended up buying myself a couple of tumblers… they are organic forms and they fit to my hand like they were made for it!
Here are a few more examples of the free forms at one of the shops.
And as we were walking along looking at all sorts of pottery and glass ware we happened upon the ubiquitous Coffee Boss and drink vending machines. I don’t know how much I’ve said about these, but they are all over the place. I have two separate locations on my tiny little street alone. So they sell hot drinks, so hot you cannot hold them with your bare hands and cold drinks. I have discovered milk tea and it’s this weird chai tasting thing that is oddly enjoyable.
So on that note I will sign off and wish everyone a lovely Thanksgiving!