Friday, September 30, 2011

Real Okinawa Adventure...and because I am lazy.

I had a fun filled, cultural adventure this weekend and I got to have some great friends around me while Mark is off away in sand land. That is what I call it since technically I am not supposed to say. I take keeping my soldier safe and practicing good OPSEC very serious. OPSEC is a military way of saying, keep your mouth shut, it can affect the mission. Back to my Okinawan culture packed weekend.

Okinawa Prefectual Peace Memorial Museum
The men that Setsuko-San helped bring to peace.

On Saturday I headed out with my friend Anthea and her friend Stacie to go on the Battle Sites of Okinawa tour through Kadena’s ITT. *Side note, Kadena is technically pronounced Kah- deh-nah.* The tour guide was Setsuko-San and she was a survivor of the War World II battle that happened on Okinawa. Her family was held up in one of the many caves in Okinawa during the war and due to her mother’s lack of education (she notes) her mother could not be brain washed by the Japanese soldiers that told the Okinawans to kill their children and themselves. She was three months old when the Americans found her family and she feels it is her duty to teach the truth. Setsuko-San is truly an amazing woman. Setsuko-San also had a part in finding remains of fallen soldiers; she will continue to search always because the way she feels is that the war’s tragedy will never be over until the MIA have names and faces. Our 1st tour stop was Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. We were not allowed to take pictures inside and there were graphic pictures and stories. I only received a glimpse in to a world of war and lose. My friend Anthea did make a very valid point. It seemed the whole truth was not told in the exhibits but I am curious which side tells the whole truth? I was bothered while watching a video and coming to the part about the Tsushimamaru, a ship filled with civilians that were bombed by the Americans and someone said, “oops.” Oops? What would this person say about Pearl Harbor and a Japanese person said, “oops.” This comment was in poor taste and it saddened me. No one won, the Japanese own a land that is not theirs, much like America “owns” Hawai’i. We are still here, on Okinawa and on “Japanese soil”, and the Okinawans lost their nation. Countless lives were lost on both sides. War, necessary evil I suppose. The battle of Okinawa, for Okinawa, will hold a place in my heart. At the cornerstone you can find the names of all the lives that were lost. Setsuko-San showed us the names of the men she helped find within the last 10 years and were added to the walls. There is a monument to the Korean “comfort women” as well, though Japan refuses to apologize for the forcing of Korean women to lie down with Japanese men, being raped after being pulled from their homes. It seems there is much the Japanese government refuses to say they are sorry for. I cannot judge though, show me a “just” nation as I will show you surprised.

Next we had lunch at a lovely hotel, I was so ready, and Anthea, Stacie and I got to sit with Setsuko-San for added cultural info. Setsuko-San is a real spitfire. She was such a joy to have around. After lunch we made our way to the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, where Rear Admiral Minoru Ota made his last stand, along with many others. His ashes, and those of his wife, now rest where he died. Strings of 1,000 paper origami cranes line the walls on the way down to the underground bunker. They are symbols of peace and healing. A young girl affected by the radiation of the a bombs believed if she could make 1,000 cranes from paper, she would be healed, but she was only able to make around 960 before she died, her friends made the rest, and the tradition of the paper cranes continues. As I ducked and weaved through the tunnels I was taken back, seeing where soldiers slept and ate. How horrible it must have been for them, and in the end, only death awaited, by ritual suicide or being killed by their fellow soldiers. One room still held the marks from where soldiers took out their grenades and blew each other up.

 Each bundle is 1,000 origami cranes.
The ashes of Ota and his wife.

Caption says it all...
The tour also took us to “Sugar Loaf Hill”, the scene of a bloody battle now surrounded by shopping and roads. The DFS (duty free shopping) Galleria is right across the street. We also went to a cave around Yomitan where 83 people died, killed for fear that the ugly, “demon Americans” were coming.

 A soldier's diary
Final resting place of many Okinawan people
Sugar Loaf Hill Memorial

Later that afternoon I then went to the Devil Dog Derby Dames bout and saw my favorite team the Machine Gun Mollies give the Blitzkrieg Betties the Heidi ho! (What does that mean, I should know since I am saying it.) After the bout it was dinner time with the Collazo’s and we went well in to the evening chatting away. It was the perfect day. I also found out that even though a bathroom may only have one stall that locks, you best make sure to lock the other door too because this embarrasses some to walk in to a free sink but not a free toilet. Talk about double protection. You would think in a nation where squatter toilets still are the norm you wouldn’t be shy about sharing the room. I say this but I am also forgetting the nature sound button that you can press in many places to distract other people for your sounds and you from other people. This scenario brought to you also in a place where if you are at a bar or izakaya you may find yourself sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex. Luckily last time I had share a unisex bathroom it was with my friend Schuyler. I have now gotten past the point of caring about this since in Japan. I mean I haven’t seen anything and I also will go to the public bath so my modesty is slowly going out the window in certain situations.

The next day was the Shi Shi Mai O-matsuri! I went to the BX and had asked Kimie-San to dress me in my yukata for the event. I wear Japanese clothing every chance I get now. It was just a little festival where they had lion dancers and Okinawan musicians from the neighboring cities to perform. Food was sold and they had games for the kids. Beer, Orion beer, is a staple at an Okinawan festival. I had yakisoba and cotton candy that my friend Anth shared. It was a great time, good music, and we even got treated to a tarp to sit on by kind Okinawan ladies sitting close to us. Okinawan people are some of the nicest in the world.

I in my yukata (summer kimono) and Anth in her Haori (kimono jacket)

Festival video

I had a great time going on these tours!  It really is a relief to have someone do the driving for you and share things about Okinawa or Japan that you may not find out yourself, so if you get the chance to take a tour, I say go for it! Sit back, relax, bring a camera, an open mind, and yen, and let someone else worry about the rest. Friends make it better but it's worth making the trek on your own.

Ja, matte ne from the Scott!
Cause sayonara is when you truly are saying goodbye!

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