Sunday, January 11, 2009

An interesting detour.

I'm going to be dividing our day's adventures into two different blog entries, because it just didn't seem appropriate to combine them.

We ventured south again, looking for the shop where we found the infamous candies which were pictured on a previous blog. (More on that in another entry) However, as soon as we parked, a very nice Japanese man started urging us to head down the sidewalk about half a block, gesturing in the direction of a small crowd. His English was only marginally better than our Japanese, so we decided to just smile and nod...and keep walking. But when the crossing guard was also encouraging us to go that way, we decided that maybe the cosmos was telling us there was something we needed to see. So we went.

The first thing we came across was a flower vendor. It appeared that people were buying little bundles of flowers before proceeding up the path. When in Rome...

As we headed in, it became pretty clear that this was some sort of memorial. We assumed it was related to World War II, but at this point, everything was in Japanese...

As we expected, we found a place where people were laying the bouquets, in front of a larger memorial:

Eddie added our flowers to the display, and we looked over the railing to see this:

I couldn't get a decent picture, but that hole is basically the opening to a very deep cavern. We still weren't sure what we were looking at, but obviously something had happened here.

We went into the visitor's center and discovered that we had arrived at the Himeyuri Peace Museum, dedicated to the 240 teachers and high school students that lived in the cave during the Battle of Okinawa, treating the wounded soldiers until the Japanese Army basically told them "we're done with you, go away"...sending them out into the line of fire. 219 were killed.

The museum did not allow photography, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say that it was easily the most somber, jarring place I've visited since the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. It was particularly sad to walk into a room lined with photographs of all of the dead.

Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience.

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