April 14th, 2016 - Day 12 - Docked at Naha (Okinawa), Japan

We woke up cruising The East China Sea.

We enjoyed breakfast at the Grand Dining Room.  It is always relaxing to sit there as Jim drinks his coffee Pat drinks her green tea.

Our tour today  is the Battle of Okinawa.  We drove to the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters which took approximately 30 minutes.  Our guide is Yoko Tanaka.  It was a little hard to understand her English.

The Headquarters is dug into a hillside outside of Naha city and is one of the islands most somber reminders of the bloody Battle of Okinawa.  In 1944, the Japanese Navy Corps of Engineers dug a 450 meter simi-circular  tunnel complex to serve as an underground headquarters.

Towards the end of the battle, as things began to get hopeless, the commanding officer,  General Minoru Ota, and 175 of his staff committed suicide in the tunnels. In 1970, most of the tunnels were restored and opened up for the public.

Inside the Headquarters there is a museum as well as the tunnels themselves. The museum has a complete translation of the message left by Admiral Ota just before he killed himself.  In this message, General Ota details the sacrifice of the Okinawan people and asks that they be given “special consideration” by the Japanese government.

After we looked through the small museum, we walked down 105 stairs to the Headquarters.  Walking through the corridors of the tunnels, it really strikes you how much intense work was put into digging out these tunnels and caves considering it was all done by hand. You can distinctly see the  marks left by the pick axes.

Not all of the Headquarters has been restored, but you can walk through about 300 meters of the original 450 meters. Among the rooms, there is the Commanding Officer’s room where General Ota left his final message and a staff room where you can clearly see the holes in the walls left by the shrapnel from a hand grenade when someone committed suicide.

Our next stop was to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park which is located on a very large site on Mabuni Hill where the Battle of Okinawa came to a bitter end and where the most bloodshed occurred.

There are  a number of separate memorials including the Okinawa Peace Hall, a large tower erected in 1978 which holds a 12m-high statue dedicated to world peace.

Nearby is a memorial to Korean citizens killed during the conflict. The National War Dead Peace Mausoleum built in 1970 holds the ashes of over 180,000 people.

The Cornerstone of Peace (Flame of Peace) is fed by flames from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as a flame from Zamami, where US forces first landed on Okinawa in 1945. The flame is in the center of a circular pond and is where visiting heads of state come to pay their respects to the dead.  

The Cornerstone of Peace is a semi-circular avenue of stones engraved with the names of all the dead in the Battle of Okinawa regardless of nationality.  This was very moving seeing everyone's name that had died in the Battle of Okinawa.

The Memorial Path includes 32 memorial monuments as well as the place where Lieutenant General Ushima committed suicide.

Then we went into the red tiled building that is The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.  The museum's aims are to promote peace through the study and research of the deadly events that took place in  Okinawa and which saw the deaths of 240,000 people both civilian and military in the latter days of the Pacific War in 1945.

The fist floor has a Children's exhibition room, Peace Memorial Hall and a information library, as a way of looking toward the future.

The second floor has exhibition rooms to study the Battle of Okinawa.

Exhibit Room I starts with the history of Okinawa when it used to be the Ryukyu Kingdom. Then, you learn about the major wars from Meiji period (1868-1912) to Showa Period (1926 -1989), and how U.S. Forces fought their way to the Battle of Okinawa.

Exhibition Room II The battle of the Okinawa as seen by Okinawan residents.  The Typhoon of Steel which  lasted about three months, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 civilians and soldiers and even changing landscape of the island.

Exhibition Room III The Battle as seen by residents.  Residents taking refuge in a cave. A mother pressing her hand over her baby's mouth to prevent it from crying under the threatening eyes of the Japanese soldiers.

Exhibition Room IV Testimonies.  These are the eyewitness accounts as told by survivors. They started to talk about their experiences in order that their testimonies may be passed on to future generations.  These testimonies speak the very truth of history. They were very moving accounts from children and adults of what they saw and experienced.  It was heartbreaking to read these personal testimonies.

Exhibition Room V Keystone of the Pacific.  Okinawa's postwar history began in the refugee camps in 1945. There was a street scene of the town near a military base in Vietnam war era in the late 60s as well as storefronts to see what life was like after the war.

Then we drove about 10 minutes to see the Himeyuri Statue and monuments.

Himeyuri is the nickname for the Okinawa Women's Normal School and the First Women's Prefectural High School. On March 23, 1945 as the US military started their landing operation on Okinawa, the 240 people (222 students and 18 teachers) at the school were mobilized for the battle. The students and teachers were to provide medical assistance and anything else that the wounded soldiers would need while the battle raged. Worsening conditions subjected the students and staff to hideous conditions.

On June 18 as the US forces approached, the students were suddenly dismissed. With nowhere to go many students killed themselves or were killed in the siege. Of the 240 students and faculty, 227 ultimately perished. More than 120,000 Okinawans died.

You can walk around the gardens outside and enjoy the peace and serenity and listen to the birds and try to imagine what a horrifying experience those people had. May it never happen again.

We then drove 45 minutes back to the ship. 

Before our departure from Naha, Japan we had the Immigration authorities conduct a mandatory face-to-face inspection in the Insignia Lounge as we got back on to the ship from our tour. We were required to bring our passports to be presented to the immigration officers in order to be stamped out from Japan.  They are such polite people.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had 2 appetizers the first was carpaccio of salt crusted, roasted beet root with truffle vinaigrette and his second was Jacques' favorite sausage Lyonnaise over warm potato salad.  Although it was not like potato salad we think of it had several small oblong potatoes.  For his main course he had five peppercorn filet steak with light Brandy sauce and Anna potatoes that he sent half back because it was bad beef.  This was the first time he didn't like the beef.

Pat had Brittany Veloute' artichoke with sour cream soup which was very good.  For her main course she had tiger crusted shrimp in sauce with garlic rice that was very tasty.

For dessert we shared three chocolate profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  The chef recommended this dessert to us tonight as he stopped by.  It was very good.

While we were enjoying our dinner and wine the lights turned off and the generator kicked in.  Jim started to imagine that it was more serious than it was.  After about 10 minutes the cruise director came on and said we had a power outage and that it was not serious and they were working on it.  We were dead in the water waiting for the problem to be fixed.  The lights came back on after about 20 minutes and the engine started.  We asked our waiter, Oka from Indonesia, if he had experienced this before. He said yes when there had been a fire.  Luckily that was not the problem.  It was kind of exciting for Pat as it was a little different night.

Goodnight as we sail away from Okinawa to cruise the Philippine Sea!