(Oct. 5, 2009)
by Ken Sonohara, Chief Curator
For about three months from March 1945, when the Asia-Pacific War was in its final stage, Okinawa became the site of the last decisive battle between Japan and the United States. With the entire population of Okinawa mobilized for the building of airstrips and battle positions, civilians were heavily involved in the fierce ground fighting. A total of 200,656 lives were lost in the battle, including 94,000 Okinawan civilians as well as Japanese military personnel from Okinawa and other prefectures, U.S. servicemen and others.
Based on these facts, Okinawa Prefecture opened the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum in June 1975 so that visitors could understand the Battle of Okinawa from the perspective of the local people, and grasp the folly and brutality of war and the importance of peace. In 2000 it was relocated to the present site and a new, larger facility was established.
There remains little material evidence to convey the reality of the Battle of Okinawa in which civilians fled desperately from the battlefield with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. The testimonies of those who experienced the fighting, the "Words of Survivors" relating the unforgettable experiences that have haunted their lives, constitute the core of the museum. The historical exhibition ranges from Japan's forcible annexation of Ryukyu (Okinawa's former name) in 1872 to its reversion to the Japanese administration from the U.S. in 1972. The exhibits are arranged on five themes such as "Road to the Battle of Okinawa," "Battleground of Hell," and "Personal Testimonies." A 13-minute film featuring actual footage of the battle is also shown.
"The Cornerstone of Peace" that stands adjacent to the museum was built in 1995 by the prefecture. Inscribed on the stone slabs, regardless of nationality, both military and civilian, are the names of over 240,000 people who perished here and Okinawans who fell in other Asia-Pacific War theaters. The Cornerstone, together with the museum, confronts visitors with the reality of the Battle of Okinawa, and touches them with the spirit of peace.
Address: 614-1 Mabuni, Itoman City, Okinawa, Japan
Closed: December 29-January 3
Admission: Adults: 300 yen: Elementary students-university students: 150 yen; Group discounts available
(Originally published on September 21, 2009)
The exterior of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum (© Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum)
Room 1, "Road to the Battle of Okinawa," explains Okinawa's history and the background leading up to the battle.(© Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum)
Room 4, "Personal Testimonies," shows the written testimonies of 154 survivors and the videotaped testimonies of 580 survivors. (© Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum)
Photos taken after the Battle of Okinawa and donated by an American as well as articles left by the deceased were displayed in the Exhibition of Newly Acquired Articles held last June. (© Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum)
Inscribed on the Cornerstone of Peace adjacent to the museum are the names, regardless of nationality, both military and civilian, of over 240,000 people who perished here and Okinawans who fell in other Asia-Pacific War theaters. (© Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum)