Okinawa’s Peace Memorial Park

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Senbazuru–  A Thousand Origami paper cranes are held together by string &  according to an ancient Japanese legend,  it promises that anyone who folds a thousand of them would be granted a wish by the gods. People wish for eternal good luck, long life, recovery from illnesses or injury & my take is that the students from this Eastern Osaka Secondary School are praying not only for world peace but that Okinawa would not suffer horrendous devastation like that of 1945 ever again.

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The Peace Prayer Memorial Hall Complex  was opened in 1978 on Mabuni Hill in Itoman City which was the site where the Battle of Okinawa was fought. This was the final battlefield towards the end of WWII where the allied forces fought the Japanese in one of the fiercest fightings to go down in history.

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Bell of Peace stands on the right side of the memorial hall after you ascend the flight of stairs up from Entrance Square. It is rung only during memorial ceremonies when prayers for world peace are made.

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Memorial to Korean Citizens – This memorial is a tribute to the Koreans who were killed during the conflict.

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Within the tower of Peace Prayer Memorial Hall is the world’s largest lacquered statue of Buddha  measuring 12m high, dedicated to world peace. The memorial hall also houses an art gallery that leads to the sanctuary. This Statue of a Boy  is a memorial to the many young boys & girls who were killed in the  Battle of Okinawa.

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Looking down into Entrance Square & Mabuni Hill with the Park Information Centre on the right where there is a tram car service that takes you round the sprawling Memorial Park & to the National War Dead Mausoleum & cemetery area.

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Okinawa Kenritsu Heiwa Kinen ShiryokanOkinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum has different sections that  walks you through the years the Okinawans suffered from the atrocities of war to their struggles during American occupation & the difficulties faced with the switching of government powers in those post-war years. The testimonials of the survivors of the Battle of Okinawa are exhibited here & it is heart-wrenching  & detailed recollections of their painful experiences.

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The Clock Tower at Entrance Square & the path that leads to the Hill of Peace.

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The Battle of Okinawa was a series of battles fought in the Ryukyu Islands that centered on the island of Okinawa. It included the largest amphibious assault supported by naval & tactical air forces which lasted 82 days from 1st Apr to 22nd Jun 1945. Codenamed Operation Iceberg, this battle has also been called  Tetsu no ame – Rain of Steel or Tetsu no bofu – Violent Wind of Steel in Japanese. The ferocity & intensity of the fighting & the kamikaze attacks by the Japanese defenders on the Allied forces was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific.

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The former Ryukyu government initiated the creation of a Peace Park on this site but it was only after Okinawa returned to Japan’s jurisdiction in 1972 that full scale construction of this public park took shape.

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Walking down the Ritual Service Area which leads to the Hill of Peace.

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The Okinawa Prefecture Peace Memorial Foundation endeavours to make this park a fulfilling visit for all their visitors. It is a place to remember the war dead, to offer prayers for world peace & an open space to enjoy with the family. The foundation also hopes to promote the message of peace to the world.

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Peace Hill Monument sits on a sprawling lawn & this together with the wooded area on Mabuni Hill forms  part of Okinawa Senseki Quasi National Park.

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In 1982 the Japanese government issued an ordinance  nation wide for Aug 15th to be designated a day for mourning the war dead & praying for peace.

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Rock with the inscription  Heiwa no Oka – Hill of Peace. Even after 60 years have passed since the bloodshed in 1945, many bereaved families from other parts of Japan & abroad still come here to pay homage & pray for their loved ones. Though this is a solemn place it does not have an air of oppressiveness but on the contrary, exudes serenity.

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A stream starts flowing down from the Peace Park Memorial Museum and empties into this beautiful pond near the Cornerstone of Peace.

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Eye-catching Spring flowers like these pretty Irises (Hanashobu) & Water lilies adorn the pond.

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Heiwa no Ishiji – Cornerstone of Peace  was unveiled on 23rd Jun 1995 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa & the end of WWII in 1945.

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The construction of the Cornerstone of Peace comprises of wave-like black marble slabs that are laid in concentric arcs that resemble a fan from aerial view. Over 240,000 names of those who perished in the war are engraved on these marble steles regardless of their nationality, civilian or military status.

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The names run horizontally from right to left beginning with the native alphabets & place of origin & it includes Americans, British, Japanese, North Koreans, South Koreans & Taiwanese citizens on some 116 marble steles with 2,200m of text.

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The Flame of Peace sits in the middle of Peace Plaza & it was lighted up with fire from 3 significant WWII sites;  Zamami, the first landing place of the US forces in Okinawa & the two cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki that were devastated by Atomic bombs. Visiting Heads of State & dignitaries  would pay their respects to the war dead here.

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The breathtaking view of the  Pacific Ocean & the craggy coast line off Itoman City.

I must admit that I am not one who thoroughly enjoys studying history but Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park is definitely worth the visit for many different reasons. This is where you get an understanding about the tragic sufferings of the Okinawans & their indomitable spirits; the lessons to take away regarding wars that annihilates & devastates mankind;  to pay tribute to those who perished in the Battle of Okinawa & to enjoy the beauty & tranquility that truly befits this Peace Memorial Park. Let the message of peace resound far & wide … let there be peace!

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