Okinawa in Depth
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Discover Okinanwa’s embattled past with a visit to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. In 1945, a fierce battle took place on these islands—a "typhoon of steel" that lasted 90 days and decimated the island’s physical landmarks, rich cultural legacy and 200,000 people. The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground fighting fought on Japanese soil and was also the largest-scale campaign of the Asia-Pacific War. Even Okinawa’s civilians were fully mobilized. A significant aspect of the Battle of Okinawa was the great loss of civilian life. Under the most desperate circumstances, Okinawans directly experienced the tragedy of war, and it is this experience that is at the center of the "Okinawan Heart"—the term that describes a resilient attitude towards life that the Okinawan people have developed, where personal dignity is respected above all else. Okinawans reject any acts related to war and cherish their own culture. The Cornerstone of Peace, located of the Hill of Mabuni where one of the fiercest battles took place, stands as a symbol of the tragic loss. At Memorial Park you will glimpse the numerous marble memorials that dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Next you will walk through the amazing Gyokusendo Cave, located in the Okinawa World theme park. It is a two-mile-long cave renowned for its intricate limestone formations and is the largest cave of its kind in Asia. With 900,000 stalagmites and stalactites and underground streams, the cave offers exquisite and mysterious scenery along its dimly lit path. Stop at Shurijo Castle to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It shows strong Chinese architectural influence because Okinawa’s ancient Ryukyu Kingdom was a vassal state of China. The castle is a unique mixture of Japanese and Chinese styles and 19 structures originally stood within its walls. It was the residence of the King and the seat of local government until 1879, when Okinawa was made a prefecture of Japan. The castle was obliterated during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 but, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Okinawa to Japan, the Japanese Government rebuilt Shurijo Castle. It was opened to the public in 1992. West of the castle stands the Shureimon Gate—the ancient portal used for welcoming the Chinese ambassador. It was rebuilt in 1958. Finally, enjoy a brief introduction to Naha’s commercial heart with a drive along Kokusai Street. You’ll pass hotels, department stores, restaurants and theaters and enjoy free time to stroll through this area that combines cosmopolitan flavor with genuine folk appeal. You will find souvenirs and other unique goods for sale in the local stores.