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Japanese island a paradise for thrill seekers

Okinawa's past as an independent kingdom, its architectural wonders, diving spots and caves make it an attractive destination for visitors

By WANG XU in Naha, Okinawa | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-10-03 09:05


At the Peace Memorial Park in the southern end of the Okinawa main island, black granite slabs are engraved with the names of all the war dead: Americans as well as Japanese; civilians as well as soldiers. WANG XU/CHINA DAILY

The darker side

Besides the beautiful beaches and the thrills of scuba diving, the island also has a darker side for people to explore.

It has been 75 years since the Battle of Okinawa-fought on the island by US Marines and Army against the Imperial Japanese Army-but in the inky depths of a cave in Tomigusuku, south of Naha, the war memories come alive.

The cave was used as a command center by the Imperial Japanese Navy, where one can enter through a set of stairs, improvised for tourists, into a warren of dozens of rooms and shafts leading off from a few main tunnels burrowed into the soil by the sea.

Soldiers killed themselves by exploding hand grenades in the cave at the end of the war. When the cave was unsealed in the 1950s, the remains of more than 2,000 sailors were found. The blast scars from grenades are still visible on the walls.

Okinawa caves were the focus of the 1945 battle, during which 545,000 US troops stormed Okinawa in the largest amphibious armada ever assembled, bigger than the Normandy Invasion-the Allied invasion of western Europe, which was launched on June 6, 1944.

Soldiers and civilians alike hid in those caves. More people were killed in this battle than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, with over 200,000 killed, of which 14,000 were US soldiers.

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