Thursday, April 16, 2009

Himeyuri monument and odokomesu beach

Location: far south of the island; the Himeyuri monument is on the 331 at the Ihara intersection on the north side of the road, west of the Okinawa peace prayer park. Free parking is on the south side of the road. Snack and souvenir shops line both sides of the street. Odokomesu beach (ie Channel Crevice) can be reached by driving towards the water from Odo or Komesu intersections. Off season parking is free, in the summer it appears there is a 300Y charge.
Hours: Himeyuri peace museum 9a-5p admission 300Y, free on memorial day 6/23
This part of the island was the last holdout of Japanese forces during the Battle for Okinawa, so there are multiple sites of remembrance for the fallen. The Himeyuri moument is particularly moving and the museum is a worthwhile overview of the final stages of the battle. Himeyuri refers to girls from two prestigious nearby schools who were pressed by the Japanese military into service as nurse assistants in cave hospitals in the final weeks of the war. They nearly all perished, most after they were told to leave the hospital caves and fend for themselves. There is lots of English text to read, and the translations appropriately peg the blame for the tragedy on the Japanese military's strategy to sacrifice Okinawa and its people in order to slow an advance on the mainland. The surrounding grounds include a cave used as a hospital and are dotted with various memorial statues and attractive landscaping.
From there it is an easy drive to Odokomesu beach (video of the beach: The sand is rough and coral-strewn, but the beach is long and nice for a walk. At the east end, there is a path to a memorial at the base of tall cliffs, presumably the site of suicides at the end of the Battle of Okinawa. There are vast dead coral tidepools to explore, and off the shelf apparently decent snorkeling and diving. For those who plan to dive here, be warned that timing your dive with the tides is key in this location. Ideally, the water is low enough the easily find and swim out the channel cut through the dead coral shelf, and when you return it is best to swim back with an incoming tide through the channel.
If making a day of it, the nearby Gushikawa castle ruins are worth a stroll (discussed in another post). We did not visit the Itomansatsuki castle ruins on this visit.