CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER NORDELL

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World War II ended on August 15, 1945. In Japan the day is known as Shuusen-kinenbi (終戦記念日), which literally means the “Memorial day for the end of the war”. In 1982 the Japanese government issued an ordinance that designated August 15 to be “the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace”. What better way to commemorate this day than visiting the Peace Memorial Museum?

So if you can’t tell from the intro. this post was meant for last Friday. I had planned to visit the museum during the week prior and then post on it in time for the holiday. Life got in the way and we were unable to make it to the museum until yesterday. I am so glad that we took the time to visit the museum and surrounding park. The drive there was beautiful but a little long. Maps can be very deceiving. On the map it looked very close but when you are driving 40km even things that are close can take awhile to get to. I will admit that we added an extra hour onto the drive by missing the park and heading too far up the coast.

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The museum and surrounding park are beautiful. The surrounding park is large and right on the coast so there are many breathtaking views of the ocean. We decided that the park itself would be worth a trip back. We could have spent the entire day roaming around the park. After spending some time exploring the park we decided to head inside to see the museum.

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The museum was an amazing, thought provoking, and at times heartwrenching experience. It shed so much light on what the Okinawans endured during and after The Battle of Okinawa. I learned so much about the history of this island and the things that led up to the battle. The displays were very well done and even my 5-year-old daughter was interested in them, although she did prefer The Children’s Exhibition Room downstairs. The Children’s Exhibition Room is full of wonderful hands-on exhibits that help nurture peace and understanding.

I have been looking forward to visiting this park and the museum since we arrived on the island. I love that I was able to take my daughter and teach her more about the role this island played in WWII. I truly believe that we must learn from our past in order to create a better future.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, CLOSED Mondays and from December 29 to January 3.

Payment: Admission is ¥300 for adults and ¥150 for children.

Directions: Take highway 58 south until it becomes route 331. Continue south to the bottom of Okinawa and you will see road signs in English and Japanese leading you all the way to the park. Free parking is available.

Phone: 098-997-3844.

For more information visit The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

19 COMMENTS

  1. We just visited the park yesterday. Didn’t have time to visit museum. It was so beautiful!! Make sure to bring your walking shoes and water!! We just typed Mabuni into google maps and it led us to it. It takes about 45 min to an hour to get there.

  2. About how long does it take to see everything there? We want to go down for the Christmas lights but want to visit the memorial first.

    • It is a pretty big place. There is a bit of a walk from the parking area and then the large building you see in the picture on this post has 2 floors (I believe) that are open to the public. The indoor portion of the park can be as long or as short as you would like. If you are the type to stop and read everthing and watch the video footage they provide then the building alone can take hours. I personally stood at the big glass wall overlooking the water for a long time…so beautiful! As far as all the memorials on the outside…they are scattered all over the park and are erected in honor of certain groups of people by certain countries, organizations, etc. Again, it is what you make of it. We spent several hours looking at the wall of names and all the monuments. The post before yours by Ryan with the link to his vimeo page will show you a bit of what there is to see there. If it was me, I would make sure to be there by 2:30 or 3 to allow myself time to see everything before the lights come on. Hope this helps.

  3. We got lost a couple of times because we tried to take a shortcut. For those of us who hate taking 58 all the way down the island, here are directions from the expressway.

    Take the expressway south to the airport express. Take the airport express to A-2. Exit 507 toward Yaese (should be a left). Travel down 507 for a while, then turn left on 331. Follow the signs to the park. (Note: The signs are for Heiwakinen Memorial Park, not Peace Prayer Park- it took us about 4 passes to figure that out.)

  4. Having spent three tours there in the military,at Torii Station,I visited the site on different occasions,but never got to see the Peace Memorial until my return in August 2012.It was an awesome facility,but also a sad occasion to see my deceased wife’s fathers name on the wall.

  5. I just wanted to let people know that they do have activities for New Year’s Eve. I went this past New Year’s Eve and it was AMAZING!!!! I believe that the ceremonies that take place here are done in honor and remembrance of the lives lost during the horrendous battle that was waged in Okinawa.

    I arrived there around 9:00pm (which was early) and found the grounds lit up with lights and candles. In one area you are able to make a floating candle with your wishes written on it for the coming year and set it afloat in a little pond (very cool). Around 10:00pm people gather in the main facility for a remembrance ceremony. I don’t speak Japanese so I can’t elaborate on what was said but it was a very serious and respectful ceremony. At around 11:00pm people start gathering outside to start the fire ceremony. We were giving a torch dipped in kerosene and waited in line with at least 100 other people. The drums started and a large wreath was lit on fire (I think that the the wreath is lit from the eternal flame that is in the center of the grounds) and slowly lowered from the tower. This wreath was used to light a giant brazier on fire and then each person lit their torch from that. We walked slowly in a line to the drum beat. We went upstairs to where the peace bell is and marched in concentric circles following a large line of people. In the middle was a large unlit brazier. Once everyone arrived the drums stopped, a song was sung and then we counted down to the New Year. At the count of one the circle of people (japanese boyscouts)closest to the brazier lit it on fire with their torches and triumphant horns started playing. Also, at this same time fireworks from the nearby Itoman New Year’s festival exploded overhead. After the ceremony people lined up to ring the giant peace bell for the coming year

    This was truly an amazing and unique experience. It was a very meaningful way to usher in the New Year and something that I felt honored to be a able to participate in. I have been on island for over 2 years and I am always searching out authentic experiences, but I had never even heard an inkling of this amazing ceremony taking place. I stumbled upon this on accident and feel so blessed that I did.

  6. The Prefectural Peace Memorial Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except for Mondays and it is closed from December 29 to January 3. Admission to the museum is ¥300 for adults and ¥150 for children. To get to Peace Memorial Park, take highway 58 south until it becomes route 331. Continue south to the bottom of Okinawa and you will see road signs in English and Japanese leading you all the way to the park. Free parking is available. For more information, call 098-997-3844.

  7. I still haven’t been able to find a map that shows me how to get there. I prefer not to take the expressway. Anybody know of any directions?

  8. I’ve found the map on google Earth to be more helpful! I believe the road signs you’ll want to follow actually say Himeyuri Monument, or something very similar. 😉 It sits off of 331 a little ways, so you won’t see it before you turn off of that road. But once you turn, you’ll see the triangle roofs! Hope that helps! Here’s another site, that will translate to English in your browser! http://www.himeyuri.or.jp/info.html

  9. August 15 is commemorated as Victory over Japan day, on which in 1945 the Emperor of Japan (Hirohito) spoke directly to the Japanese people for the first time. In a radio broadcast he announced that Japan had accepted terms of surrender to end World War II. The formal surrender and end of WWII occurred in Tokyo Bay, Japan aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 when the surrender documents were signed.

    In Okinawa the more important day commemorating WWII is June 23, known as Irei no Hi (慰霊の日) or roughly translated as ‘The Day to Console the Spirits’. Every year on June 23, Okinawa Prefecture commemorates the end of the 82-day Battle of Okinawa with a formal ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park. The ceremony reflects on the sacredness of life, the primacy of peace and the futility of war.

    The Prime Minister of Japan (currently Naoto Kan) attends the ceremony along with some U.S. Military commanders and various government officials. Most of the attendees are survivors of the battle and their descendants, who are there to honor those who died in the gruesome fighting.
    Most schools and some businesses in Okinawa are closed for this holiday.

    Even though this is an Okinawan memorial day, it honors all those who died in the battle of Okinawa from all nationalities; soldiers, military personnel including POWs, conscripts and more importantly civilians.
    More people died in the nearly 3-month Battle of Okinawa than in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined.
    Nearly one-third of all Okinawans at that time died (about 100,000).
    Every year, names of people are added to the memorial when they are identified to have died during the battle, and that number exceeds 240,000, all carved into the stone cenotaphs.

    Many survivors of the battle, now elderly, gather at the Peace Park this time of year with their family to pray and express their desire that future generations know how terrible the battle was and that all wars should be avoided. Within the past week I have also seen several gatherings at small local monuments and shrines.

    Live TV coverage of the memorial ceremony on June 23 starts at 11:35am on the primary NHK channel (General). After the noon news on NHK the ceremony telecast will continue at 12:20pm. There will also be news stories about the event on the local TV channels starting at 6:15pm and NHK News 7 (at 7:00pm) and NHK News Watch 9 (at 9:00pm, with English translation.

    If you have not visited the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, you should take time to see the memorial and museum, walk the now peaceful and calming grounds of the park overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and contemplate the meaning and symbolism of the park and its monuments.

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