CONTRIBUTED BY MUNEERAH BEE
The Sakima Art Museum lies literally inches away from the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan. In fact, the land it is on used to be a part of the Air Station before it was returned. The museum opened in 1994, with the main focus of bringing a message of peace.
The permanent exhibition there is a collection of paintings by a famed husband and wife pair, Iri and Toshi Maruki. Together they painted gigantic art pieces portraying the horrors of war. The highlight of the series, titled “The Battle of Okinawa,” measures four by eight and a half meters and its sheer size and in-your-face stance seem to remind us that there is no escaping the tragedies of war.
The couple was from mainland Japan, but they went to great lengths to research and prepare for this series of paintings. This is evident in their detailed depictions in each of the 10 or so paintings, which are mostly dominated by dark, somber colors. In the museum’s catalog (available for purchase at the museum), Iri Maruki said, “We have painted Hiroshima, we have painted Nanking, we have painted Auschwitz but in painting Okinawa, we are truly painting war.”
I remember how it felt viewing artwork by my favorite artists, the likes of Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh, in other museums, but standing in the gallery among the works of the Marukis filled me with a feeling I’ve not been able to describe.
Designed by Okinawan architect Yoshikazu Makishi, the Sakima Art Museum is also worth visiting for its architecture. The rooftop is accessible to the public and I think the best view is when you are on an eye-level with the square hole at the top of the flight of stairs.
There is a certain sense of irony that comes with standing on top of an institution that aims to promote peace while looking at a full view of a military establishment. It is said that on the Memorial Day for the Battle of Okinawa (Irei no Hi) on June 23, the sun sets on a horizon that is aligned to the square hole.
Address: Uehara 358, Ginowan City, Okinawa, Japan
Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; closed on Tuesdays
Website: Sakima Art Museum
Admission charges: 700 yen for adults; 600 yen for junior high and senior high school students; 300 yen for elementary school students