Okinawa is an island marked by World War II history. There are many places of meditation and remembrance you can go to honor the war victims and to learn about history.
But the Japanese have found such a wonderful way to teach about the history of war on Okinawa and also create a place of peace and meditation. The last battle of Okinawa took places in the hills of Mabuni, Itoman and was it was a fierce battle. Today that same battle ground is transformed into a beautiful park that celebrates the astonishing beauty of the island and memorializes the important historical events that happened here. At Peace Memorial Park Itoman, Okinawa's astonishing nature can be enjoyed and the history of war silently pondered upon.
Here are five ways to get the most out of your visit to Heiwa-Kinen Koen.
1. The Prefectural Monuments
Photo by David Pursehouse on FlickrArriving at the park you might want to cross the big grassy plain first and look at the cliff and the ocean but I want to show you the best way to start off your visit here. As you approach the grass, signs already point up the hill to the monuments of the prefectures. I encourage you to take that little hike up the hill to a beautiful park of 50 memorials dedicated to peace, fashioned by the other Japanese prefectures.
Here the view of the ocean is the most breath taking and stone benches and covers from the sun allow you to spend a little time to enjoy nature.
2. The Cornerstone of Peace
Photo by Stefan Krasowski on FlickrComing back down the hill you will automatically see the Cornerstone of Peace. The rows upon rows of beautiful monument walls (of which there are 117 total) display the names of those that have fought and fallen here. Okinawa was the only land battle in Japan in World War II and many civilians died as well. The cornerstone of peace reminds the visitor to pray for peace, to pass on the lessons of war and to meditate and learn from the past. This is truly a wonderful way to honor the individual people that have died in the war.
3. The Okinawa Peace Hall
Photo by Stefan Krasowski on FlickrAs you stroll through the park, passing by the eternal flame and view on the cliffs, you will notice the high tower to your left. Make sure you visit the tower. It’s the top of the Okinawa Peace Hall where you can enjoy art, paintings and pray at the Okinawan Peace statue. Other reminders of peace can be found here like the Bell of Peace and the Bronze Statue of a Boy, to honor the many students that were killed in the war.
4. The Peace Memorial Museum
Your next stop should definitely be the museum. Here the history of the war can be relived through pictures, videos and displays. This exhibition I personally find the best I have ever been to. It begins with the story of the struggle over the Ryukyu Islands, the happenings of the war and how life changed after the war. You can even visit a little Okinawan town from the seventies where Western and Okinawan lifestyles meet. A great museum which only costs 300 yen admission. I go often and always like to see it again.
5. The Observatory Tower
There are many other attractions you can see. Visit the library, the many lookout and meditation spots. Those are great. One of my favorite ones though is the Observatory Tower on top of the Museum building. This is usually my last stop of the visit and I just enjoy seeing the broad fields of the park, the open grass where families have picnics and kids play soccer.
This is another thing I really appreciate about the Peace Memorial Park. It's big and there is a lot of room. The park management invites people to come and spend their free time here. There is life here again, there is meditation and remembering but there is also celebration of the peace and freedom we live in today.
The Peace Memorial Park Itoman is a must visit when you come to this beautiful island and it will not disappoint. Come out to Mabuni to see the beauty and peace of Heiwa-Kinen Koen.
Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum
614-1 Mabuni, Itoman City, Okinawa, Japan, 901-0333