Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Okinawa Tomb Sweeping Getaway

Editor's Note: The following photo blog describes the creepy feeling an Industrial Worker of the World  gets in touring Okinawa, Japan, the scene of the U.S. military's largest, and bloodiest, invasion of World War II on April 1, 1945, and the justification for, a few months later, the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  

Okinawa Tomb Sweeping Getaway

On Sunday, April 3, 2016, Leona and I took a ninety minute flight from Tao-Yuan Airport 525 miles northeastward over the Ryukyu Pacific Trench to Okinawa, Japan. It was our first visit  there. Upon arrival at the brand new Naha International Airport, we walked a short distance to Yui Monorail, a fifteen station line that snakes its way through Naha from the airport to Shurijo Castle Park. 
Once Leona figured out the fare rate, we were on our way. The first thing we did was check in to our hotel; seven stops and twenty minutes away. We soon arrived at APA Hotel.
The APA is a hotel chain all over Japan with the CEO of forty-four years, Toshio Moroya (on the right) at the helm. Here he is with Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, Keiichiro Kobori, who has radically different ideas about Japanese modern history than one reads in the U.S. media.
As I turned to the tiny, clean bathroom, grabbing a magazine called Apple Town and a book by the CEO himself, I sat on my throne. What I learned inside was not surprising.  The magazine, placed in every mini-van sized APA Hotel room, says the truth is being withheld; that Roosevelt was a war criminal, in conspiracy with Churchill and Russia, to divvy up Asia and was to blame for starting the war between China and Japan. The magazine says MacArthur knew the Japanese were only defending themselves from Western attack and testified as such. Prof. Keiichiro Kobori had studied and published books in which he proved it.
 Behind the APA hotel is the Okinawa red light district. With neon lights blinking in tittie bars, taxis trawling the alleys for satisfied clients who've had enough, it was a cinch finding Orion Beer on tap and fried-noodle  for a midnight snack. We felt no danger from the clientele; Japanese are discreet in their carnal pursuits. Afterwards, we returned to the room, tended to my bronchitis, watched TV, and spent a restless night due to  my coughing. Maybe I could have used this aphrodisiac snake liquor medicine we spotted in a shop on Kokusai Street? Nah; I needed cough syrup. 

After a short walk from our hotel, we perused the tourist traps on Kokusai Street.  I had an A&W Root Beer. Along with Blue Seal ice cream (Foremost) these establishments have been quenching the thirst of American servicemen occupying Okinawa since 1952, not long after the April 1, 1945 invasion, putting sweet icing on their bloody cake. 
Just off Kosusai Street, you will see the Tsuboya Pottery Village. Okinawa is famous for its pottery and the stylized lion ceramics can be spotted all over the islands, The uncrowded lanes had dozens of unique shops. It was very relaxing and we enjoyed the scenery, not a throwback to another time, but a modern artistic spot for new bourgeois travelers.

After strolling and choosing ceramics for the home, we pumped water at the well and worked up an appetite. We knew exactly where  to go: Makishi Public Market for fresh seafood lunch.

Makishi Public Market is a row of covered streets with merchant stalls and shops lining the way. It seemed a bit antiquated, a throwback to the '60's, and many of the vendors showed their age. No modern fashions were to be found here but there were a number of second-hand stores and book shops. In one of them, I came across the 1979 theater guide to the Japanese cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Oy Vay! Wish I could hear the soundtrack!

 Another shop made a unique starchy peanut-tofu  pudding onto which you splash some sweet soy sauce and dig in with a tiny spoon. You can see the extent of quality control from the old-timer making filling one cup at a time. The mall was antiquated but it was not dirty or smelly at all. After buying a pencil, with a tip of a monkey head, we got another tip, from the vendor of cat related items, and we made our way through the uncrowded tentacles of the mall to Makishi Public Market food court. The fresh catch we saw was amazing.

 Now, how does that trick in the Chinese tourist book work? Let's see: Go up to the second floor. You will see a number of restaurants spreading tables out from of their kitchens. Find the restaurant you like and tell the waitress you want them to prepare fresh catch from downstairs. She will tell you which fishmonger is their favorite. Give them the card (above) she gives you.  
 They will deliver it upstairs, then you decide what style you'd like. We opted for half salted, half sashimi fish (the small orange one in the bottom right corner) and a small lobster broiled in butter, half of which will be put in miso soup. We also went for the sea grapes, a seaweed tasting treat like salmon caviar. We were set for the best seafood meal we would have since that dinner in Marseilles!  
Tip: Go early for lunch (around 11:00 am) for the best selection. 

Shurijo Castle Park 

At least it wasn't made of Lego! 

The castle they built from  plywood, and painted maroon, copied graphics, the copy, the respect of the native dressed security guards, without a hint of the destruction that took place there in May 1945, will last long after the perpetrator's flags are finally taken down from the American airbase on Okinawa. 

Perhaps this is one of the buildings that wasn't blasted to smithereens during in the Okinawa Invasion. Maybe they picked up the splinters and taped it back together.  
You shouldn't think it's cheesy-looking. The Okinawan culture was old and cultured with their own written language similar to Japanese. Their history goes back to the middle ages, and in one month, May 1945, it was obliterated. The U.S. tried to blame Japan: "They made the U.S. do it," Western historians say. The Japanese have taken care to bring back the memory of the beauty; not the pain. 
Many of the stones were still there, reassembled, although there was a lot of fabrication copied from old photographs. They did have the blueprints from past repairs to guide them. The rebuilt palace was finished in 2006. 
This is what one structure looked like before April 1, 1945.

Let the world know that there were Crusaders, Conquistadors, Totalitarian Communists, Capitalist Imperialist and Colonizers before there was Bin Laden and ISIS to destroy art, culture, and our world's heritage. Will Shurijo be protected because the U.N. says so?
Down to the cave in the mouth of doom... 

 The stalagmites, standing upright in the cavern in southern Okinawa, looked eerily like spirits in death shrouds. The underground water filtered the blood-soaked soil so they could make the local beer with it. I'm glad I was ignorant of the extent of carnage in Okinawa or I wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself there. 
Like spirits hanging in the wind, beauty, and a reminder.
...down down down in the gloom gloom gloom. 

All the Blue Seal ice-cream couldn't make the invaders presence sweeter. All the A&W Root Beer won't quench the murderous nation's throat. There'll be dancing and singing when the people of this planet send American capitalism away for good.
Where have all the soldiers gone, filtered through the mud and gore? Gone to crystal springs in caves, everyone.
Such beauty cannot cover the inhumanity of man to man in the name of greed. Look at this  entrance to the cave in Southern Okinawa. Who came in here to hide and escape? Who came in here to rape and murder? 
Back to the
 I decided to Google "Battle of Okinawa" last evening. I am glad I remained ignorant about the blood-soaked island in WWII's bloodiest Allied attack, an invasion much larger than in Normandy, on mostly civilian population, the fierce fighting they encountered used as an excuse for dropping the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; to reduce civilian (and Allied) casualties. It must have been cheaper, too, than losing hundreds of planes, ships, artillery, and over 12,000 U.S. deaths and twice as much injured and shell-shocked, 200,000 Okinawan and Japanese deaths, mostly civilian, and the Western propaganda blames the Japanese for being ruthless and using civilians as human shields. 

Bitter melon is the produce of Okinawa. It  is quite delicious but whether you have it as ice cream, tea, on a hamburger, in soup, stuffed or dried, it leaves a taste in your mouth that cannot be washed away. Our getaway to Okinawa on Tomb-Sweeping Weekend in Taiwan  is better for what I should have left unsaid, but there is beauty in the caves below the surface, too, and the beer made from the filtered water of the underground  spring was remarkable. For Okinawa and Japan, Okinawa's past cannot be "gotten-away" from.

Taiwan, 525 miles to the southwest of Okinawa, was spared hand-to-hand combat by the U.S. Why? The mountains of Taiwan? The amount of Japanese loyalty here? The millions of people here? Okinawa was smaller, closer? Or were they saving Taiwan for a retreat from China? 

      Like a sore throat from bronchitis, Okinawa will always be hard to swallow, but it is a nice place to recuperate; get your voice back. Take a sad song and make it better.

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