Day 15 - April 18, 2019

I went here April 17th but learned that access to the gama (cave) is by appointment only. So today I'm here at 10 a.m..

I took a tour of a cave system that was used by the Japanese military forces during the waning days of the Battle of Okinawa. It was absolutely chilling. They were So desperate toward the end and their facilities kept getting more and more dire.

Photography was not allowed so I have to try to convey the conditions with words and it simply isn't something that can be described. To begin, it's a long, obviously dark, damp cavern with uneven footing, low hanging head-bangers,slippery sloping passageways... it's a CAVE! A small river runs through most of the 220 meter cave and a deep fresh-water well exists. Access to the well however was over a flimsy foot-bridge and it was incumbent upon the Himeyuri girls to do the toting.

The "Operating Room" was a naturally carved out rocky shelf that stood maybe 6-7 feet higher than the cave's main floor meaning that patients and staff had to climb or hurl themselves upward to reach it. Similarly, the "Doctor's office" was higher up and was situated right next to a kerosene-burning generator.

(And I used to bitch about working in out-dated buildings with inadequate space!) I think that ALL medical personnel should have to take the tour. Puts things in perspective.

Areas designated as "Toilets" were anything but a toilet. Just another ledge and there were 3-4 of those throughout the system.
When I was in practice there was a committee that decided which activities would take place in which parts of the facility. Can't remember the name of the (one of many, many) committee but was something like Facility something-or-other.

Well, I mention that because I think the most junior member of the committee would pee himself if he saw a 'toilet" juxtaposed to a fresh-water well and the water storage jars!!!

Go figger *SMH* The guide didn't say so but my bet is that those poor Himeyuri girls were called upon for latrine duty.

The kitchen area was along a passageway and there were three carved out "stoves" in which large woks were placed. Wood fires burned beneath those - in a cave. Two additional areas were cut out that were used as oven - for a total of 5 food prep stations. There were a few air holes that had been dug out of rock to permit fresh air and some sun light to enter.

Reflections from a survivor, Yoishiyama Aoiyama:

At the age of 17 we evacuated to Suivantagama which is located at the northern end of the line where the gun shooting starts. Without food, on May 25, we knew that the soldiers of Abuchiragama had moved to the south, and they also left the cave. However, a U.S. soldier came in with a gun. When he came closer he saw I was a woman. At night, when there wasn't any shooting I went out to find vegetables to eat. I was wounded by a U.S. soldier. I had a wound through my finger. I fled into Abuchiragama with my mother. In the gama a wounded casualty died. He was wrapped in a blanket. I used a lamp to illuminate my footsteps. Because I was wounded I did not have to flee further to the south. That saved my life."

Although the following video is in Nihongo there are a few photos of the interior of the cave.
The elderly man, Hibino Katsuya, is one of the seven who survived three months in the gama (cave, in Uchinaaguchi, the ancient Okinawan language).
He went on to say, "The next time I'm born, I'll ask for my mother to give birth to me in the age of no war, under the sun."

Sometimes I like to just take off with no map and nowadays no GPS and see where the road takes me. Some of my most memorable experiences on this island have been when I was "lost" and just happened upon one thing or the other. Happened again today but with a freaaky twist. Earlier in the day Mark Hardeman contacted me and suggested that I visit the Karate Kaikan Museum in Tomigusuku. I noted the information, location, etc. and said I'd give it a try. Well, while I was out toolin' 'round, what did I see? A blue-on-white road sign pointing me to... yup, you got it!

It later occurred to me that my speculation about who might occupy those tombs was pretty dumb.
There is no doubt that those tombs were there L-O-N-G before anyone ever dreamt of building a karate complex around them. Duh!


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