November 23, 2018
In September, 2018, I received word that the old house had been torn down. It was a very sad thing to know about. As it turned out it was only the smaller attached auxilliary building that has, so far, been taken down. Having discussed it in a couple of Okinawa-related groups I encountered John Sholine who lives in Uruma who said he had not heard of the place but would check it out. When he went there yesterday he found that the secondary house - to the left of and attached to the main house - has indeed been razed BUT the main house remains! So relieved. Rob Oechsle did some checking too and learned that Taira-san, the owner, has received permission from local authorities to tear down the main house too but that hasn't yet occurred. Here's a photo that John took of the place yesterday:

...and a photo that Rob took a while back while the secondary house was still in existence.

On May 15, 2021, Rob Oechsle and a team of archaeologists, historians, and preservationists converged on the old museum building. Rob was on hand to witness their work and to obtain dozens of photos. The land-owner, Taira-san, will be razing the structure in coming weeks to make way for construction of a new home for his children and grand-children. Many of the old museumís treasured items, and in particular a beautiful butsudan will be removed and preserved prior to demolition.

Photo by Rob Oechsle

On October 27, 2015, a friend who lives in Kin Village, Mike Lynch, and I visited the Higashionna Museum. I had the pleasure of meeting the curator, Taira-san and his wife. Following the video is a set of photos from that visit.
Uruma City appointed cultural asset #36 "historic site" - Date of Appointment: March 1, 2005

On August 30, 1945, soon after the climax of the Battle of Okinawa, U. S. Navy Government Lieutenant Commander Willard Hanna opened Okinawa's first post-war museum, Okinawa Exhibition Hall in a small corner of military soil in Higashionna. Lieutenant Commander Hanna used a private home that had managed to avoid being damaged during the war to build his museum. He eventually expanded the building, constructed a Japanese-style garden, and even made pamphlets himself in hopes of helping stationed-and-future-American soldiers appreciate Okinawan culture.He poured his heart and soul into the revival of Okinawan Culture.

On April 24th of the following year Okinawa Exhibition Hall was renamed Higashionna Museum soon after governing power shifted over to the people of Okinawa. Higashionna Museum is the forerunner to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum; thus the official opening date of the latter is the date the former was transferred.

Lt Commander Hanna hired Okinawans to house the artifacts rescued from the rubble of Shuri Castle. He hired Omine Kaoru to be the museum's first director. Hanna believed that the entire museum operation needed to be run by Okinawans, not Americans. Omine, who later gained greater recognition as president of Daito Sugar Company, Hanna, and a handful of other Okinawans wasted little time in scouring the island for surviving artifacts.

So, after introductions and some attempts to explain my interest in the museum to Taira-san,
he opened the gate and allowed us inside to tour the house.

Mike photographs an interpretive tablet in front of the old Higashionna Museum.
What is written in English on the placard is what I have written in italics above.

Shisa standing guard over the decades - come wind, rain, typhoon, or fair weather, shisa does his duty faithfully

During a recent typhoon the roof sustained damage to some of the original tiles. That style of tile is no longer in commercial production so Taira-san made replacement tiles by hand and did some repair to the white concrete support structure. Note the brighter white where he did the repair.

You can see how badly the need is for some landscaping TLC

Badly overgrown with weeds

The beauty of the original garden work is still evident

This was my skinned shin shot!

Interior views of the house that used to contain the artifacts included in the original displays. Those pieces are now in the Prefectural museum in Naha.

Pretty austere now...

Intricate woodwork

It's still a beautiful structure!

Empty butsudon

See the Higaonna Museum Restoration Project on Facebook.
As things turned out there was no restoration and the place has been bull-dozed into oblivion. I'm sad about that.
I began the "restoration project" with hopes of bringing it back to life but it never got anywhere. Maybe if I were living on island...

Other Resources:

The Old Higashionna Village Museum

The Weekly Okinawan article 23 Jan 1946 (click your "Back" button after reading it)

Decorative table inside Higaonna Museum in Ishikawa, Okinawa shortly after its opening in September 1945

Exterior of the Higaonna Museum "

Exterior of the museum "

Shelf holding vases inside "

Buddhist shrine inside "

Small shrine inside Higaonna Museum "

Exterior of the museum "

Ornate table inside the museum "

Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum

Remembering Okinawa

Enkakuji Temple Bell