Shimuku Gama, October 27-28, 2015

After having found the Chibichiri Gama I decided that I wanted next to find Shimuku Gama. That is another cave in the Namihira community of Yomitan that had been used by the locals for shelter in preparation for the Allied invasion of the main island.

The Kerama Islands had already been invaded and seized and everyone knew that the main island of Okinawa was soon to follow. More than one thousand Okinawan civilians took refuge in Shumuku Gama. The outcome here however was to have a very different outcome than that which took place at Chibichiri.

According to a Pacific Stars & Stripes article of April 8, 2007, quoting Haruo Chibana (age 74 at the time of the 2007 writing), "Itís only by calming words from two men who had once worked in Hawaii that they all did not kill themselves with hand grenades the Imperial Japanese Army issued to them." Chibana was among those who sought shelter in Shimuku Gama.

The S&S article continues: "Chibana recalls the morning when U.S. soldiers with machine guns appeared at the entrance of the cave, called Shimuku Gama. 'People were terrified and screaming and crying voices filled the cave,' he said. 'Some people prepared to drink poison and others discussed how best to kill themselves.'

It was at that time that Heiji Higa, Chibanaís great-granduncle, spoke up. 'He told people in the cave that the Americans would not kill unarmed civilians,' Chibana said."

....... 'He told people in the cave that the Americans would not kill unarmed civilians,' Chibana said. Heiji worked in the sugarcane fields on the Big Island of Hawaii. To press his point, he called on his nephew, Heizo Higa, a former Hawaii bus driver, to back him up. Propaganda from the Imperial Army and the government in Tokyo depicted Americans as 'beasts' who mercilessly killed and mutilated their enemies and raped women.

According to several accounts of the invasion day, U.S. soldiers set up a machine gun at the mouth of the cave and shouted in English at the terrified villagers. 'There was a terrible commotion,' Chibana said. Then Higa and his nephew stepped forward. 'Thatís when the commotion in the cave calmed.' The Higas spoke to the soldiers and then convinced the villagers that they would not be harmed, and ushered all the residents out, Chibana said.

(In 1995), on the 50th anniversary of the battle, survivors dedicated a monument at the mouth of the cave to Higa and his nephew. What had happened at Shimuku Gama was a stark contrast to the fate of people huddled in a cave called Chibichiri Gama, in the same village.

'Among the people in that cave was a man who was conscripted and fought in China,' Chibana said. 'He brought back the military mindset with him.' According to survivor accounts, some civilians resisted the Americans with bamboo spears and were killed. Others drank poison after stabbing their children with knives, while others killed themselves with hand grenades."
[end of reference to the Stars & Stripes article]

Scroll for Photos and Video
Photos (except for the last two) and video by S. A. Mick McClary.
This is a small clearing near the road that leads to the trail into the woods.

I had set out on October 27th to locate the cave. It took me a good five hours to locate the trailhead and I walked a ways into the bush to find the entrance to Shimuku Gama. By the time I finally found the right path it was getting too dark for good photography so I decided to bag it and come back the following day.

So I turned back and made a mental note of the path. Little did I know that at the point that I decided to come back tomorrow I was only a few yards away from my goal!

What we see here are pix of the path leading back out of the woods.

So, let's go see it ! !

My faithful traveling companion, Dr. Bung, took a rest while I photographed the monument. If anyone can interpret for me and tell me what is inscribed on the stone marker I'd definitely appreciate it. You can e-mail me at

(I commented in the video that I thought there were fewer than 200 people in this cave. I was thinking of Chibichiri Gama. There were upwards of a thousand in Shimuku Gama.)

"Chibana stands before a monument erected at the entrance of Shimuku Gama to honor two men, his grandfather and great-grand uncle, who saved about 1,000 residents from Ďmass suicide."
(photo and caption: Chiyomi Sumida / Stars&Stripes)

"Haruo Chibana (left) and Akihiko Shinjo, Yomitanís Namihira District Mayor, stand at the entrance of Shimuku Gama, where Namihira residents used as a bomb shelter."
(photo and caption: Chiyomi Sumida / Stars&Stripes)