Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Monday, April 06, 2015

34. Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Naha, Okinawa,   (Japan)

If it were not for Wold War II, we would have probably never heard of Okinawa. A furious, raging battle occurred near the end of the war showing the Americans how dedicated the Japanese were in defending their home country. The death toll during these few weeks is almost unbelievable. The U.S. lost about 12,000 troops during the battle for Okinawa; the Japanese more than 60,000 men. Half of those Japanese fighters committed suicide rather than surrender to their enemies. But the biggest brunt of losses came from the civilian side. Some 150,000 Japanese citizens perished, about ¼ of the population of the island at that time. A total of 225,000 people lost in just one battle, on a small, rocky 60 miles long and 2 to 18 miles wide island.

Busy Airport
The American President at the time, Harry Truman, and his Generals had to make a decision. If battles like this would go on throughout Japan, for each major city, with soldiers killing themselves rather than surrender, the death toll would be in the multi-millions. Losses would occur on both sides. As we all know, Mr. Truman authorized the use of 2 nuclear bombs to be dropped, one over Hiroshima and another over Nagasaki. Those bombs were not dropped viciously. They were dropped to show the highest authorities in Japan that Japan really had no choice but to end the war. The message became clear to Japan after Big Boy, the 2nd bomb, wiped out Nagasaki. By unconditionally surrendering after the bomb of Nagasaki exploded, millions of lives were actually saved even though the Japanese losses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were catastrophic. There was no defense to this horrific bomb. The Steel Tai-fun, as the battle of Okinawa was called by the Japanese, was one of the toughest battles in the Pacific Theater. It made it perfectly clear to the Japanese that the Western powers had almost unlimited resources to fight. But it also showed the Americans that the tenaciousness of the Japanese meant they would stop at nothing. They would rather kill themselves than surrender to the enemies. The battle of Okinawa was a watershed battle. One of the last huge battles fought in the 20th Century. It was a beginning towards the end battle.

I had the option to see the bunkers, the naval headquarters of the Japanese and kind of re-live those battle days with video clippings and museum displays. I don't like those exhibitions. No matter who “won” all sides lost young men and civilians who only followed orders of the misguided politicians at the time! All the battle glory will ever show me is the ignorance of a few misguided leaders. I ache for the losses and the hurt on each side, even today.
Town of Naha

We just walked the city of Naha, the main city near the U.S. Base that still occupies Okinawa. The Naha base is a defensive alliance sanctioned by both Japan and the U.S. This alliance was set up for the protection of Japan, who agreed to only fight in the future in self- defense and with the help of the U.S.

City Sights

You might ask who would attack Japan. Well, pay attention to the news reports. China is ogling the Senkakus island group. China believes those islands belong to China. This is no joke. This is a very emotional issue between Japan and China. China very recently changed their air defense zone around those islands. This change now overlaps with the Japanese air defense and already a show of power is going on between China and Japan. These are just a few small islands; just a few rocks sticking out of the ocean waters; why fight for those?
Looking For Oil? Gas?

Well, there is a belief that natural resources surround these islands. Natural gas and oil! Is it worth a fight?  Dr. John Friedman tells us “Geography is Destiny “. Change is the only thing that is certain. And if your home is in a geographically sensitive place, you will have trouble. Okinawa is such a place. Okinawa is the main island of an archipelago known as the Ryukyu Islands, named after a kingdom of the same name; a kingdom very old and full of complicated history. This island group always had a strategic position right off the coast off China, but was also part of the Japanese inheritance for at least the last 400 years. As in any conquest, there are always people already there when the invaders arrive. In the case of the Ryukyu Islands, it was the Ainu who lived there. When China, the huge China under the Ming Dynasty, annexed this archipelago around 1368 the aboriginal Ainu had no chance, they were just taken over. When in 1608/9 the Japanese Shogun, Daimyo Satsuma, saw the weakening of the Chinese Ming, he just took over. So is might right? China today is bigger than Japan, does it mean they can just go back to the year 1368 and say “It used to be
Many of These Fierce Looking Animals for Sale

China, we want it back now”? Be careful how you answer it. There is no easy answer to power struggles, especially when natural resources are involved. For now Okinawa, the biggest island of the Japanese prefecture Ryukyu belongs to Japan. What will happen when the world runs low
This Would Look Great on the Front Porch

on resources is another question altogether. What about the Ainu who are now Japanese? It is believed the aboriginal Ainu were those people who populated the Polynesian Islands throughout the Pacific Ocean. Latest DNA tests give this theory a lot of credence. Who knew? Well should the islands be given back to the Ainu? Politics are difficult at any time span at any age in history.
Submarine Keeping Track of Us

Many people on Okinawa today want the American base to be dismantled. That would leave the Japanese exposed to the whims of China. Is it a good idea none-the-less? Presently the base takes up 20% of the land mass of Okinawa Island. Many say it is too much land for a base and also environmentally harmful to some rare species of animals on the island and some coral reefs.

A Potent Drink

As always, there are many options and opinions. One thing is for certain, change is inevitable.

Okinawa will see some of those changes since they are in the center of the archipelago and close to any future actions from either side. I am glad I saw Okinawa as a nice, clean place with many happy and friendly people. My visit was short but as you can read, informative.
Sign on the Back of a Bus

Awwww. So Sad



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