Memorial service held in Chibichiri Gama marks 67 years since the Battle of Okinawa
April 2, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo
An incident of group suicide (shudan jiketsu), in which the Japanese military ordered or compelled 83 civilians to commit suicide occurred at Chibichiri Gama (a natural cave) in Namihira, Yomitan Village on April 2, 1945 soon after the U.S. forces landed on the main island during the Battle of Okinawa. On April 1, the Bereaved Families Association held a memorial service at the gama to mark the anniversary of this tragic incident. About 20 members of bereaved families gathered and prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died, pledging to strive to create peace.
After sweeping around the entrance of the gama, the family members made on offering of Okinawan food and placed a floral tribute inside the dimly lit cave. They then commemorated the deaths of the victims by offering incense sticks. Even though 67 years have passed since the end of World War II, and despite the scenery around the gama having changed during that time, it still exists as a horrible memory for the bereaved families, some of whom wept as they recalled the past.
Ninety-two year-old Kamado Chibana of Yomitan Village, who miraculously survived the war, lost her son, Giichi Chibana, who was four years old at the time, in the gama. Chibana quietly said, “I cannot forget my son; he was a lovely child. I really hope that he rests in peace.”
Norio Yonaha, a member of the Bereaved Families Association referred to the current trend not to describe the Imperial Japanese Army’s cruel treatment of the local citizens in the Battle of Okinawa in explanatory plates at battle sites or in textbooks, saying, “This perverts historical facts and reflects the recent trend toward militarism, which I find rather frightening. Some of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa have been involved in wars. I would like Chibichiri Gama to become a place to promote peace and prevent the sort of tragedy that happened here from being repeated.”
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)
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