Memorial service for victims of compulsory group suicide held at Chibichiri-gama

Memorial service for victims of compulsory group suicide held at Chibichiri-gama

In the afternoon on April 4, in Yomitan Village, at the natural cave "Chibichiri-gama" memorial service, bereaved family members including Tokuichi Yonaha (foreground) calmly hold their palms together in front of the altar provided in the cave (example photograph).

April 5, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

During the Battle of Okinawa, immediately following the U.S. military landing on Okinawa Island, on April 2, 1945, 83 residents of the island were gathered for “collective self-determination” (compulsory group suicide) at the natural cave Chibichiri-gama in Namihira, Yomitan Village. On April 4 this year, the Bereaved Family Association held a memorial service at the cave. Twenty-five people including survivor Take Uechi, bereaved family members, and concerned persons set up incense sticks in the cave, calmly held their palms together, and thought of their blood relatives who were lost in this tragic event 75 years ago.

This year, in a new style to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the service was only performed by bereaved family members and concerned persons, and attendees wore masks.

Tokuichi Yonaha, 77, from Tokeshi, Yomitan Village, who lost his grandparents on his mother’s side as well as his siblings, faced the alter and made an address in Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language) after offering incense. He said that even now, 75 years after the battle, “The seas, skies, land – all of Okinawa is an American possession. If we stay silent peace will not come”, and pledged, “We have inherited bitterness and regret from the victims who were taken [in Chibichiri-gama], we will not allow such a tragedy to take place a second time”.

President of the Bereaved Family Association Norio Yonaha, 65, responded to media after the memorial service and revealed that some bereaved family members participated in the service for the first time this year. He emphasized that as the population ages, passing on tradition to coming generations remains a problem, and said, “preserving peace is a major duty [of the Bereaved Family Association]. I hope these memorial services continue”. I hope that many people come to Chibichiri-gama as a place to learn about the preciousness of life”.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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