It is no secret that the relationship between the United States and Japan is a complex one, but living in Okinawa has provided me with a new perspective on the alliance. Okinawa has had a fairly rough history for such a peaceful people. On their own they lived in relative peace for many years until the Japanese stepped in and claimed them. With such a strategic location, it is no wonder Okinawa has for centuries now been a popular geopolitical asset. The impact this has had on the people here, however, has at times been no less than tragic.
I will save my international political rant on the current state of affairs for another day. Living in a foreign country while on orders from the US military has revealed things to me that I would never have found in a history book or on CNN. I have seen first-hand the results of international politics, but being an American has still allowed me the naive comfort of being sheltered from some of the worst stories history has to offer. Until I ventured underground in Okinawa.
This is the monument outside the Japanese Naval Underground, where the Japanese forces dug a tunnel system towards the end of World War II. The Americans were winning the war, so the Japanese Navy literally went underground. These tunnels were by far the most ominous place I’ve been in my life.
This is the room where the Japanese Navy decided that committing suicide en masse was preferable to surrendering to American forces. You can see the marks the grenade shrapnel left in the walls where many men met their deaths. It is a strange thing to be an American in a place such as this, but forcing myself to witness these places has helped me come closer to understanding the complex dynamics of the relationship between these countries that now mean so much to me. May we not forget those who came before us and the sacrifices they made to bring the world where it is today.
Two weeks ago, Casey and I decided to make good use of the little time he had left with me this month (he has been on a detachment off the island for most of February) and visit a few of Okinawa’s flower festivals. The Okinawans take nature very seriously, and their appreciation of flowers is both fun and admirable. We went first to Kitanagusuku, an area not too far from where we live, towards the Southern end of Okinawa; where the Sunflower festival was in full effect. With three beautiful fields of sunflowers, local vendors, and a singing troupe of face-painted Okinawans marching through the street; it was a fun event!
After spending time in the sun with these gorgeous sunflowers, we headed up north past the city of Nago to see the International Orchid Show! Apparently people had flown in from all over the world with the most beautiful orchids to showcase their hard work and the stunning diversity of the orchid plant. I’ve never been much of an orchid girl, but I was amazed by how perfect these flowers were. They almost looked fake! The show had everything from potted orchids to beautiful bouquets to huge displays of orchid forests! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (although I must say they did not quite capture it)!
After the Orchid Festival, we headed back down to Nago city to Nakijin-jo castle to see the Cherry Blossom festival! The cherry blossoms were not cooperating for the Okinawans this year, so many of the trees had not yet bloomed. However, the ones that had were gorgeous! I’ll post more pictures of the castle later, but for now, enjoy these gorgeous cherry blossoms!
We were exhausted after a long day of exploring the island, viewing millions of flowers. Through our Flower-thon, we came to appreciate the diversity of Okinawan plant life, in addition to enjoying the day with each other before Casey had to plunge back into preparing for his month-long trip. I miss him, so it’s nice to look back on a great day! Wishing you all happiness and the prettiest flowers the world has to offer! Talk to you soon!