The Not-So-Old Museum

Few weeks ago I went to Haebaru Museum, one of cultural centres in Okinawa. One thing that immediately came to my mind was : “ugh, not again”. Because naturally, all museums are associated with old things, and old things mean boring things. But not this one. This is when I learned how first impression is not always the right one.

The first thing that came to my mind when I entered Haebaru Museum was the scent of Okinawa in the old days. It was something I couldn’t explain right away, since all of my senses were scanning the room at a glance. After a moment of observations, I finally understood why this museum has such strong scent of the past. It was everything that is being displayed.

Right after the entrance, I saw this big man-made cave, resembling the events happened in April 1945. As I walked into the fake cave, I immediately noticed 2 human-sized dolls reenacting daily-basis routines, like carrying bucket of water, sleeping on bunk bed, build a war strategy, etc. Daily utensils were also displayed.

Leaving the fake cave, photos and daily objects were exhibited in chronological order so it was easy to understand. Shrines and tombstones were also put strategically. There was a large panel inscribing the names of lost ones. Underneath that panel, rusty knives, guns, pots, scrapes of metals – some sort of leftover from the battle, were piled together forming an interesting display.

The other sections of the museum included postwar period, emigrant, and the life of common people. From tank wreckage to jukebox, toys, comic books, the invasion of the U.S. was undeniably apparent. Other apparent thing was the mixed feeling that I got from knowing the story about wounded soldier in Okinawan Army Hospital. On May 1945, Okinawan Army Hospital distributed milk mixed with potassium cyanide to the wounded soldiers who were unable to walk by themselves.

I got the chance to enter cave number 20. Unlike the previous one, this cave is the real cave used during the war. The staffs from Haebaru Museum are still trying to conserve the cave, or whatever left from it. The cave was small and damp, and I could not believe it when the tour guide explained that there was where the army did surgeries and necessary medical activities back then. Using only one candle, unsanitary environment, and sometimes even with no painkiller.

There are many lessons that I have learned during this field trip. Firstly, the horror felt during the war. Even without any knowledge about the war, I could picture what had happened. Secondly, the strong impact given by America to Okinawa. It can be seen from daily utensils used back in the day. Lastly, it was interesting to see the transformation of Okinawan lifestyle, from the packaging of instant curry to the school uniforms.

You can check other postings about wrong first impression here.

G’day !

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