旧海軍司令部壕

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters


Useful Information

Location: 236 Tomigusuku, Tomigusuku City, Okinawa 901-0241.
(26.186196, 127.676472)
Open: All year daily 9-17.
Last entry 16:30.
[2022]
Fee: Adults JPY 450, Children JPY 230, Disabled JPY 230, Disabled Children JPY 120.
Groups (20+): Adults JPY 400, Children JPY 200.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaWorld War II Bunker
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=450 m.
Guided tours: self guided, L=300 m, D=40 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes, enter the bunker from the exit.
Bibliography:
Address: Okinawa Tourism Convention Bureau, Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters Office, 236 Tomigusuku, Tomigusuku City, Okinawa 901-0241, Tel: +81-98-850-4055, Fax: +81-98-850-9342.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

AUG-1944 begin of construction of the bunker by the 226th Construction Corps (Yamane Corps).
DEC-1944 officially completed, but as it was too small works continued.
20-JAN-1945 Commander Daejeon assigned to Okinawa.
01-APR-1945 landing of the US military on the coast of Okinawa in Chatan and Yomitan, central area of the main island.
13-JUN-1945 the commanding officers of the battle commit suicide with the help of a grenade.
15-AUG-1945 unconditional surrender of Japan.
27-AUG-1945 U.S. army enters the tunnel complex to verify the death of the commanding officer, death of Ota Minoru and his staff officers is confirmed.
1952 government starts recovering the remains of soldiers.
MAR-1970 300 m of the passages restored and opened to the public.

Description

The 旧海軍司令部壕 (Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters) is a World War II monument to remember the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. It includes a park, museum and the underground bunker of the former Japanese Navy Headquarters, the bunker from which the Japanese Navy organized the battles during World War II. The bunker was built into a hill in the middle of the plane which was named 火番森 (Hiban Mui). As it was 74 m asl it was called 74高地 (74 Highlands) during the war. During the Kingdom era there was an outlook on the hill in order to know the arrival of ships from China and foreign ships as soon as possible. There was also an alarm fire located which was burned when an emergency occurred to alarm the neighbouring islands Kume and Kerama.

The first stop is the visit of the Former Navy Underground Headquarters Museum. It contains mostly photographs and documents. Materials about the former Japanese Navy, letters addressed to families, telegrams, or bureaucratic forms. But there are also some relics, like firearms and military uniforms excavated from the bunker. There are hoes and pickaxes for excavation, and items of daily life like kettles, water bottles, and medicine bottles.

The entrance into the bunker is a long staircase of about 105 steps going down about 20 m. The tunnels are curved and there are different levels, although the main tunnels are mostly horizontal.

The bunker was dug into the rather soft volcanic tufa of the island, some passages still show the marks of pickaes. Other tunnel walls were covered by concrete, for stabilization and to avoid falling sand and gravel. The tunnels are empty today, the content was completely removed, and in some cases its hard to know for what a certain room was actually used. The originally plans were classified and were later destroyed, the responsible people died in the fights or committed seppuku, ritual suicide. Many details were collected from the statements of witnesses, regular soldiers which visited the site for one reason or the other. It also seems the tunnel system was continually extended during the war, at numerous tunnel ends teams of miners were digging tunnel manually, with pckaxes. The location inside a hill makes the site especially strange, as there are tunnels numerous levels underground, which actually lead directly to the surface. It seems the deepest tunnels were actually at the same height as the surrounding land, most likely because of groundwater.

The maximum length of the tunnels was 450 m, only 300 m are accessible today. This bunker housed 4,000 soldiers during the battle, in other words about eight persons for every meter. The soldiers were sleeping and resting while standing.

We were really impressed by various aspects of this site. They actually have frequent signs which allow photography, in other words they support the documentation of the ecperience by the visitors. That's quite impressive. Also, they have a high resolution VR tour on their website which allows the visit even during Corona pandemic, quite a feat. We took a tour and enjoyed it very much. If just the topic of the site was not so annoying: war.

Japan was - in a way - lucky, as Okinawa is the only place in Japan where a ground battle involving residents was held. The stories told here can actually be told in thousands of cities and towns all over central Europe. However, for Japanese this is the only place to get some first-hand impression of World War II, except probably the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima.

Total deaths 200,656
Okinawa soldiers and civilian employees 28,228
Okinawa other participants in the battle 56,861
Okinawa civilians non-fighting 37,139
other prefectures soldiers and civilian employees 65,908
American soldiers 12,520