The beginning fall in Okinawa brought some slightly less humid and cooler temperatures. To mine and Ben's delight, it was finally nice enough to do some outside exploration! On Ben's personal Oki bucket list was the Tomori Stone Lion, the oldest shisa dog in Okinawa built in circa 1600. While that in and of itself is a cool reason to visit it, this particular shisa dog was also used by US troops during WWII in the Battle of Okinawa as an observation point. After visiting the site, it was quite easy to see why this location was used as a lookout spot, it's a very steep hill with views that stretch on for miles.
Due to the intense fighting that occurred in and around this area, the Tomori Stone Lion is covered in visible bullet holes and craters from shell fragments. I'll be the first to admit that this shisa dog doesn't have much of a wow factor when it comes to it's appearance. However, it's pretty remarkable how well this statue has held up considering that it not only sustained heavy WWII damage but it's also been exposed to the elements for roughly 400 years. After centuries of typhoon, erosion, and salt damage (a common problem on islands), it's amazing that the Tomori Stone Lion still even resembles a shisa dog!
There is a historic photo from the Battle of Okinawa (shown below) which predominantly features the Tomori Stone Lion. It depicts many US troops seeking cover behind and nearby the shisa dog while making observations. Ben and I decided to take our own "present day" picture for comparison which was very eye opening. While the Tomori Stone Lion has stayed more or less the same, the surrounding vegetation and atmosphere could not be more different today. The fierce battle that was raging on in 1945 completely obliterated any vegetation in this area whereas today it is a lovely little park with many large, shady trees and foliage. It seemed very probable that this site was hallowed ground, so although Ben and I had quite a bit of fun exploring this overlook, we made sure to take a moment or two to pay our respects.
Since Ben and I were already pretty far down south to visit the Tomori Stone Lion, we figured that on our way back home we'd take a pit stop in the city of Naha to poke our heads around. We ended up at the famous Tsuboya Pottery Street, a site on my Oki bucket list, which features many hand crafted Okinawan pottery shops along a cobblestone street. Naturally, I loved every bowl, mug, and serving dish I saw but unlike the Yomitan Pottery Village these home goods were a little out of my budget... I saw plates being sold for $60! If I could guarantee that this pottery wouldn't get damaged from our eventual cross-world move or from my cats who knock literally everything off of our counters I might've sprung for something nice. However, the chances were slim so we left empty handed but at least I now have a great idea for Christmas presents this year.
Grateful for another adventure on this beautiful island...
We're Kara, Ben and baby Zoe also known as the Lesniaks. We’re a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Yorktown, Virginia after a three year tour in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together!
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