After paying our respects at Sad Cave, Kara and I were ready to set out for Shimuku Gama, or Happy Cave in Okinawa, Japan. Shimuku Gama is about 2 km from Chibichiri Gama. Amazingly, before American bombardment caved in the passage, the two were actually the same cave and you could walk from one entrance to the other! Now a days it's a short drive.
Shimuku Gama is easy to find on Google maps, but isn't quite as simple when you arrive. We pulled up to a large forested patch of land next to a farmers field but there were no signs or directions. We knew the cave was in those woods somewhere, so after cutting through a field we found a footpath with a little sign pointing into the woods. The sign was in Japanese, but odds were good that was pointing to Shimuku Gama Cave.
Shimuku Gama was also utilized as a hiding place for hundreds of local Okinawan civilians during the battle (see part 1 for historic background). When US forces came upon Happy Cave, they set up a machine gun at the cave entrance and began yelling to the Okinawans who hid inside. People were terrified and began discussing the best means to commit suicide. In this cave, however, was a man named Heiji Higa. He had worked in the sugar cane fields on the Big Island Hawaii and told people in the cave that he knew Americans would not kill unarmed civilians. He also had his nephew Heizo Higa, a former Hawaii bus driver, who reiterated his claim. The two bravely stepped out of the cave to confer with the American troops and were able to convince those in hiding that it was safe to come out. Luckily those hiding believed and they all were saved!
Kara and I made our way down the footpath and finally came upon the entrance to Shimuku Gama, no doubt where the machine gun had been set up 72 years before. Not gonna lie, it was spooky. It is much larger than Chibichiri Gama, and a creek runs by you and into a yawning cavern. I have become a bit of a cave aficionado on Okinawa, and this one takes the cake. When you think cave, you think of this. You can actually go several hundred meters inside from what I've read, however we did not have the gear for such a venture so we stayed within the limits of where the sunlight fell. (That's not to say we won't come back and attempt more exploration later).
This was easily the coolest cave I have been to so far due to its idyllic setting, natural wonder, and historic significance. We left being thankful that there had been men present all those years ago to literally save hundreds of lives. After giving our thanks at their tiny memorial, we made our way back to the car and onto some good ramen, leaving even more in touch with the history and story of Okinawa.
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!
You May Enjoy Reading...