Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chibi Chiri Gama - Photo Essay

This last Wednesday’s Okinawa adventure outing took us to Southern Onna Son and Yomitan Cho. For those of you who may not be initiated to the Japanese language, “Son” is translated as village and “Cho” means town. We had no plan to speak of. Sometimes that’s when we find the most interesting stuff. Today was no exception.

At first the day started out slowly. We went to the Onna Village and photographed the harbor where just a few weeks before, Ryukyu Mike had the opportunity to photograph the dragon boat races. Just a few quick words in the native “Uchinaguchi,” Okinawan language, and he had a front row seat for the whole event.
 (Going down by the Bow: Damage from the latest Typhoon at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel)

There wasn’t that much to see this time around. There were quite a few diving tourists getting ready to go out on a tour and some bikini clad young ladies caught our eye. What can we say, we’re guys! What would you expect? Anyway, Unfortunately after developing what I took, I wasn’t too impressed. Nice, but not nearly nice enough to post here. Sorry!

From here, we headed out to Chatan Cho for some business and a quick lunch. Then it was on to Yomitan Cho and the lighthouse at Zanpa Misaki. Again, there wasn’t too much that caught our eyes. We both practiced our techniques on a few birds in the bushes but, that was boring.

From here, we stopped at what appeared to be a failed attempt at someone building a tourist trap. Some interesting statues and buildings but the site looked abandoned and although it caught our eye from the highway on the way to the cape, it was pretty easy to see why it failed to garner much support from all the tourists who frequent the area.
 (The monument at Chibi Chiri Gama. Ryukyu Mike puts the sign telling folks not to venture into the caves back in its place)

What was to be our last stop for the day was Zakimi Castle ruins to check out when the big Eisa festival would be taking place. While we were there we checked out some of the tourist signage and found a reference for something we had never seen before.
 (I guess this place is well protected from the elements. Even a typhoon couldn't clean all the bird and bat shit off this statue)

The map called it “Chibi Chiri Gama.” The last word is the local dialect for cave and that piqued our interest somewhat. In all our some 50 combined years on the island, neither of us had heard of this place before

I recognized from the map the general location of the place and in a flash, we were off to check it out. It’s less than a five minute drive from the castle and although I would normally offer directions to the place in my blog, I hesitate to do so at this time.
 (What appears to be a statue of a mother holding on to her children is hidden inside the base of the monument)

When we arrived, we found the site unmarked. The only thing that told us that there was anything of significance here was the public restroom along the otherwise insignificant road through the farm fields of the town.

We pulled off the road and found a place to park. There was a series of steps with rails to help the elderly make their way down into the ravine and the cave area. The cave is located in a natural depression in the earth and a stream runs into it. From there the water rushes into one of the many caves and disappears from view.

At the one end of the gulley is a large opening into the side of the rocks and a statue of what appears to be a man playing a Sanshin. To the left are two large stone markers with Japanese carved on them and at the entrance to the main cave itself is a huge display of folded origami cranes.

The base of the statue has several holes or windows in it. At first glance, it almost appears to be a tomb but a quick glance inside revealed a sculpture of people in great agony and fear. We are all but certain that this was a hiding place for many of the locals to escape the carnage that was the Battle of Okinawa in the spring and summer of 1945.
 (If this is any indication of what hell is like, I don't want to go there)

Ryukyu Mike and I quickly took some photos of the place and were careful to leave the place as undisturbed as we found it. You see there are many places like this across the island where the locals come every year in pilgrimages to remember their families and loved ones lost during the great battle. The last thing they or we would want is some drunken half crazed U.S. service members frequenting the place for a weekend beer blast or just to explore the caves.
 (Ryukyu Mike checking out the base of the sculpture. Inside the base are more sculptures)

My advice to anyone who may come across this post and want to go see it, leave the “Liberty Risk” assholes on base and remember that places like this are considered sacred sites! Also, if while you’re out and about enjoying the sights and you happen across something like this, look but don’t touch and if there are any locals about, be respectful!

I tried to Google the name of the site (Chibi Chiri Gama) and came up goose eggs. If anyone has information regarding this site, please feel free to leave a comment below.

8 comments:

  1. Doc,
    Here ya go:
    http://www.stripes.com/news/survivors-remember-commotion-then-calm-inside-okinawa-cave-1.62504

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  2. Hi -

    this is really a cool blog. It is interesting to read about a place so different, even though it belongs to the same country. Already looking forward to your next posts.

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  3. Would you be willing to email me the directions/gps coordinates to Chibi Chiri Gama? Just trying to explore, not damage or disrespect anything. My email is mb7804s AT me.com Thanks!

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  4. Dear Ryukyu Mike,

    I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to you from a documentary production company in Singapore. We are currently producing a series for The National Geographic Channel and would like to request for your permission for the usage of your Chibichiri Cave images. Please kindly contact me at charlene@infocusasia.com. for more information.

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Charlene

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Ryukyu Mike,

    I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to you from a documentary production company in Singapore. We are currently producing a series for The National Geographic Channel and would like to request for your permission for the usage of your Chibichiri Cave images. Please kindly contact me at charlene@infocusasia.com. for more information.

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Charlene

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, Just FYI, I have reposted the image on my blog post   10 most scariest places in Asia

    ReplyDelete
  7. I live less than a mile from the site, and I've been meaning to go for quite some time. Today I stopped there for the first time. Knowing the tragic story, coupled with the quiet cave made for a poignant experience.

    ReplyDelete