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Itoman’s Message of Peace

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 1999-12-31

Peace was the theme last Sunday night as thousands gathered at Nishizaki Shinsuwi Park for Itoman City’s first-ever Peaceful Illumination celebration. According to organizers, close to 50,000 people attended the event, including 20,000 tourists from both Mainland Japan and around the world.

1.3 million lights were intricately displayed in the park to signify the 1.3 million people who live in Okinawa Prefecture. Even though the evening was chilly, families and couples were scattered around the park, taking pictures of the brilliant displays. Crowds also enjoyed an array of food booths that were set up adjacent to the lights.

The highlight of the evening was the reading of messages from several different countries, all of which had nationals who died in the Pacific war and the Battle of Okinawa specifically. The United States, Korea, Taiwan, Great Britain, mainland Japan, Okinawa and the United Nations were asked to write messages to Itoman City in honor of the Peaceful Illumination celebration. At 7:15 PM, these messages of peace were read to the crowd, with the lights providing a perfect backdrop to the central motif.

According to organizers, Itoman City is making a grand effort to form a positive relationship with tourists and at the same time, impact the local economy. “We are working towards being international and we welcome visitors from around the world,” said Ako Oshiro, of the Itoman City office. “We have two messages that we want to express; the first is a wish for Peace and the second is that we would like to continue to provide economic benefits to Okinawa through events like this.”

Itoman City is an area of Okinawa with a great deal of historical sites and traditional festivals. Peace is very important to the city as it contains the Peace Memorial Park, which was constructed as a memorial to the reversion of Okinawa. The park includes the Cornerstone of Peace, which commemorates the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa. The names of those who lost their lives in the battle, regardless of nationality, are inscribed at the monument. At the time of the opening ceremony on June 23, 1995, a total of 234,183 names had been engraved and the number continues to grow.

Organizers hope to add the Peaceful Illumination to the list of yearly events in Itoman City and are almost certain that it will become a part of their tradition.

The Itoman Peaceful Illumination celebration will continue through January 3rd of 2000. The lights are displayed from 6 to 10 PM every evening with special events occurring each evening. A special peace concert will be held on December 31st, featuring Kina Shokichi, a famous Japanese Okinawan musician along with a New Year countdown to the year 2000.

Directions: Take Hwy 58 towards Naha. After passing the airport, Hwy 58 turns into Hwy 331. Follow the white signs towards the Nishizaki Athletic Park and you will run into the Nishizaki Shinsuwi Park.

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