Kaigungo, known as the “Former Japanese Navy Headquarters” is the underground air-raid shelters and headquarters used by the Japanese Navy during the Battle of Okinawa in the second world war. The facilities are open for visitors today, as part of a museum with the same name.
Visiting the Former Japanese Navy Headquarters is a sombre experience, which strongly constrasts the sunny and relaxed beach life which is normally associated with Okinawa. The facilities and museum however provide an important look into Okinawa’s role during the second world war, and the horrible things which took place here and elsewhere on the island. A visit to the deep tunnels in this hill just outside Naha, is important in order to understand not only Okinawa’s history, but Japan and it’s role in the war.
In 1944, the US military had reached the area around Okinawa, and suddenly Okinawa had become the Japanese frontline of the pacific war. Therefore, this same year 450 meters of tunnels were dug 20 meters below ground, in a hill on the outskirts of Naha. The network of tunnels and rooms were constructed by 3000 soldiers of Japanese Navy Engineering Corps, and were intended to serve as a bomb proof headquarters for the Japanese Navy. The facilities were supposed to house up to 4000 soldiers.
As the war neared it’s end, with Japan as the loser, Admiral Ota Minoru of the Navy famously sent a telegraph to the Navy Vice Admiral, praising the bravery of the Okinawan people with the following words:
“The Okinawa citizens fought this way. I would humbly request your esteemed preferred consideration to the prefectural people in the future”
– Ota Minoru, sent at 20:16 on the 6th of June, 1945
a few days later he, and a large number of other soldiers, committed suicide inside the underground headquarters. To this day, the walls of the tunnels show the damage done by the grenades and guns by which they killed them selves.
The Former Japanese Navy Headquarters and the associated museum is a harsh place to visit, and will likely leave you a little shocked, so plan accordingly. Kids are not likely to understand the meaning of the museum, and even for adults, fathoming the horrors of the war can be difficult even after visiting the dark, underground tunnels where hundreds lived, worked and died.
Planning your visit
|Hours||8:30 – 17:00 (October to June)|
8:30 – 17:30 (July to September)
|Entrance Fee||Adult: ¥450 yen |
Child: ¥230 yen
|Website||Kaigungou Official Website|
By car: Take route 58 south. You will cross Meiji Bridge, and shortly after the big sports complex Onoyama Park. At the first intersection after the stadium, turn left on to route 7 and stay on the road. Shortly after passing through the tunnel, you will see a sign pointing you to “Kaigungo Navy H.Q.Park”.
ADR: 236 Aza Tomigusuku, Tomigusuku-city, Okinawa, Japan.
By bus: take bus 98 or 55 from Naha Bus Terminal to “Uebaru Danchi Mae”. From there it is a 5 minute walk to the museum.
Suggested Hotels in Naha, Okinawa
|Okinawa Hinode Resort and Hot Spring Hotel|
|Hotel JAL City Naha|
|Hotel Strata Naha|