One of the biggest celebrations on Okinawa (and probably throughout most of Japan as well) is New Years. One of the many ways that you can celebrate the closing of the current year and ring in the new one is to visit one of many illuminations that are hosted on the island. Illumination is basically Japan's code word for "lights display" and personally I think it sounds better but that's just me. These illuminations are from north to south, some free others will cost you a small entrance fee. This year my husband and I decided that we would go to the same illumination that we went to last year, Itoman Peaceful Illumination.
We walked through the 600,000 lights taking photos and enjoying ourselves but on our way out we noticed something interesting. In the distance we noticed a large light shooting up straight into the sky. It was amazing how bright this light was and it was coming from somewhere rather close so we put our heads together and made the decision to investigate. We found ourselves at the Peace Prayer Memorial Park. For those of you who do not already know Peace Prayer Memorial Park is basically just want it sounds like. It's a large piece of land which Memorializes much of what was lost during the Battle of Okinawa and encourages people to learn from the past therefore praying for peace. (I will talk more about Peace Prayer Memorial Park at another time for those of you who are interested in visiting.)
Once we parked our car it was clear to see where we were supposed to go as the path was lit with paper lanterns. It led us to the Cornerstone Of Peace. At the end of the path is a flame which burns brightly for peace and just behind it was the most stunning light shooting up into the sky. This was clearly what we were looking for.
Now I realize that to some five beams of light don't seem to be that big of a deal but the location is dark. Below you can hear the ocean pounding away on the cliffside. The only light is coming from the beams as well as the flame. You can also hear the trickle of the water which comes from the pool of water which represents the oceans of the world below the flame.
Looking back the view is very different from what you would see during the day. Large zig zag monuments fill in the dark spaces between the paths which are barely lit by footlights. The look and feel reminds me of what it's like to be on stage. You know the house if full but can't see much more than the outline of the audience.
As I am sure you might imagine the experience was poetic for me. Everything was so simple but so effective. I would certainly recommend this for anyone who is in the area! This is free and open to the public. It's simple to find as well. The only other thing I can say is that the photos don't even do the experience justice.