Okinawa Memorial Day in Japan Date in the current year: June 23, 2022

Okinawa Memorial Day in Japan Okinawa Memorial Day is a public holiday in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa. It is observed on June 23 to commemorate those who died during the Battle of Okinawa — the only ground engagement of the Pacific theater of World War II to have been fought on Japanese soil.

The Battle of Okinawa was fought on Okinawa Island in Japan between the United States Armed Forces (US Army and US Marine Corps) and the Imperial Japanese Army. The battle lasted for 82 days from April 1 to June 22, 1945 and resulted in the deaths of roughly half of the estimated prewar population of the island. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought between the Americans and the Japanese during World War II.

Okinawa is the largest island of the Ryukyu Archipelago. Its seizure was intended to pave the way for the invasion of the remaining four main islands of the Japanese archipelago. The initial invasion of Okinawa, preceded by a week of intense bombardment, began on April 1, 1945. It was the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific War.

American troops captured the northern part of Okinawa in about two weeks but met stronger opposition in the southern part of the island where the main Japanese defenses were situated. Well-entrenched Japanese troops gave the Americans quite a fight. Nevertheless, American troops slowly made progress. On May 29, they captured Shuri Castle that the Japanese used as their base, which was the turning point of the battle.

Organized Japanese resistance lasted for a little over three weeks after the capture of Shuri Castle. The last remnants of Japanese resistance ended on June 21, and a number of high-ranking officers of the Imperial Japanese Army committed suicide. The Battle of Okinawa was declared over on June 22, although unorganized resistance continued until the beginning of July.

Over 240,000 Japanese lives were lost during the Battle of Okinawa. About 110,000 of them were Japanese personnel (Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts), and the rest were Okinawan civilians who were killed, died of starvation or succumbed to illnesses, went missing, or committed suicide to avoid being captured by American soldiers. The battle also resulted in the destruction of 90% of the buildings on the island, along with countless cultural artifacts and historical documents.

Okinawa Memorial Day was first established by the Government of the Ryukyu Islands in 1961 during the American occupation of Okinawa. It was a day to remember and mourn for those who lost their lives during the Battle of Okinawa. The observance lost its recognition in 1972 following the return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.

The prefecture government restored Okinawa Memorial Day in 1991. It is treated as a public holiday in Okinawa Prefecture but is not celebrated officially in other prefectures of Japan. Every June 23, a memorial ceremony is held at the Cornerstone of Peace, a monument commemorating the people who died in the Battle of Okinawa. It is usually attended by the prime minister of Japan.

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Category

Anniversaries and Memorial Days

Country

Japan

Tags

Okinawa Memorial Day in Japan, remembrance day, remembrance days in Japan, observances in Okinawa, Battle of Okinawa