Families on Okinawa attend Marine Corps Community Services Spooky Sites Tour

by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon, 10th Marine Regiment
U.S. Marine Corps

YOMITAN VILLAGE, OKINAWA, Japan --  Dim flashlights sweep the ground before nervously whispering families. The ambient light of the moon is the only other source of light to guide them as they scan the coastline where the waves crash and the winds howl.

 Families under the Status of Forces Agreement on Okinawa attended the Marine Corps Community Services-sponsored Spooky Sites Tour Oct. 22, visiting several historically haunted sites on the island.

“The Spooky Sites Tour provides insight to the Okinawa cultural beliefs and history,” said Mark A. Waycaster, a tour guide with MCCS Tours Plus. “It’s an easy way for people to engage in their surroundings and it piques their interest in places on Okinawa they may not normally think to explore.”

More than 30 guests attended the tour, which has been offered annually during the Halloween season for the past 10 years, according to Waycaster, an Asheville, North Carolina, native.

 The tour visited several sites including Zampa Point, Hospital Cave and Yara Park.

 Guests piled onto a bus as the evening grew dark and once they were settled in, Waycaster began narrating the stories and historical legends related to the tour sites.

“I tell stories of things that happened to me here on Okinawa, as well as older Okinawan legends,” said Waycaster. “I’ve lived here off-and-on for about fourteen years, so a lot of the stories are things that have happened that are unexplained and do not have a direct, scientific explanation.”

Guests clambered off the bus at each site and gathered around Waycaster as he explained the history behind the location.

 According to Waycaster, Okinawa is a beautiful place with a war-torn history and it is known by some as the “Island of the Dead.” Waycaster continued, when people begin to get in touch with the historical elements of the island it becomes much easier to understand the strong beliefs the people in Okinawa hold about spiritual activity.

 During the first stop, Zampa Point, Waycaster told the stories of the many mysterious spiritual sightings and disappearances for which Zampa Point is known. He stood by after the stories as the families explored the area and shoreline.

 The sight marks one specifically well-known incident in which an airman’s wife disappeared on the shoreline, never to be seen or heard from again, according to Waycaster.

 The guests finished exploring the shoreline and climbed onto the bus to explore the second site — a notoriously haunted house.

 According to Waycaster, for a span of several years, each time a family moved into the house, a member of the family was said to have murdered his or her family. Each of the survivors claimed to have heard a voice that commanded them to kill the person or people closest to them. The house was later abandoned and is now an empty yard, observed by many who wish to confirm the legend.

 After the chilling tales of the occurrences in the haunted house, the tour bus parked in an open parking lot in front of an overgrown field.

 The guests approached the field where a playground once stood. Waycaster described a series of mysterious incidents and injuries occurring when children once played. The field lies in front of one of the most well-known sites-Hospital Cave, which was once modified to serve as an air raid shelter and a field hospital for the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

 According to Waycaster, children playing on the playground seemed to become much more accident-prone. They were said to have fallen, breaking bones, and developing severe bruises and gashes. It was not the injuries themselves that were suspicious, but the severity.

“When examined, the children were found to have splintered bones and severe gashes and bruises,” said Waycaster. “Having fallen from a normal height, these did not match the normal bumps and bruises that go along with normal childhood play. One parents even claimed she had seen her child pushed by an invisible force--flying several feet away from the play structure before falling to the ground. The playground was eventually torn down due to supposed lack of use.”

Guests followed Waycaster up a partially-covered pathway to the opening of the cave as he explained the history of the site.

 The sign at the entrance of the cave reads, “… In 1945, the base commander directed that existing tombs or caves be adapted for use as air raid shelters. The series of caves in the peak on the left were found to contain a number of cots, litters, and other medical items, suggesting the caves had been used as a dispensary by the [Imperial] Japanese forces. The natural caves, improved by Japanese, remain almost the same as when found by the 17th Communications Construction Company.”

Guests cautiously peered into the opening of the cave, which is cordoned off with steel bars and a chain link gate.

“Engaging in these events and going on these tours helps normalize cultural things that we are not yet familiar with,” said Navy Lt. Ernesto Caraveo, a clinical psychologist with the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, and a Portland, Oregon, native. “It gives you the opportunity to experience new customs and traditions to make new traditions with your family, which deepens your understanding of the people here.”

After exploring the area surrounding Hospital Cave, the families boarded the bus to continue to the final site, Yara Park.

“I do a lot of research before leading these tours,” said Waycaster. “A lot of the history behind these sites isn’t in English, it’s in Japanese. Providing these tours for service members and their families will help us continue to bridge the language and cultural gaps between Americans and the Japanese here.”

The Spooky Sites Tour is scheduled to continue until Nov. 1. For future tour dates, contact the MCCS Tours Plus office or visit www.mccsokinawa.com/tours/.

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