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another island

December 30, 2003


On Saturday I went on a one-day holiday with some of the teachers from the high school. We went to another Okinawan island, Ie-jima, which you can see on the horizon from high places on my island. It’s very different from my island, though, being flat with the exception of a small, very steep mountain in the middle, and with large cliffs that fall sharply into the frothing, white sea.

Ie-jima is a very beautiful place, with its caves, cliffs, and mountain, but as the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the end of World War II, it has a history that is tragic even by Okinawan standards. Many Okinawans strongly believe in ghosts, and one of the teachers was bothered by a weight like a hand on her left shoulder, which disappeared shortly before we left the island. While I don’t believe in ghosts, this story unnerved me because of its similarity to a story N-san told me on Christmas Day. About ten years ago, he took a photo of some friends of his at a place on mainland Okinawa. When he developed the photo, the left-most person in the photo had a solitary hand resting on their left shoulder. Since it was a right hand, it couldn’t have been the hand of any of the other people in the picture. N-san burnt the photo.

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