History Venture Into The Darkness Of Todoroki Trench

Pieces covering historical events in Okinawa
If you're into history and want to learn more about the Battle of Okinawa and what the Okinawans experienced, a visit to Todoroki Trench in Itoman is a must.

Stairway down to the trench entrance

The Todoroki Trench, also known by locals as Tohruruchi or Tohrurushi, is a long underground limestone cavern—or a Gama—that was naturally carved out by water and stretches east to west.

In March of 1945 when the U.S. air raids began, the people of what is now Itoman City fled to the cavern to take refuge. Sometime around June 7, 1945, the Japanese Imperial Forces began to use the trench and protect its entrance, mixing civilians with militants.

Because of this, the US began clearing operations of the area. They started throwing gasoline and other ordinances into the trench resulting in many injuries, and even fatalities, of both militants and civilians alike.

It wasn't until June 25 when a U.S. captive by the name of Shikichi Miyagi finally coaxed the remaining survivors, numbering from 500 to 600 people, to leave the cave system.

Information on Todoroki Trench
Todoroki Trench Plaque said:
As US air raids started in March of 1945, people in Makabe hamlet's Nashiro area fled here. However, at the end of May, as the southern retreat forced the Imperial Army to Mabuni, refugees fleeing the front lines crowded the shelter.

Around June 7, then Governor Shimada and surviving Okinawan Prefectural Government officers moved in. On the night of the 15th, the Governor gathered his people and here, dissolved the prefectural Government. On the morning of the 16th, the former Governor left for the Imperial Headquarters in Mabuni. Around this same time, not quite 20 but fully armed Japanese Imperial Forces personnel arrived, taking over the entrance area, and thus mixing uniformed forces with civilian innocents.

Around June 18, the US Forces began throwing in drums of gasoline and explosives, in "clearing" operations, resulting in many injured or killed. With their food supplies depleted, the locals were severely debilitated.

On June 25, US captive Shikichi Miyagi finally succeeded in calling out the survivors to surrender, with some 500 to 600 leaving the cave.

As you walk through the cave, you can only wonder how so many were able to eat, sleep, and drink throughout the harrowing period of the war.

It's a surreal feeling to experience the cramped quarters and pitch black that others had to endure, even when it's just by yourself or with your friends and family, as well as the eerieness the cavern gives off with just the sounds of running water echoing around you.

Unlike the many other cave systems in Okinawa which have historical backgrounds that require a small fee to enter or advance tour reservations, this one does not; it's completely open to the public to enter at any time.

Though, beware: If you go, it's recommended to not go alone or to make people aware of where you're headed. There is absolutely no cellphone service below ground, and it is wet. If you happen to fall inside, it might be hours, and maybe days, until you're found.

Todoroki Trench Parking? Stairway leading to the trail that takes you to Todoroki Trench

There is no parking, but, I was able to squeeze into a spot just up a driveway before the stairwell to the trail leading to the trench's entrance.

One of many shrines inside the Todoroki Trench

A torch or flashlight is a must. Light from a cellphone does little to no justice to be able to see the entirety of the cavern, the shrines scattered about, and where good footing is. Good walking shoes or boots are recommended as well as it is slippery, both going down the carved stairs and within the cavern itself with some areas being silky mud.

Rope to help you ascend and descend Torodoki Trench Slippery steps to and from entrance of Torodoki Trench

While there is a rope to help you descend and ascend the entrance, you might want to wear gloves as well if you don't want your hands to get dirty as well as clothing that you're willing to get soiled.

The very small entrance hole to access the Todoroki Trench cavern

Being 5'9", I still hit the back of my shirt on the entrance roof while crouching down and got it dirty. If you travel the entire length of the trench, you can expect your pants—which I would wear over shorts—and shoes to get muddy as well.

Additionally, bring water. It gets very hot and humid down there, and while I was only down there for about 30 minutes, I wished that I had a bottle of water with me.

Overall, it was humbling for me to even have a little sense what so many others before I did, even though it can't be comparable to the fear that the Okinawans must've felt during the war. While you're in Okinawa, I encourage you to experience Todoroki Trench at one point too.
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David is the Founder of Okinawa.Org. When he's not busy with business and administrative dealings on the site, he's out looking for the smallest things in the largest areas that may be overlooked by many.



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