By Sarah Firth
Come for the battleship, stay for the views! The remote island of Tokunoshima, in Japan's balmy southern seas, has a memorial to the famous Battleship Yamato, the pride of Japan's navy that was sunk by American bombers on 7 April 1945. The Yamato has become a Japanese cultural icon, and you can find a large museum devoted to it in the city of Kure in Hiroshima prefecture. But this may be the closest you can actually get to the wreck.
The descendants and relatives of the sailors who perished when the Yamato was sunk have sometimes conducted memorial services here. But that only happens once in a blue moon -- most of the visitors are tourists, either interested in naval history, or simply to check out the gorgeous views that can be seen from the lookout tower here.
Across the parking lot, you will find a coffee shop that uses delicious coffee beans made right here on the island. This is one of the only places in the world you can drink Tokunoshima coffee, so if it's open, don't miss it! The coffee shop's owner also takes care of a mini-museum dedicated entirely to the Yamato and its sinking. If you ask him in Japanese, he will happily tell you how he came to Tokunoshima (it has nothing to do with naval history) and how he started growing his own coffee beans.
Compared to the Kure museum there is not a lot going on in this remote island location, but you can feel the emotional power of the Yamato through the sailing song on the wall, the scale model, and the Shinto memorials to the sailors.
Tokunoshima is accessible from the mainland via airport and ferry, but there are few tourist resources on the island. You will have to rent a car and drive down to the southern tip of the island yourself, or else call a taxi.
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