A cave in Okinawa that commemorates the civilian victims of a mass suicide on the southern Japanese island during the closing days of World War Two has been found vandalized.
Seventy-two years ago, 83 residents were reportedly forced to kill themselves in the cave in Yomitan Village, known as Chibichiri-gama, for fear of being killed or captured by US troops.
A local resident says that when he took a foreign journalist there on Tuesday morning, he found a sign near the cave's entrance torn off and strings of origami paper cranes ripped apart.
He adds that deep inside the cave, water bottles used by the deceased residents had been smashed and scattered over the victims' remains.
The cave is seen as a symbol of the tragic battle of Okinawa. More than 10,000 people visit the site every year, mostly students on school excursions as part of peace education programs.
The leader of a group of bereaved families that takes care of the cave, Norio Yonaha, says it is an unforgivable act of desecration. He says the bereaved will not tolerate such an act, and will continue to appeal for peace.