call the cave "Gojep", an acronym standing for Goa Jepang (Japanese
cave). It is easy to find. Just ask any resident in Biak how to get
there. You can't miss it. The
main street in Sumberker village in Samofa subdistrict leading to the
cave is called Jl. Goa Jepang. It is just two kilometers from the Frans
Kaisiepo airport in Biak.
in a forest, the cave is one of Biak Numfor's main tourist attractions. According to
Yusuf Rumaropen, an Irianese who has been taking care of the cave for
20 years, the forest is kept intact; tree cutting is strictly forbidden
to keep the historic site as it is. The cave is surrounded by wooden
may visit the cave free of charge. Yusuf is in charge of accompanying
visitors and he is well-versed about all the human remains scattering
the cave. He
says a large number of Japanese nationals have visited the historical
site. They always visit in groups. They pray in front of the monument
erected in 1956 outside the cave to those who killed in the war. Then they will walk
into the cave. "Many Japanese, especially relatives of the dead, break
down and cry when they arrive inside", Yusuf said.
to Yusuf, the Japanese discovered the three-kilometer-long cave in 1943.
Its gate is located in Paray beach in Paray village, Biak city. "Japanese
soldiers entered the cave from Paray beach, Yusuf said.
occupied three large rooms built inside the cave. Quoting
a story told by local elders, Yusuf said the Japanese soldiers managed
to shoot down a U.S. plane from their hiding place. However,
eventually the U.S. army came to know where the Japanese soldiers were
hiding. So in the early morning of July 7, 1944, the U.S. Army attacked
was bombarded. The Americans also dropped drums of gasoline into the
hideout and blasted them from the air, setting the cave into fire. "The cave burned for
several months," Yusuf says. Some 3,000 Japanese soldiers were trapped
and killed in the attack.
still shows signs of the heavy bombardment, such as large holes in the
rocks and rocket shells collected in the cave, as Yusuf can show visitors. Yusuf has collected
the reminiscent of the war in a 4 meter by 6 meter cement house which
he has made into a mini museum at the cave.
are bottles of medicines, drinks bottles, shrapnel, guns, military hats,
booths, samurais and perfume. On the wall, there is a chronology of
the attack on the cave. The
skeletal remains of the Japanese soldiers were put in a box. "I am obliged
to safeguard these bones," Yusuf says.
collected the scattered bones with the help of some 30 Irianese. "Many
of the skeletal remains have been taken by the Japanese government",
Yusuf said. Some
officials at the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta came and collected remains
in September 1999. "They
collected bones, cremated them and brought the ashes back to Japan",
Yusuf says. The
local authorities have earmarked the cave as a tourist site.