New mood in Tokyo to sanitise one of war's darkest episodes





Choho Zukeran was a schoolboy, mobilised to dig beachfront trenches, when US soldiers landed on his native Okinawa, sparking one of the bloodiest battles of the second world war. Over the next few weeks, some 200,000 Japanese and Americans would die, including more than a quarter of Okinawa's civilian population. Most died in the invasion, others killed themselves - on the orders of the army that was supposed to be protecting them.
"The army had given us two grenades each. They told us to hurl the first one at the enemy and to use the second one to kill ourselves," Mr Zukeran told the Guardian from his home in Okinawa, a subtropical island 1,000 miles south-west of Tokyo. Whole families and communities committed suicide together.

Yet if the government in Tokyo gets its way, Japanese children may never learn how hundreds of Okinawa residents, under direct or indirect pressure from the military, took their own lives.

This year the education ministry ordered publishers of seven high-school textbooks to be introduced next April to remove references to the forced suicides. The ministry said "it was not clear there were military orders [to commit suicide]" and that "recent studies suggest there were no such orders".

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