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Battle over Okinawa history rages in Japan

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The local history of Okinawan farmers includes horrifying accounts of mass suicide and murder under orders from the Japanese military.

Records of those events are irksome for the Japanese government that is keen to whitewash this part of history. But local governments in Okinawa and the surrounding islands are determined not to let the Japanese Education Ministry have its way.

"The fact is that such orders to die were sent to people indoctrinated by the Japanese military and told that the invading US troops would torture and kill civilians and that suicide was preferable," said Mitsuko Toumon, mayor of Okinawa city where protest demonstrations against the distortions have been held.

Recently, Oshiro joined other leaders in releasing a statement demanding that the truth be told of the Battle of Okinawa - known as "typhoon of steel" among locals. More than 200,000 civilians, or one-quarter of the population, died here in 1945, before Japan surrendered in August that year.

But the ministry is bracing for the storm. Officials explain that the altering of original text that recorded the Imperial Army's instructions to Okinawans to kill themselves is based on the fact that there are divergent views of what exactly happened. "There is no proof that there were such orders. So it would be misleading to say the [Imperial] army was responsible," ministry official Yumiko Tomimori was quoted in the local media as saying.

Indeed, a former commander, Yutaka Umezawa, 88, has joined the brother of another deceased former captain to sue Nobel Literature prize winner Kenzaburo Oe and his publisher over a passage in one of Oe's books that said the two military men had ordered Okinawans to commit suicide en masse.

Last week, the concerned court heard testimony from Harumi Miyagi, 57, whose deceased mother, Hatsue, had recalled in a book that said she was told by villagers there was a military order to commit suicide rather than be caught by the Americans. She has also written that the villagers were given grenades by Japanese soldiers to kill US soldiers and themselves.

Various other testimonies by Okinawans, keen on defending their history, have also begun to surface. Nobuaki Kinjo, a Christian pastor who is now a witness in the ongoing lawsuit, revealed recently that he had killed his mother and sister, believing that he was saving them from torture.

Read entire article at Asia Times

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