Peace memorial service held at Mabuni
The annual Irei-no-Hi memorial service was held at the Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman, today to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa that claimed about 200,000 lives, buth military on all sides and locals.
About 5,400 people participated in the ceremony, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima and House of Councillors President Masaaki Yamazaki. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy was also present. A minute of silence was held for those who died in the fighting.
The Mabuni area, where the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park iis located, was the site of the last fighting of the ground war between the Japanese and U.S. forces.
At the ceremony, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga read out a peace declaration, in which he said, “It’s important for each and every one of us to have a strong determination to actively seek peace. I will do all I can to make this place the starting point of creating eternal peace and building a bright future.”
Onaga also used the occasion to touch the current fight with the central government over the MCAS Futenma relocation plan to Henoko. He reiterated his stance that “It is impossible to build a new base in Henoko. I therefore strongly urge the government to decide to stop the relocation work and review its current policy, without holding on to a fixed mindset.”
In his speech, Prime Minister Abe said, “We must make ceaseless efforts to establish global peace, taking pride in the path Japan has followed in the hatred of war and in desperate pursuit of peace over the past 70 years.” He did not make a direct reference to the relocation issue, but promised to continue all-out efforts to reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. bases. “The people of Okinawa have been bearing a great burden for Japan’s security,” he said. However, Abe did not gain much sympathy from the audience with his speech as many loudly booed and heckled him, leaving him looking somewhat startled and taken aback.
Names of 87 victims of the battle were added this year on the “Cornerstone of Peace” monument in the park, bringing the total to 241,336.