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WWII Okinawa medical corps ridiculed by exam question; high school apologizes

Date Posted: 2005-06-17

An Okinawa girls group that served as battlefield nurses for Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa is the subject of a mainland Japan high school examination test question, and many on the island are offended by it.

The Tokyo high school created an English examination question earlier this year, which many Okinawans think is embarrassing to the Okinawa Himeyuri Gakutotai, the Star Lily Student Corps, which operated during World War II. Many of the girls committed suicide when Japan faced defeat in the war.

Okinawa’s governor, Keiichi Inamine, says he was “shocked” at the question, which is being interpreted as ridiculing or belittling the work of the student organized medical group during the war, and particularly the Battle of Okinawa.

Aoyama Gakuin Senior High School is the source of Okinawa’s displeasure, where a teacher is charged with writing the question in mid-February. It depicts a person listening to a lecture from a member of the student group, Himeyuri Gakutotai, and looking bored and disinterested. The exam question focuses on an make believe student who is writing about her experiences while in Okinawa, and her irritation with listening to the Himeyuri’s explanations after a visit to a wartime shelter. The question suggests the Okinawa girl is inadequate, except perhaps as a conversationalist.

"I'm astonished," says the governor. "It chills me and I'm shocked. The Himeyuri Gakutotai members have made efforts to create a peaceful world by talking about their experiences.”

Inamine adds that “I want their hardships and their feelings to be understood." Himiyuri Gakutotai was comprised of female students, most of them Okinawan, whose role was treating injured soldiers. As the war wound down and the Battle of Okinawa turned against Japan, many of the girls felt threatened and committed suicide.

The high school test question asks why the student didn't like the Himeyuri member's talk and her comments, with the correct answer being that the student disliked the way the member talked.

Amid loud protests from Okinawa, Officials of Aoyama Gakuin High School visited the prefecture Monday to apologize to former members of a wartime medical corps.

"We're sorry. I can't find any other words to express our feelings," Tadafumi Omura, principal of the Tokyo high school told reporters before meeting with the former members of the corps in Itoman.

Omura was accompanied by the vice principal of the school, the teacher who created the examination questions and a clerk at the school. They visited Himeyuri Peace Museum to meet former members of Himeyuri Gakutotai (Star Lily Student Corps).

Aoyama Gakuin Senior High School is attached to prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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