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Okinawans press protest against textbook changes

Date Posted: 2007-06-14

The Japanese government insistence that school textbooks be modified to alter Battle of Okinawa descriptions continues to draw flack from Okinawans.

More than 1,000 citizens staged an Okinawa rally over the weekend, demanding the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology retract its instructions to textbook publishers “correcting” references to suicides during the Battle of Okinawa in Spring 1945. The Ministry in March issued guidance to the publishers, telling them to change the historical references about Okinawans committing suicide, deleting sentences linking Japanese soldiers’ involvement.

Members of Okinawa teachers unions participated in the rally, shouting “Don’t distort Battle of Okinawa realities”, demanding the textbooks keep the current references to the three-month battle. Survivors of the Battle of Okinawa say Japanese soldiers told them to kill themselves rather than allow American soldiers to capture them.

Japanese military officials have denied their troops ever told Okinawans to commit suicide.

“I can’t tolerate the textbook changes,” says Yoko Zamami. “What about people committing suicide using hand grenades given to them by the Japanese soldiers?” she asks. The Education Ministry wants the textbooks rewritten to remove any references to Imperial Army involvement in pressuring Okinawans to commit suicide.

The Ministry wants the new textbooks in place before the start of next year’s classes in April. Nearly half of Okinawa’s towns and cities have passed resolutions demanding the ministry back off, while Okinawa Prefecture members affiliated with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are trying to skirt the issue. The Assembly position, said one lawmaker, is that “It’s difficult to reach total consensus on historical viewpoints of the Battle of Okinawa.”

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