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Tokyo to try defusing Okinawa textbook controversy

Date Posted: 2007-10-02

Stung by a massive outpouring of sentiment by more than 110,000 Okinawans at a rally Saturday, the central government says it will look for ways to dispel anger over orders that rewrite references to civilians being forced to commit mass suicides during World War II’s Battle of Okinawa.
Senior government officials announced Monday they would review the education ministry’s directive that history textbooks be modified to remove references to the Imperial Japanese Army forcing Okinawans to take hand grenades and commit group suicides rather than be captured by American soldiers during the 1945 battle. The March 30th directive by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry was angrily rebuffed by Okinawans, whose hundreds of Battle of Okinawa survivors recount tales of horror of those Spring 1945 days.
More than 110,000 turned out at Ginowan City’s Kaihin Park Saturday, led by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, to demand top leaders overturn the education ministry directive. The textbook publishers were to remove all references to Japanese soldiers giving hand grenades to Okinawans, along with instructions to commit suicide. The education ministry discounted eyewitness accounts from survivors, and ordered the modifications. Five textbook publishers have already complied.
Nakaima, who Saturday blasted the government, saying the “Ministry hasn’t responded sincerely to repeated calls and deep feelings for peace of the people of Okinawa, and has not accepted our request to retract the instruction.” Governor Hirokazu Nakaima says “The ministry’s attitude is regrettable, and I strongly protest.”
The governor Monday repeated his demand the order be retracted. Speaking to reporters, Nakaima insisted Okinawan battle survivors have it right, and the horrific recollections of the Battle of Okinawa, and suicide orders from Japanese soldiers, are correct.
Reports are now floating through government offices in Tokyo that textbook publishers, unhappy with all the negative publicity pushed toward them, are collaborating to make their own appeal to the education ministry in hopes of getting approval for further revisions, if not an outright return to the original historical accounts.

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