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Textbook controversy, plane fire top Okinawa ‘Stories of the Year’

Date Posted: 2007-12-28

A government decision to alter textbook accounts of suicides during the Battle of Okinawa, and the ensuing anger from Okinawan people, became the Story of the Year for 2007.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology ordered high school textbook publishers to modify descriptions of the Battle of Okinawa, during which local citizens were directed to commit suicide rather than surrender to American forces. The government directive was to remove references to Japan’s Imperial Army ordering Okinawans to take the action, and to strike references to the Army providing citizens hand grenades to take their lives.

Okinawans responded bitterly to the May directive, with everyone from the Prefecture Governor to every municipality in the prefecture, and rank and file citizens demanding the central government keep its hands off history. The anger built until a massive September 29th demonstration in Ginowan City’s Kaihin Park, with more than 110,000 people turning out to protest. Weeks later, the Education Ministry softened its stance, permitting textbook publishers to apply for reinstatement of the original historical accounts.

A fiery explosion at Naha International Airport August 20th was the second top story of the year. A China Air Lines Boeing 737 with 165 people aboard burst into flames and exploded in front of the terminal only moments after landing. All survived the crash.

Academic failures by Okinawan children came to light in April revelation that local kids were worst in the nation in achievement testing. “We are very sick” about the results, said the chairman of Okinawa’s Board of Education. Okinawa youngsters finished last in every subject tested, leading educators to appoint a special team to study how to improve teaching at the local level.

A new Prefectural Museum and Art Museum opened November 1st, a move from an old facility in Shuri to the spacious, modern location in Omoromachi, bringing culture and history closer to the populace. The new museum opening is proving popular in each gallery except accounts of pre-war and post-war Okinawa.

A raging, overflowing Asato River in August was the fifth ranked story of the year. More than 112 homes and businesses were flooded, and 98 cars were swept down Kokusai Street in downtown Naha City by the current. Residents and businesses charge the damage was caused by bridge construction, but the prefecture says it was an act of Mother Nature’s heavy rains.

Controversy over relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan City to a northern Okinawa location remained a hot button topic during 2007, with much rhetoric and little action taking place. Everyone agrees the move should take place to Camp Schwab, but Okinawa Prefecture and Nago City insist the two V-shape runways should be moved 200 meters offshore. The central government says it can’t be done, but has conceded it could move 50 meters into the bay.

Politics took the seventh and eighth spots in news happenings, with the resurgent Socialist Party scoring victories in the House of Councilors election. Keiko Itokazu and Tokushin Yamauchi also won seats. At the same time, Okinawa City’s outspoken mayor, Mitsuko Tomon, agreed to accept reclamation development in the first Awase area, while rejecting construction in a second. The first area has already seen reclamation progress, while the second zone, which contains the Awase Telecommunication Facility water safety area, has planners insisting on further study.

Computer mix-ups, together with human failure to catch the errors, caused 203 heartburn after being told they failed the teachers’ selection test. In actuality, they passed, and the test administrators had to correct the tests.

Golfer Shinobu Moromizato claimed the 10th top story of the year slot with her first win at the Japan Women’s Open Tournament in September. Moromizato picked up the win in Hokkaido on a 6,522 yard, par 72 course. She said the win came after she overcame pressures she’d put on herself, and went on to win.

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