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Okinawa wins mass suicides issue; textbooks to keep Army references

Date Posted: 2007-12-28

Textbook publishers have the green light to reinstate references to the Japanese Imperial Army’s role in pressuring civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
After months of often bitter arguments and demonstrations, the Textbook Authorization Council backed down and approved requests from publishers of high school textbooks to reinstate the original text ordered stricken last Spring. That decision stripped references to the Army’s ordering civilians to commit suicide.
Kisaburo Tokai, Japan’s education minister, says his ministry “will respect the opinion of the council and make a decision to promptly approve the requests” from publishers. Textbooks being printed for use starting in April will contain almost the original descriptions and explanations that have been in use for decades.
The Textbook Authorization Council that approved the switch back to historical language is the same Council that ordered the language removed. The Council has told publishers to reinsert the statement civilians “were forced into mass suicides by the Japanese military,” but has also directed a supplemental statement be inserted, saying “It can be said that from the viewpoint of the Okinawan people, they were forcded into the mass suicides.”
Textbook publishers had vigorously opposed the changes, and a groundswell of opposition by Okinawans and many academicians sent ripples through the central government ministries. Every Okinawa municipality registered protest petitions, as did the Prefecture government. A massive rally on September 29th drew more than 110,000 irate citizens in Ginowan City, a message being sent that proved not to be lost on the Education Ministry.
Shortly after the rally, Tokai appeared before cameras to say his ministry would re-screen the textbooks, but only if publishers asked them to. Publishers did, and the ministry began backpedalling. Under the new decision from the Textbook Authorization Council, most books will include background information and references about the Japanese Imperial Army distributing hand grenades to civilians, as well as details of military instructions Okinawa not permit themselves to be captured by the Americans.
Two textbook publishers, Tokyo Shoseki and Shimizu Shoin, have gone a step further, including details of the hullabaloo over the textbook screening, along with explainations of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly petition against the Education Ministry.
Tokyo Shoseki Co. and Shimizu Shoin Co. also added information about the controversy over the textbook screening, including that the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopted a petition seeking the retraction of the ministry's instruction and that the large rally was held in September. Yamakawa Shuppansha Limited has reverted to pretty much its original pre-directive text.

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