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Elementary school drama polarizes Ginowan citizens

Date Posted: 2008-06-26

A ‘Peace Drama’ telling of the mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa is in the works by a group of elementary school children and teachers in Ginowan City, but protest calls and emails are flooding the school.

Opponents say the planned performance is too traumatic for the youngsters, arguing the script should be canceled because it brainwashes the children. The drama theme centers on how Japanese soldiers ordered Okinawans to take hand grenades and commit suicide during the waning days of the 1945 battle, rather than be captured by Americans.

Nonsense, says the school principal, who says he’s not listening to protesters. “The drama is telling about how life is important, and telling about how war is frightening, and why we should never have war anymore.” he says. “That’s what we want children to learn through this drama.” The principal is emphatic that “we can’t stop the performance.”

The story line tells how, many years after the battle and suicides, a child visited the suicides site and picked up a stone. The stone taken by a girl contained the spirits of three children who had committed suicide, the story goes, but the girl didn’t know it. She hid the stone in a school classroom, and children today see the shootings by American soldiers, hand grenades and suicides through the spirits in the stone.

A peace activist group is backing the principal, rejecting protester words and emails. “What a mean opinion,” an activist said. “It is a great thing for children to learn about the mass suicides and the war.” Ginowan City’s mayor, Youichi Iha, agrees. “It’s great. I also encourage people not to listen to the protests,” he says. “Please do the performance and show the many citizens about good luck. I hope children can learn about heavy Okinawa’s history has been, that they should not forget the war.”

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