Staff writer OSAKA — When artist Seitaro Kuroda was videotaping a series of war stories for children written by prize-winning author Akiyuki Nosaka, he noticed something was missing. The stories, which first appeared in a magazine in 1971, described the hardship brought upon children and animals by war, showing that the weak are always hit the hardest. No stories, however, were about Okinawa — the only part of Japan where land battles took place during World War II. When Kuroda asked Nosaka about this apparent lapse, Nosaka said he could not write about the fighting on Okinawa because he had not experienced the tragedy of the ground war himself. But now, with U.S. forces still present on the islands, Nosaka has decided to write a story about the prefecture — which Kuroda will illustrate — as the latest in his “Senso Dowa Shu” (“Collection of War Stories for Children”), subtitled “Stories That Must Not Be Forgotten.” “We (people living outside Okinawa) enjoy our lives by forcing Okinawa to be the main base for the U.S. military, and I feel guilty about that,” Nosaka said, in announcing the project at a news conference in Okinawa earlier this month. “I am now 69 years old, and I felt that I must face the issue of Okinawa squarely and write about it. It is my responsibility as a writer.” Kuroda sees the project — which may, in the end, become a book or video — more as one of personal discovery. “I am going to do it not for the people in Okinawa but for myself. I want to find myself through this project,” said the 60-year-old artist. “I also want many others to participate in the project by doing what they can to find their own Okinawa.” Kuroda said that although most Japanese live outside Okinawa and pay little attention to events in the prefecture, each must have some connection with the islands and now is the time for all Japanese to identify those connections. For Kuroda, Okinawa crops up in his memories at various stages throughout his life. He first heard the name “Okinawa” during World War II when he was about 6 years old, listening to a conversation among members of a suicide unit at his home in Osaka, where his father produced military goods. After the war, he encountered Okinawa again when his grandmother said her son — his uncle — had probably been killed fighting there. Kuroda visited Okinawa for the first time in 1955 aboard a U.S. Navy ship that cruised into a military port there, steering around sunken ships jutting out of the water. Once he had disembarked, a 16-year-old Kuroda saw U.S. military vehicles driving along what was then known as International Street in central Naha. Kuroda has visited Okinawa many times since then, but the prefecture’s problems did not give him cause to think more seriously until he moved to New York in 1990 and thought about his homeland from a distance. “Through the windows of my room on the 27th floor in Manhattan, I was able to see Japan far away in my imagination. Okinawa grew in my mind,” he said. Kuroda is embarking on this new project by drawing pictures from his memories of Okinawa. “Okinawa may be the key to finding out about Japan. Knowing and understanding Okinawa may help you see things about our country more clearly,” he said. Nosaka has started his work and Kuroda will move to Ginowan, central Okinawa, in March to finish the project before July’s Group of Eight summit in Nago. Nago has also been selected by the prefecture, and endorsed by the central government, for a new heliport to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ helicopter wing at Futenma Air Station in Ginowan. Okinawa Gov. Keiichi Inamine and Nago Mayor Teteo Kishimoto agreed on the heliport relocation to Nago’s Henoko district, near the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab, in northern Okinawa, despite local opposition. To carry out the project with the fewest restrictions, Kuroda and Nosaka will not accept funds from businesses or government affiliates. Instead, they are seeking donations from individuals who wish to support the project. Kuroda will give his original “Senso Dowa Shu” drawings to individuals who make a minimum contribution of 7,000 yen. For more information, fax the organizer at (03) 3479-1332.
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