NAHA – A sculptor based in Okinawa has completed a 100-meter relief depicting the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, installing the work at a former U.S. military facility in the village of Yomitan.
Minoru Kinjo, 68, spent 10 years completing one of the scenes in the work, titled “Senso to Ningen” (“War and Human Beings”). The exhibition will run through June 24, a day after the 62nd anniversary of the end of the battle.
Made of cement and plaster, the sculpture was installed along a former runway of the Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield, which was fully returned to Japan late last year.
The work focuses on civilians’ perspectives of the battle, depicting a so-called mass suicide scene — local residents rushing to their deaths or holding their already killed children, while U.S. soldiers call on them to surrender.
Kinjo, a native of Hamahiga Island, taught himself sculpting in his 30s while teaching high school in Osaka Prefecture. He has since created many works focusing on war.
“Why did civilians commit suicide when U.S. soldiers were calling on them to surrender?” Kinjo asked.
“Through my work, I want to question the meaning of mass suicides, as controversy lingers over whether the Japanese military ordered them to commit suicide or not,” Kinjo said.
The relief also depicts scenes of Japanese soldiers expelling civilians from a cave (“Japanese Soldiers and Civilians”) and an air raid on the prefecture on Oct. 10, 1944, that Kinjo himself went through (“10.10 Air Raid”).
Kinjo even addresses the postwar period in a piece titled “Bayonets and Bulldozers,” depicting a forceful seizure of land by the U.S. military. The section also displays life-size sculptures of U.S. soldiers and civilians along with heavy machinery.
Event organizers plan to hold plays, concerts and lectures around the relief throughout the exhibition period.
The village of Yomitan was where the U.S. forces first landed on Okinawa Island during the war, triggering 84 villagers to commit suicide in the Chibichiri cave.
One-fourth of Okinawa’s civilian population died during the battle.
In total, more than 200,000 Japanese and Americans lost their lives during the conflict.
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