• Kyodo


Some 1,000 people staged a rally in Okinawa on Saturday demanding the education ministry retract its contentious instruction to history textbook publishers to play down the Japanese military’s role in mass suicides by civilians during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.

Participants including members of local teachers unions took to Kokusaidori Street in downtown Naha, chanting, “Don’t distort the reality of the Battle of Okinawa.”

Local resident Yoko Zamami, 55, said, “I cannot tolerate the changing of texts about what happened into saying it did not happen. What about the fact that people committed suicide using hand grenades given by the Japanese military? The pain of those people who experienced these things would be thoroughly blotted out.”

Okinawa was the only inhabited part of Japan where ground fighting took place in the closing days of World War II. Many survivors say Japanese soldiers told them to kill themselves on the brink of defeat, while some military-related people deny the claim.

In March, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology advised publishers of new high school history textbooks to reword descriptions in the current versions that the embattled Imperial Japanese Army forced civilians to kill themselves in the war so as not to be taken prisoner by the United States.

The new versions subject to the advice are to be used in the 2008 academic year starting next April.

In Okinawa Prefecture, assemblies of roughly half of the 41 municipalities have unanimously adopted resolutions demanding the ministry retract the instruction.

Meanwhile, some members of the prefectural assembly from the dominant Liberal Democratic Party are cautious about adopting such a resolution, with one saying, “It is difficult to reach a complete consensus on historical viewpoints.”

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