National

Texts reinstate army’s role in mass suicides

Okinawa prevails in history row

Kyodo News

The Textbook Authorization Council approved requests Wednesday by textbook publishers to reinstate references to the military’s role in forcing civilians to commit mass suicide during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.

Education chief Kisaburo Tokai said in a statement following the decision that his ministry “will respect the opinion of the council and make a decision promptly to approve the requests.”

The revised history textbooks for high schools will be used in the 2008 academic year, which starts in April.

The move will likely settle the dispute that started earlier this year when the publishers were ordered by the ministry — based on the same council’s opinion — to delete the references to the military’s role in the mass suicides.

The publishers initially complied with the order, but the education ministry effectively reversed its position following a massive public outcry among Okinawa residents.

In a report submitted to Tokai on Wednesday, the council allowed the publishers to reinstate the reference that civilians “were forced into mass suicides by the Japanese military,” on condition it is placed in sufficient context. “It can be said that from the viewpoint of the (Okinawa residents), they were forced into the mass suicides,” the report states.

However, the council, headed by Hitotsubashi University President Takehiko Sugiyama, refused to revoke its earlier opinion that the phrase “forced by the military” may be misleading.

Following a massive protest rally in Okinawa in late September, Tokai said the ministry would screen the textbooks again if publishers applied for permission to reinstate the references to the military’s role.

In the latest versions approved by the authorization council, most history textbooks incorporated background information, such as that the military distributed grenades to civilians and that the military instructed them not to be taken prisoner by the U.S. military.

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 Ltd. reinstated almost the same content as before the ministry’s initial order.

About 110,000 people took part in the protest rally, according to its organizers, making it the largest of its kind in the prefecture since its reversion from the U.S. to Japan in 1972.

Okinawa was the only inhabited part of Japan that saw ground fighting during World War II.

In screening the revised texts submitted by the publishers, the Textbook Authorization Council fielded opinions from researchers on the Battle of Okinawa.

After hearing their opinions, a history subcommittee concluded the military played a “primary role” in coercing the civilians to kill themselves and loved ones in their care, although it determined there were no direct orders from the army to that effect.