Regarding Yoichiro Tamanyu’s Dec. 16 letter, “Undue public influence on text“: Tamanyu seems just like the kind of reader the education ministry wants for its textbooks. He regards the claims by hundreds of Okinawans that there were official orders to commit suicide during the Battle of Okinawa (1945) to be of dubious value compared to the politically directed conclusions of a body of so-called scholars beholden to the government.
He is obsessed with finding a paper trail to this atrocity before he’ll acknowledge its existence, despite survivors’ accounts. He says “historical issues should not be discussed without historical records.” Are not these people themselves historical records? Defeated war powers often destroy the evidence of their misdeeds, leaving only the victims to tell the tale.
The sad part is that these accounts come from Japanese citizens, not foreigners who, it could be argued, might exaggerate what befell them out of vengeance. What message does this convey to Okinawans about how the government values them?
Tamanyu claims that the recent protests in Okinawa will unduly influence the publication of textbooks in a way that “misleads” the Japanese public. What exactly is so misleading about the claim that the government ordered mass suicides so that (Okinawan civilians) could “die honorably”? He claims that the public or media could influence textbooks. Let’s hope so!
I agree that history is a rigorous academic discipline in which access to “actual data” is essential. Yet, if the public declarations by these people do not count as “actual data,” then what does?
No matter how much or how little paper evidence surfaces in this controversy, the Okinawans’ voices of protest are now being recorded by the public and are becoming part of history, decades after the tragedy. Hopefully, government officials will listen and finally acknowledge their claims for the benefit of future generations of Japanese citizens.