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Okinawans in outlying isles more afraid of Abe than China

35 Comments

The town of Taketomi, population about 4,000, is spread out over six islands in the East China Sea. China is 400 km away, Tokyo 2,000 kms away. Residents fear the latter more than the former, says Josei Jishin (May 27).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to nullify the pacifist Constitution, coupled with his administration’s efforts to pressure the local school board into adopting an ideologically conservative junior high school civics textbook, brings back World War Two memories that are rawer here than elsewhere. As one mother of a third-year junior high school student put it, “My thinking is simple. I don’t want my son going off to war.”

The Yaeyama island chain on which Taketomi is situated is Okinawa Prefecture’s, and Japan’s, farthest-flung expanse. “Japan’s Galapagos,” it’s called for its subtropical forests and exotic, elusive wildlife (the iriomote cat being the most famous example). Tourists who love it for hiking and snorkeling may miss the undercurrents typified by 84-year-old Sadako Nakamura, famous locally as a “story-teller” or reciter. Her subject? War, whose ugly realities the Abe government’s moves make her fear have been forgotten in ruling circles.

The textbook row, simmering since 2011, began with Taketomi’s school board opting out of a regional board’s decision to adopt a civics textbook that lays no particular stress on Okinawa’s role as a front-line sacrifice in Japan’s doomed war against a far stronger enemy. The board chose instead another textbook that respects Japan’s postwar Constitutional pacifism and does acknowledge Okinawa as a victim not only of a climactic American invasion but of foolhardy and inhumane policy-making in Tokyo.

The legal argument over who has the last word in textbook selection – the local board or the wider regional entity – drags on. Nakamura, leading a campaign in defense of the more pacifist text, recalls for Josei Jishin her own wartime education.

She was born in Yaeyama in 1929. Her father worked in the local sugar factory. She remembers a poem she recited as a first grader: “Advance, advance, soldiers, advance.” “I never understood where they were advancing to.”

With the war in full swing, “Our teachers taught us that Japan could only win.” What defense does a child have against adult nonsense? “Nobody among my classmates ever doubted it.”

At a girls’ junior high school in Naha, the prefectural capital, lessons consisted largely of bamboo sword practice. Bamboo swords in the hands of every last citizen were to be the ultimate defense against an enemy fighting with planes and bombs. “We’d make straw dolls representing American soldiers and practice running them through.” Again, she tells Shukan Josei, no one doubted at the time that this was reasonable, or that Japan would win.

Her father, called up to the front in 1944, left her a parting gift – a sashimi knife with which, if threatened with capture, she was to kill the other family members and then take her own life. This was just before the October 1944 U.S. bombing raid that reduced Naha to rubble.

Nakamura and her family left the smoldering city (“I remember the smell of burning sugar”) and sought refuge in the nearby countryside. She was captured in May 1945 while hiding in a hut. She drew out the sashimi knife. Should she kill herself? “I was torn between a desire to die and a desire to live.” Her American captors offered her bread and jam. “Poison,” she thought. But no – “everything was totally different from what they’d taught us at school.”

Her point is clear. She and her fellow townspeople want no more of Tokyo-centric education that glorifies the nation and recognizes war as a just national expedient. They’ve seen where that leads, and they don’t want to go there again.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The article's title is a little misleading and borders on an outright lie. Nowhere in the main body does it state figures or statistics showing whether how many Yaeyama based Japanese prefer China over Prime Minister Abe. I think a better one would be "Japanese on the Yaeyama Islands reject Okinawa prefectures Tokyo-centric textbooks."

Regardless, regionally sensitive matters should be taught in schools in Okinawa prefecture, and all over Japan if the locals prefer. That said, her story was most likely typical of Japan at this time, though Okinawa prefecture was in the unfortunate position of (and still) being home to the majority of the American military presence.

Unfortunately, the pain the citizens of the prefecture will feel will continue until two things: 1) they recognize the SDF is a different beast from the Imperial Army, and 2) the American military presence, which is a constant reminder of the occupation, leaves in favor of an increased native Japanese army/navy/air force presence.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Deter C aggression by seducing them to vested interest in J' economic well-being.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On thing I cannot understand from this kind of point of view is ... just precisely what was Japan supposed to do in face of the USA's ambitions to dominate the Pacific-Asia region?

Just roll over and accept it? The implicit answer would appear to be, yes ... and know what is good for it.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

"On thing I cannot understand from this kind of point of view is ... just precisely what was Japan supposed to do in face of the USA's ambitions to dominate the Pacific-Asia region?" - Mr. Ed

I am pretty sure the neighbors of Japan sure didn't want Japanese invasions. Especially when they did not ask Japan for any help. Japan wanted to put on big boy pants, create an empire and in the end could not finish a war they began. Nobody in the Pacific-Asia region asked Japan for any help or even showed concern about the US. Yet they all showed concern about the Japanese and their "intentions".

7 ( +8 / -1 )

“As one mother of a third-year junior high school student put it, “My thinking is simple. I don’t want my son going off to war.”

What this parent said may echo the same degree of fear that is lurking in the back of most Japanese parents’ minds.

Under the seemingly unified banner of nationalism, Japan’s parents are worrying their kids could be the scarifying lambs for an agenda which sounds great and patriot, yet puts unproportional burden on younger generation.

After 70 years of peace and propriety, there will be a huge problem for any govt (including Abe’s one) in Japan to be able to solicit enough young males and females to join the army to fight a brutal modern war, especially given numbers of young people who are qualified for be soldiers are shrinking year by year.

Talking war is easy when hyped with nationalistic sentiments but fighting one with blood and debts will be a complete different ball game as the last decade of American history has shown to Americans.

When a war really breaks out and body bags pile up, my guess would be that the anti-war movement will soon put Japn in a real test.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Okinawans in outlying isles more afraid of Abe than China.

As well they should. Abe is a loose canon who will drag Japan back to the dark days of unfettered nationalism.

On thing I cannot understand from this kind of point of view is ... just precisely what was Japan supposed to do in face of the USA's ambitions to dominate the Pacific-Asia region?

And this relates to the subject at hand exactly how?

1 ( +7 / -6 )

I think Sadako Nakamura's life would make a great book or movie, done by the right person.

We all know how easily ANY population can be whipped up into a war frenzy, especially when governments lie their way into it, or locally, as in this situation where the regional school board wants to gloss over the horror of war on civilians.

The deciding moment for me, of recognizing "the big lie" and knowing my country, the US, was about to whip up the "war frenzy", was watching Colin Powell live on C-Span holding up the vail of white powder in New York. I knew he was lying.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Kudos to Ms. Nakamura! She has survived a lot of grief and then even more from a government who was never there but will inevitably insist the woman has "foggy memories" and their versions of history are what is correct.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Likewise in these circumstances, what are the Japanese, including Okinawans, to do if China aggresses?

Just roll over again? Seriously, spell it out ... how do you want Japan to respond?

The idea of Abe as some "Extreme" Right Winger, or now "loose canon" is all part of the troll army script. But is it really true?

I'd say in reality he's pretty tame, middle of the road and boring caretaker prime minister.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Mister Ed: "Just roll over again?"

Just "roll over"?? Do you have any idea at all what Okinawans suffered at the hands of the central government's war of attrition? Thousands dead, including little girls forced to run around in machine gun fire, forced suicides by the Imperial troops (not in the textbooks, thanks to Abe, but it happened), suicide squads, etc. They didn't roll over, they were thrown to the wolves and expected to like it, and that is what politicians like Abe want again.

"I'd say in reality he's pretty tame, middle of the road and boring caretaker prime minister."

No, he is a radical right-winger, but fortunately his powers are limited because nobody wants what he wants to put on the table.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

One smart woman. Too bad many others thought suicide was the better option.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Thank you, JT, for bringing up the Okinawan (and specifically the Yaeyaman) perspective on Abe's increasingmilitarization of Japan.

For the last few months the Abe administration has been trying to force some ugly history textbooks onto the Okinawan school systems, using the "we're giving it to you free of chrage, therefore you have no say" argument, to which Taketomi-cho educators resolved to buy books at their own expense. Abe's response to was to attempt to hurriedly pass a law making Okinawan defiance impossible.

Okinawans remember very well what happened last time their supposed protector, Japan, got into a war. Okinawans, and not mainlanders, were used as human shields. And today the mainland defends itself by putting most of the US bases on the very island whose people were sacrificed the most heartlessly.

It's a little early to try and drum up this kind of nationalist sentiment, Abe; remember, there are plenty of people born before WWII who are still alive and who can see right through you. The brainwashing didn't work in the 1930s and it isn't going to work now.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

if Japan does not man up these peoples this article refers to will be under Chinese rule and I am sure their treatment will be a lot less desirable than what Japanese central govt gives them now.

StormR -- by "man up" I assume you mean they should be given knives again and told to commit suicide if things get tough? Right?

4 ( +8 / -4 )

If Tokyo puts bases on any of their islands, they will simply become targets for military attack.

And remember, most civilians killed off base during the attack on Pearl Harbor were killed by American AA fire. Having a base around is not necessarily a form of protection.

They most certainly should fear Tokyo and Abe's ambitions.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@smithinjapan

Okinawans have more practical and realistic reason to grouch these day, the imposition of the American occupation being the most obvious one. It wasn't Japan's fault that America refused it's attempts at peace before WWII and brought its war of terror to the region. America had and still has its ambitions set clearly on the region and had no interest in a strong Japan. Quite the opposite, it had every interest in a weak, bowed and broken Japan.

So, I am afraid your huffing and puffing and emotional appeals do not wash for one second with me. America was the aggressor and on the wrong side of the Pacific where it had no need or right to be. History is clear. Had America not done what it knowingly chose to do, and on its racist principles of the time, the history in Asia would have been quite different and the suffering its people had much less.

So back to the questions, what was Japan suppose to do in the face of US aggression then, and what are the Okinawans still supposed to int he face of Chinese aggression today ... bend over and take it from whoever feels like giving it?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

A Chinese warship just sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. Think again Okinawa. The war is starting.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Only China and Russia will get war, if that's what they want, or they can remain in the past century.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some people are finally waking up to the reality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My deepest respect to the Taketomi school board members! In a yes-man society like Japan this requires audacity, but this is where real democracy starts.

We know by now that Abe is an anti-democrat, though it is not clear to me how far he is willing to go in terms of warmongering. But it is up to the informed and educated Japanese to follow the Taketomi model and nip it in the bud.

And I appreciate that Japantoday features this topic as the main stream media outside of Okinawa usually keep this kind of news under wraps.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

For sure if and when China invades these islands, the Chinese soldiers will not be offering bread and jam like the American soldiers. We have seen just this week how they surrounded and sank the Vietnamese fishing boat and then next day issued a warning to Vietnam to cease from all aggressiveness! And the 10 Vietnamese fishermen were rescued by their own fellow fishermen. China's actions and behavior reminds one of a bull in a china shop, but this bull also farted and urinated whilst destroying the shop. The owner of the bull then accuses the shop owner of 'putting a shop in a wrong location'.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Okinawa was a vassal state to China until Japanese started expanding its empire. Even Japan itself used to pay tribute to the emperor of China. But China never had intentions of invading either dominions. A settlement was reached to divide the Okinawan Kingdom in two. It was brokered by president Ulysses Grant. The main island and norther territories would go to Japan, and the southern islands would belong to China. China did agree to it. But of course, you know the rest of the history. That was just to buy time while Japan was arming itself. And I sure that behind the scenes, Ulysses probably advised Japan that it was only a temporary thing while it was getting ready. The weapons business was a profitably enterprise in those days, as well as today. Everything points to the fact that creating antagonism between China and Japan would keep enriching the merchants of death.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

m6bob MAY. 28, 2014 - 09:46AM JST

As aviator posted, Okinawa and Japan have been tribunal states of ancient China. Militarily ancient China has never invaded Okinawa. Culturally, Okinawa was influenced by ancient China in many ways. Such as martial arts, cuisine, custom, celebration and tradition.

Okinawa was invaded by Japan in 19th century and still the colony of US of A in 2014. I do not understand the theory of why do China want to invade Okinawa? Okinawa has no natural resources and industrial heart land. It has no single attraction for China except the sweet pork. However I do not think China wants to invade it for eating the sweet pork. They have plenty of pork by themselves. No nations has ever gone to war for eating the pork meat.

Africa is many times more attractive for China rather than Okinawa which air has been polluted and eco system has been badly ruined by the base. Even residents are getting fed up with living as second class citizens in their own land.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It wasn't Japan's fault that America refused it's attempts at peace before WWII and brought its war of terror to the region.

America was the aggressor and on the wrong side of the Pacific where it had no need or right to be.

Mister Ed -- such thinking simply is mind-boggling to me. But I just want to ask you two questions -- Exactly what "wrong side of the Pacific" was the U.S. in when they were attacked at Pearl Harbor? And please define this "war of terror" that it brought to the region?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Been to this place, excellent desolate beaches.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Another view of history right off the storyboards at Yushukan – there are some very disturbing words here- let’s look at them a little more closely;

I find many Americans suffer from a sort of profound narcissism

Generalization, stereotyping, discriminatory……..

In particularly, their obsession with Pearl Harbor borders on on a mental illness. This "mind boggling" is what we call a "cognitive dissonance"

Obviously a certified psychologist in addition to being a Netto Uyoku…..

Japan did not attack the USA, the USA attacked and threatened Japan.

You won’t find this view in any reputable dictionary or encyclopedia……

What was it to do? Roll over like a little puppy, or be treated like a prison b**** by the white masters?

Well, guess we have to add racist to generalization, stereotyping, discriminatory……

Welcome to Ishihara/Tamogami world – where the emperor is divine, imperial Japan a savior, Japanese soldiers saints and everyone else is just plain ethnically inferior…. The far-right wing's view of history in one sentence - ”The great Japanese nation was a victim of ___" (you fill in the blank)…….

3 ( +3 / -0 )

That's funny. That's like saying Kuwaiti citizens are more afraid of Bush than the Invading Iraqi army. Good luck with THAT Spongebob. Okinawan Ho'gan sounds a lot like Chinese to me, so it won't be too difficult for people to switch over, when the chinese tell them they aren't allowed to speak it any more.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lincolnman

The study of the history and effect of American Imperialism is so wide is spans not just numerous volumes but numerous fields of study, and of numerous nations. For the most part, it is a history of establishing and supporting oppressive right wing regimes, dictatorships, criminal and even terrorist organizations. It did so even in Japan, working with the yakuza, building up the LDP power base and so on ...

All in service of US corporations.

We can look at the evidence of the last 69 of year of American influence in Asia and the rest of the world, and compare it to Japanese influence and the difference is of night and day.

No one bullet fired ... no one assassination without trial ... no incarceration without trial ... not one dictatorship established ... no murder squads ... no meddling in overseas politics.

That is the Asia that would have existed under Japanese influence. An Asia which reflected Japanese society, not American society.

And this is why the constant assassination of Japan's reputation, based on the foundation of simplistic war time propaganda goes on ... from the same people wiping out, what is it ... 9 women and children non-combatants for every drone strike of an alleged "insurgent"?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The study of the history and effect of American Imperialism is so wide is spans not just numerous volumes but numerous fields of study, and of numerous nations. For the most part, it is a history of establishing and supporting oppressive right wing regimes, dictatorships, criminal and even terrorist organizations. It did so even in Japan, working with the yakuza, building up the LDP power base and so on ... All in service of US corporations. We can look at the evidence of the last 69 of year of American influence in Asia and the rest of the world, and compare it to Japanese influence and the difference is of night and day. No one bullet fired ... no one assassination without trial ... no incarceration without trial ... not one dictatorship established ... no murder squads ... no meddling in overseas politics. That is the Asia that would have existed under Japanese influence. An Asia which reflected Japanese society, not American society. And this is why the constant assassination of Japan's reputation, based on the foundation of simplistic war time propaganda goes on ... from the same people wiping out, what is it ... 9 women and children non-combatants for every drone strike of an alleged "insurgent"?

All off-topic, an evasion and attempted defection of the main issue - now do care to explain to us the blatant racist statements you made previously?

Additionally, please inform us if you agree or disagree with this statement; the emperor is divine, imperial Japan a savior, Japanese soldiers were saints and everyone else non-Japanese is just plain ethnically inferior.....no evasion please,a simple "agree" or "disagree" will do.........

2 ( +2 / -0 )

lincolnman JUN. 01, 2014 - 08:34AM JST All off-topic, an evasion and attempted defection of the main issue - now do care to explain to us the blatant racist statements you made previously?

Right wingers does it all the time blubbering about American Imperialism and the other atrocities by other countries when stuck to the corner. That's why I can't give them the credibilities nor the benefit of the doubt they know the topic in depth.

We have to thank god not all the people in Japan are like this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Right wingers does it all the time blubbering about American Imperialism and the other atrocities by other countries when stuck to the corner. That's why I can't give them the credibilities nor the benefit of the doubt they know the topic in depth. We have to thank god not all the people in Japan are like this.

Yes, I agree completely. That fact that this individual attempts to deflect, then ignores these disturbing questions shows they lack the courage to face and admit their far-fetched and blatantly racist beliefs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Be careful what you wish for, you might get it."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okinawa is Japan land but people and there is not Japanese. We cannot understand they speak japanese and their culture and looks Chinese. This is truth. Do they hate Japan. I don't know but Okinawa belong to Japan.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

When US Force came to Okinawa, people went to welcome US Forces but mistaken as enemies. Massacre. They are not going to become like that, Unlike other areas in Japan who just used standard Japanese in textbooks but could speak with their dialect, Okinawans are prohibited to use Ryukyu language,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There aren't enough young people in the nation to wage war, so concerns about abolishing pacification are unfounded fears.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No one bullet fired ... no one assassination without trial ... no incarceration without trial ... not one dictatorship established ... no murder squads ... no meddling in overseas politics.

There was, however, plenty of that going on in Japan prior to WW2.

That is the Asia that would have existed under Japanese influence.

If the Japanese were so benign and wonderful why would Indian and Burmese forces fight alongside the Allies in order to kick them out?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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