Mass suicide in Okinawa

Two years ago, a novelist Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Laureate, was sued by ex-Army officials that he falsely accused them as they ordered mass suicide that had resulted 600 people killed themselves in Okinawa at the end of WW2 in his book Okinawa Note.

It turned out in the court that Oe never visited the island in which he alleged the Army killed hundreds of people. He learned it from a book written by journalists who indirectly heard the story. Ayako Sono, a novelist, visited the island and found that many people testified that lieutenant Akamatsu, who Oe called "a slaughter", never ordered suicide.

Probably affected by the suit, the government demanded to delete the description about "Army order" from school textbooks to their authors. Tens of thousands of Okinawa people protested the revision and organized demonstrations against it. As a result, the government admitted the authors to rewrite the story.

However, historians agree that there has never been orders of mass suicide. Nevertheless they insist that there was "coercion" of suicide. This ambiguous use of coercion is similar to that of comfort women. Indeed soldiers handed people hand grenades, but it was the Okinawa people who wanted to kill the U.S. Army and themselves, Sono wrote.

It is exceptional that government "censors" textbooks in an advanced country like Japan. But history should never rewritten by political demonstrations and somebody should never be attacked as a slaughter without factual grounds. Indeed the mass suicide was a tragedy, but it was not by the organized crime like the Holocaust. History and politics should be separated and discussed based on the facts.


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