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Japan slammed for ‘erroneous’ WWII history in textbooks

The new textbooks allegedly omitted Japanese military's involvement in mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa
A woman wipes tears in front of a monument commemorating those who died in the battle of Okinawa during World War II at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Japan's southern islands prefecture of Okinawa, on June 23, 2015

A woman wipes tears in front of a monument commemorating those who died in the battle of Okinawa during World War II at the Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Japan's southern islands prefecture of Okinawa, on June 23, 2015. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 30, 2023 11:36 AM GMT
Updated: July 01, 2023 07:21 AM GMT

A Tokyo-based citizens’ group slammed the Japanese government for the erroneous portrayal of the military’s role in a battle during World War II in school textbooks, says a report.    

The Kodomo to Kyokasho Zenkoku Net 21 (Nationwide Network for Children and Textbooks 21) has accused the government of attempting to change the historical narratives of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa by omitting the Japanese military's involvement in mass suicides on the islands after U.S. troops landed, the Mainichi newspaper reported on June 28.

The group reacted after reviewing the news textbooks and pointed out that the historical narratives were “more one-sided.”

Haruyoshi Matsuura, head of the group's Toyama Prefecture branch, pointed out that there were many discrepancies in the new textbooks drafted for use in elementary schools starting in April 2024.

"Not just on the Battle of Okinawa but also on territorial disputes and topics on the Constitution, we have noticed in recent years more one-sided descriptions that reject various perspectives and enforce the government's views,” Matsuura said.

“We hope people take a look at the revised editions and understand the problems," Matsuura further added, pointing at the discrepancies.

The group analyzed the textbooks published by Tokyo Shoseki Co., Kyoiku-Shuppan Co., and Nihon Bunkyo Shuppan Co. and gave notes on the content and its deviations.

According to the group, all three publishers touched on the mass suicides recorded in the Okinawa Prefecture village of Yomitan and other locations on the islands.

Without naming any specific publishers, the group stated that two of the publishers had printed that the mass suicides were the result of Okinawan residents being "cornered by U.S. military attacks" and included no reference to Japanese military involvement.

Matsuura alleged that the main reason for the mass suicides in Okinawa was the Japanese military and not the American troops.

"The main cause of mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa was the Japanese military not allowing residents to surrender, driving them into a corner, but this sort of description has been removed [from the textbooks],” Matsuura said.

“History shows that, in reality, the Japanese military did not fulfill their duty to protect residents," Matsuura alleged.

The group also pointed out that the third publisher's pre-revision textbook said that "children, women, and even elderly residents were all mobilized for the war and embroiled in the conflict."

However, in the new edition, the phrase "were all mobilized" has been replaced with "they were cornered by a fierce American military assault that burned deep into cave bunkers."

The group stated that the erroneous representation of historical events blamed mass suicides solely on the U.S. invasion.

The Battle of Okinawa was fought during World War II between U.S. and Japanese forces on Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, from April 1 to June 21, 1945.

According to the Encylopedia Britannica, an estimated 110,000 Japanese troops were killed, whereas fewer than 8,000 surrendered.

The civilian population of Okinawa is estimated to have been reduced by one-fourth in the conflict.

Around 100,000 Okinawan men, women, and children reportedly perished in the fighting or committed suicide under orders from the Japanese military, historical records say.

In some cases, families were given a hand grenade to detonate when capture by the Americans seemed imminent.

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