Editorial: Unforgivable destruction at Chibichiri-gama desecrates the spirit of “nuchi du takara”

 

September 14, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

 

It is impossible to forgive the desecration of the victims of the Battle of Okinawa and their surviving families by destroying a memorial site that conveys the true face of war.

 

The interior of and entrance to Chibichiri-gama, a natural cave in Namihira, Yomitan where Okinawan civilians were driven to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa, was vandalized.

 

Bones, bottles and pottery from the time of the Battle of Okinawa, and other remains in the cave were scattered across the ground. Paper cranes, folded by middle and high school students who visited the cave for peace education tours from all over Japan, were torn apart, and the stones of the “peace statue connecting generations” were damaged. The monument to the song of Chibichiri-gama, written by sculptor Minoru Kinjo, and the no-entry sign in front of the cave were toppled.

 

The “peace statue connecting generations” was damaged once before, by members of a right-wing organization in 1987.

One can see why the head of the survivors’ association said that the victims have been killed thrice—during the Battle of Okinawa, at the time of the incident thirty years ago, and again, now.

We hope the perpetrators and their motives are uncovered with haste.

On April 1, 1945, the United States military landed on Okinawa Island. On the same day, two youths were badly injured by machine gun fire when they exited Chibichiri-gama holding bamboo spears to face the U.S. soldiers.

An interpreter for the U.S. military called out to those in the cave, “We won’t kill you, so come out,” but the civilians, believing they would be killed brutally if they were captured by the U.S., instead fled deeper into the cave.

 

The next day, April 2, when the U.S. military arrived, a Japanese soldier who had previously fought in China piled up futons and blankets inside the cave and set them on fire.

Evacuees in the cave used injections of poison and sickles, knives and other sharp objects to kill each other.

During wartime, the Japanese military indoctrinated everyone, even civilians, to believe that if they were taken prisoner by the enemy, they must either kill at least one enemy soldier before being killed themselves, or else die by their own hands.

The Japanese military roused people’s fears by telling them that men captured by the U.S. military would be run over by tanks, and women would be raped and then killed.

Anyone who surrendered to the U.S. military was considered a traitor. Those who actually attempted to surrender were killed by Japanese soldiers.

According to a document of news, propaganda and counterintelligence guidelines for instructing Okinawans during the war, the 32nd Army had a policy under which the military, government officials and civilians were to live and die together, and Okinawan civilians were to be “instructed, guided and convinced” to die together with the Japanese military before being captured by the United States.

The History of Okinawa Prefecture tells us that Chibichiri-gama was cut off from the outside world, and those inside at the time had an extreme sense of isolation, feeling that they were the only ones left alive.

The civilians in the cave were driven to commit mass suicide because of coercion and instruction on the part of the Japanese military, which required that even civilians die.

Chibichiri-gama is a symbol of the harm caused to Okinawan residents by the Japanese military during the Battle of Okinawa.

Masaie Ishihara, emeritus professor at Okinawa International University, speculates that the vandalism likely occurred because the cave was targeted as a result of garnering attention as a place for conveying Okinawa’s “nuchi du takara” philosophy of peace.

It is deeply troubling that the cave has once again been subjected to violence. Nothing can come of violence.

 

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

 

Go to Japanese

 

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