2012 Textbooks: All seven refer to “group suicide”

March 31, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

On March 30, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the screening results for junior high school textbooks to be used from the 2012 academic year.

With regard to the description of the battle of Okinawa in history textbooks, all seven companies that applied to publish school textbooks made mention of “group suicide” (shuudan jiketsu), in which the Japanese military ordered or forced civilians to commit suicide.

While the Ministry approved the mention of “group suicide” in the textbooks submitted by publishers without comment, there are differences among the publishers regarding the description of Japanese military forces’ involvement.

In Civics textbooks, three companies touched upon the relocation and return of the facilities at the Futenma Air Station, giving a more detailed description of issues related to US military bases in Okinawa than in previous years.

In the 2004 screening, which approved the textbooks currently used, only five companies referred to “group suicide.” A further two companies did so this time.

Following strong protests by the Okinawan people against the results of the 2007 screening, which approved textbooks that removed mention that the Japanese Army ordered civilians to commit suicide in the Battle of Okinawa, and discussion at the Screening Committee, textbook publishers paid greater attention to the content of their description of this matter.

Four out of the seven companies wrote that civilians were forced to take their own lives, and that the Japanese military was involved in this, but the books do not clearly describe whether or not the Army actually ordered or forced civilians to kill themselves.

Among the textbook companies, Tokyo Shoseki states that, “Some civilians were driven to commit suicide by the Japanese military.

” The Shimizu Shoin text states that, “Many civilians also used hand-grenades distributed by Japanese military personnel or local officials to commit suicide in groups, including entire families.”

Adding an explanation to a picture of a gama or natural cave used by soldiers and Okinawan citizens to shelter in, the Teikoku Shoin textbook includes mention that, “Teenagers were forced to commit suicide using grenades given out by the Japanese military.”

In the Kyoiku Shuppan text they stated, “Some local civilians were killed by the Japanese military after being suspected of being spies and others were forced to commit suicide in groups.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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