Museum to end program of sending Himeyuri survivors out for lectures

Museum to end program of sending Himeyuri survivors out for lectures

On May 28, at the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Itoman, Museum Director Yoshiko Shimabukuro (left) told visitors about her experiences during the war.

May 30, 2013 Reiko Akamine of Ryukyu Shimpo

From the end of September, the Himeyuri Peace Museum will end its program of sending out Himeyuri Student Corps survivors, who lived through the Battle of Okinawa, as lecturers for students on school trips. Since opening in 1989, the museum located in Itoman has educated many people about the misery of war.
The survivors have given lectures for over 20 years to let people know about the harsh realities of the Battle of Okinawa. As the age of the lecturers approaches the late 80s, in consideration of their health, the museum decided to end lecture activities outside of the museum. From October, the ladies will only give lectures within the museum. Director Yoshiko Shimabukuro said, “We do have some concerns, but this is the right decision to make to ensure that we can continue the lectures as long as possible.”

Lectures outside the museum are mainly held at visiting students’ places of accommodation, and often run past 10:00 p.m. Staff and family members of the speakers, who are now aged between 84 and 88, have voiced concerns about their health and safety. After much discussions starting last year, on March 18, 2013, the end of this program was officially communicated to travel agencies and other related organizations.

The museum had 27 lecturers when it first opened, but this number has decreased to ten due to death and illness. At the same time, the frequency of speeches per person has increased.

According to the museum, the number of lecturing appointments, including talking to individuals, exceeded one thousand each year. On average, each lecturer gives almost 100 lectures annually. Some days one person may have to give as many as three lectures. Of the 615 appointments received by the office in 2012, outside lectures accounted for about half of them.

Expressing her desire to continue the museum lectures, Shimabukuro said, “Motivated by our friends who have passed on, and as our duty as survivors, we have taught people about the horrors of war. I do not know for how long we can continue doing this, but, without stressing ourselves too much, I would like to do this for a long time to come.” On the other hand, she expressed the hope of the next generation passing on the survivors’ experiences. “Students whom we have lectured to tell us that they ‘will tell everyone.’ That has encouraged us to continue. I would like the younger generations to inherit our dreams of peace.”

(English translation by T&CT, Lima Tokumori and Mark Ealey)

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