Okinawa Prefectural assembly resolves to preserve remains of victims of the Battle of Okinawa

July 11, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Prefectural assembly has unanimously resolved to preserve rather than cremate the remains of victims of the Battle of Okinawa on July 10. The assembly asked the Japanese government to do so via the prefectural government.

The resolution was passed in the plenary session on July 15. Through it, the assembly seeks to expand a temporary mortuary that is too small to house the large amount of remains and has asked the central government to set up an institution to analyze DNA extracted from the remains. It also asked the prefectural government to establish a policy on how they handle the remains. The prefectural government had halted the cremation last year, but then decided to carry out the cremation this April. This was met with some community opposition.

The government received a new request to continue to preserve the remains in order to ensure DNA extraction could take place easily. Once again, the prefectural government halted the cremation.

At its regular meeting in February, the assembly unanimously resolved to ask the central government to extract DNA from the remains and make a database of them.

At its June meeting, the assembly members repeatedly criticized the prefectural government for their treatment of the issue.
The resolution stated, “It is necessary to speed up DNA analysis because the ageing, bereaved family members have been trying to get the remains and want them returned as soon as possible.”

Glossary: The recovery of the remains of the Battle of Okinawa and DNA analysis on them
According to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare statistics, 159 remains were recovered in the fiscal 2011, 103 in 2012 and 262 in 2013. The statistics of the prefectural government show there are still 3,200 remains buried in Okinawa.
While the prefecture continues to recover many remains, DNA analysis on them has not run as smoothly as bereaved family members hoped.
Since the analysis began in fiscal 2003, it has extracted the DNA from 50 sets of remains. Out of these, only four victims of the battle of Okinawa were able to be identified.
The ministry said the remains were not well-preserved because of Okinawa’s hot and humid weather. They said it was difficult to extract DNA from the remains.
(English translation by T&CT)

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