In Iejima, students learn of two soldiers who lived in a tree for two years, not knowing the war was over

In Iejima, students learn of two soldiers who lived in a tree for two years, not knowing the war was over

Third-grade students at Ie Elementary School listening to Takao Miyagi speak under the “Niiban Gazimaaru” tree, on June 24, in Nishiemae, Ie Village

July 4, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Mitsue Chinen


(Ie) With the aim of teaching about the tragedy of battle on Iejima and instilling a wish for peace, Ie Elementary School (principal: Kyoko Kohatsu) has established a curriculum for first-grade to sixth-grade students, adapted to each grade, and is carrying out peace study in which the students visit war sites on the island and hear from people who experienced the war.


On June 24, third-grade students from Ie Elementary School visited the “Niiban Gazimaaru” and listened to Nishiemae resident Takao Miyagi speak about the war. Niiban in “Niiban Gazimaaru” is the name of the Miyagi family home where the Gazimaaru tree is located. Two Japanese soldiers, Shujun Sashida of Uruma City and Shizuo Yamaguchi of Miyazaki Prefecture, lived in this tree, hiding away from U.S. soldiers, for two years from 1945 to 1947, not knowing that Japan had already lost the war.


Miyagi told the students of how the two lived in the tree for two years, and introduced them to Kazuko Manabe’s book “Nuchi du takara: ki no ue de kurashita ninenkan (life is a treasure: two years spent living up in a tree)” and the stage play “Ki no ue no guntai (military troops up in a tree),” which were written based on the story of the two.


“Nuchi du Takara: ki no une de kurashita ninenkan” describes the harsh living conditions in the tree. “Ki no ue no guntai” was drafted by Hisashi Inoue, written by Ryuta Horai, and performed by Tamiya Kuriyama.


“It is wonderful that now, in Japan, there is no war and we can live in peace and peace of mind. I hope you take today as an opportunity to think about the Battle of Okinawa and about peace,” Miyagi told the students. The students expressed their impressions, saying, “We shouldn’t make war,” “War is scary,” and “In a time of war I wouldn’t be able to go to school, and I wouldn’t like that.”


The “Niiban Gazimaaru” has been selected as one of the 100 notable trees in Okinawa. There are now many students and general tourists from other parts of Okinawa and elsewhere who stay and visit the tree as part of peace study activities.


(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)


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