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Japan textbooks to restore reference on wartime military involvement in mass suicides

Japan textbooks to restore reference on wartime military involvement in mass suicides

The Education Ministry will restore textbook references to the involvement by Japan's wartime military to suggest that Okinawans were forced to commit mass suicides during the closing days of World War II, officials said Wednesday.
The ministry's move is an apparent attempt to ease the huge public outcry on Okinawa that was sparked after an order last year to amend the texts in a manner that softened brutal accounts of Japanese wartime conduct.
The ministry decided on the amendment after its textbook panel, which screens textbooks for use in Japanese schools, approved the latest change by six textbook publishers, according to ministry official Tsuruo Moriyama.
"We take heed of the feelings of the people of Okinawa who don't want to see the lesson of the history forgotten," Education Minister Kisaburo Tokai said in a statement.
"At this point, we have not been able to confirm any proof that each of the mass suicides was conducted by direct orders of the military," the panel said in a report. "Meanwhile, from the residents' point of view, it is possible to believe that they were driven into a situation where they had no other choice but to kill themselves," it said.
Kyodo News agency said the panel, which can order corrections of perceived historical inaccuracies, approved references to the "forced" nature of the suicides on condition that textbooks provide the background to the mass suicides.
Historians say at least 500 civilians were induced by government propaganda to believe U.S. soldiers would commit horrible atrocities, and killed themselves and their families to avoid capture.
However, in recent years, some academics have questioned whether the suicides were forced _ part of a general push by Japanese conservatives to soften criticism of Tokyo's wartime conduct.
Wednesday's announcement reversed the earlier decision made by the conservative government of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"We take to the heart the feelings of the people of Okinawa," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters Wednesday.
In September, more than 100,000 people protested in Okinawa against the government order in December to modify sections of several high school textbooks that said the Japanese army _ faced with a U.S. invasion in 1945 _ distributed grenades to island residents and urged them to kill themselves rather than surrender to the Americans.
The bloody battle in Okinawa left more than 200,000 civilians and soldiers dead, speeding the collapse of Japan's defenses.


Updated : 2021-03-02 10:23 GMT+08:00