What pains you, Shinzo?

A recent edition of the BBC’s website (Asia section) carried an article entitled:

The story was that Mr Abe had attended about a week ago a ceremony to commemorate the “70th Anniversary of the End of the Battle of Okinawa” and was heckled by some of the attendants while he was giving his speech. “Go home, warmonger!”, one of the hecklers apparently yelled at the prime minister. The story appeared in other British media including the Guardian, the Independent, the Times etc. A journalist of the Times said in his twitter, “PM Abe openly heckled and derided by crowd. Never seen anything like it in Japan.”

It is interesting (but strange) though that almost no Japanese media even mentioned the heckling with the exceptions (as far as I am aware) of a small piece of article that appeared in Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawa local daily, and a quick TV interview by the Hodo Tokushu, a news programme of TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System). I was later shown a tiny piece in Asahi Shimbun which mentioned the incident.

According to the Ryukyu Shimpo article, the heckler was an 82-year-old man living in Naha City (Okinawa) who had lost his grandfather during the battle. He thought, the article says, that heckling at the prime minister at the ceremony would likely to be his last chance for his voice of anti-war and anti-discrimination (against Okinawa) to be heard and was determined not to miss the opportunity. He was strongly opposed to Okinawa’s hosting the US military base. You will find in great details in the Guradian’s piece what the old man meant by Japan’s policy of discrimination against Okinawa.

What did Mr Abe say in his Okinawa speech? He talked about his sincere sense of mourning about the hardship burdened by the Okinawans during the Battle (where more than 200,000 people lost their lives) and said, “when I think of these people who so regrettably perished it pains me greatly.” You can read his speech text here.

Why did PM Abe have to be heckled as a war-monger? He expressed his deep and sincere feeling of regret about the Okinawa tragedy. Should he not have been praised as a peace-loving, conscientious prime minister? Why heckling?

Here are some facts about the battle.

  1. Who were those 200,000 people whose death “pains” the prime minister “greatly”? Some 190,000 of them were the “Japanese” and a little more than 10,000 were American soldiers.
  2. Who were those 190,000 Japanese? According to the official figure of the Okinawa Peace Museum, some 120,000 of them were from Okinawa. And more than three-quarters of the 120,000 Okinawans dead were civilians, not even soldiers.
  3. Who killed those civilians? Americans? Yes, but not all of them were killed by American bombings.
  4. Then who else (than Americans) killed the Okinawan civilians? I heard when I was a small child about the Okinawa tragedy that Japanese troops based in Okinawa were ordered by their Tokyo leaders to force local Okinawa people to throw themselves off the cliffs (rather than taking risk of being captured by Americans who, they were told, would rape and kill them.)

There are also well known stories that the Okinawa civilians were given two hand-grenades each. Why two? One of them was to be thrown at the invading Americans and the other should be used for killing the civilians themselves for mass-suicides. Why suicide? Of course, they were taught that it would have been much better and more honourable even for civilians to kill themselves than to be captured by the bloody Americans.

All these orders came from Japanese military leaders headquartered in Tokyo. It is also a well-known fact that Japanese soldiers were ordered to kill themselves when they were captured by the enemies rather than to submit themselves as prisoners of war. Submitting would have been an absolute dishonour and betrayal to the Imperial Japan.

All these tragic things about the Battle of Okinawa do indicate how cruel the military activities were but do not seem to explain why Shinzo Abe had to be publicly derided as a war-monger 70 years after the tragedy. He was not responsible. He was not even born in 1945.

I have a strong feeling that his “pain” would have been taken more seriously if he had stayed away from a Tokyo shrine where all those military leaders are still worshiped. You didn’t expect your words of “the Okinawa tragedy pains me greatly” to be taken seriously while you stick with your strange custom of wanting to pay tribute to those who had ordered the Okinawans to kill themselves rather than to surrender to the Americans, did you, Shinzo?

You were not serious to say those words anway, were you, Shinzo? It wasn’t the Okinawa tragedy that actually pains you, Shinzo, was it? Then what did pain you: toothache, stomachache or headache? It wasn’t your shinzo (heart) that pained you. If it in fact was you must go to the doctor. Otherwise just take some aspirin and stay in bed, SHINZO!

There is in fact another story about what a close friend of Shinzo’s gaffed about Okinawa newspapers. Let me talk about it separately…

2 Responses to What pains you, Shinzo?

  1. Neil says:

    Thanks, Jiro. I suspect, although you say ‘well-known’, that there are quite a few Japanese people who don’t know these facts. I was always surprised at how often we were asked for the real details of the War. I’m afraid I don’t really understand why Japanese politicians continue to visit Yasukuni Shrine.

  2. Alasdair MacDermott says:

    Most interested to hear about the Emperor’s statement at the 70th anniversary of the ending of the War. An impressive man. But Abe and Yasukuni continue to get all the coverage in the British media. Pity.

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