Thursday, July 16, 2009

Remembering and Forgetting the War

A couple weeks ago we had an Okinawan holiday to recognize the day the war officially ended. There isn't much hoopla surrounding this, but on Zamami all the kids went up to a memorial we have in the woods and cleaned it up, then held a small ceremony where they listened to a guy [who didn't serve] give a speech about the war.

Mostly, the kids here see the war in the same light I do: something that happened long ago, hard to connect to except through the few pictures and relics that exist. There isn't any animosity I feel as an American citizen and the war isn't even discussed. There's also the fact that, from what I can gather, Okinawans place more blame on their own Japanese troops for war atrocities than they do on Americans. (The shameful behavior attributed to the Japanese troops includes using civilians as shields and convincing many thousands of civilians to leap off cliffs to their death.)

On Aka this week I was walking back to the teachers' room after class and happened to notice these pictures on the wall:

I really like that last one. The students don't seem to connect American Dave with Japanese Them to the days long ago when our countries briefly hated each other, but I can't help but think that the JET Programme helps heal whatever slight wounds may still exist from the blood of sixty years ago. The kids growing up today are exposed to the occasional military family walking through - and lots of really fun English games with me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Zamami has a more positive view of the American side, in part due to the events you were no doubt commemorating.
Before and during the invasion, citizens of Zamami were ordered by the Japanese military to commit suicide using hand grenades. Also I believe there is a cliff on one side of the island, from which villagers were forced to jump rather than be captured.
So a good deal of war related hostility is in fact toward Japan (itself seen by many Okinawans of the time as a 'foreign power').