One Memorial, Many Narratives. A Comparison of Politics and Culture of Memory Between Okinawa and Mainland Japan

Master's Thesis, 2017
89 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 The History of the Himeyuri Student Corps, Memorial and Museum
2.1. Education in Okinawa since 1879 and the Himeyuri Girls as the New Elite
2.2. The Himeyuri Student Corps in the Battle of Okinawa
2.3. The Himeyuri no Tō Memorial and Museum

3 Okinawan and Japanese Narratives on the Himeyuri Corps in the Battle of Okinawa and the Reception of the Memorial and Museum
3.1. The Okinawan Narrative
3.1.1. Translation of Selected Survivors' Testimonials
3.1.2. The Okinawan Narrative in Social and Academic Discourse
3.2. Predominant Japanese Narratives
3.2.1. Translation: Mikame Tatsuji's “Himeyuri no Tō“
3.2.2. The Japanese Narrative in Social and Academic Discourse

4 Analysis: (Re-) Construction of History as Re-negotiation of Okinawan and Japanese Identity
4.1. Identity Politics and Discourses on War Memory since 1945: Distinct Courses
4.1.1. Okinawa: Okinawa no Kokoro and the Role of Women in the Representation of Okinawan War Memory and Pacifist Movements
4.1.2. Japan: Victims for the Nation – Rehabilitation of Military and State through the Glorification of Voluntary Sacrifice
4.2. Bilateral Claims to Public Memory and the Depiction of History
4.2.1. Japanese Claims toward Okinawa Concerning the Depiction of History around the Himeyuri Memorial and Museum
4.2.2. Okinawan Resistance to the Japanese Appropriation of the Narratives around the Battle of Okinawa and the Himeyuri Nurse Corps
4.3. Implications for the Forming of Identities and Current Inner-Japanese Processes
4.3.1. Processes and Limitations towards an Okinawan-Japanese Identity
4.3.2. Conceptual Shifts within the Japanese Society and the Need to Rethink “Japaneseness“

5 Conclusion and Outlook

6 Bibliography

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

“Young people would sometimes ask us, “Why did you take part in such a stupid war?“

For us, the Emperor and the Nation were supreme.

For them, one should not withhold one's life.

Strange isn't it? That's really what it was.“

Miyagi Kikuko1

1 Introduction

For Okinawa, Japan and their Asian neighbours, the end of the Cold War and the death of emperor Hirohito in 1989 created an environment of increasing vocality about war crimes, reparations, and the responsibility of the Japanese wartime government, as well as the emperor himself (cf. Sherif 2007: 126; cf. Iritani 1991: 244-5; cf. Figal 2007: 87; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 10). Okinawans, as Figal (2007) writes, also began to question their status between Tokyo and the United States more openly (cf. p. 87). The prefecture's citizens who experienced the only ground battle on Japanese soil and were victimized by both parties, also started to make “bolder challenges to mainland representations of the Battle of Okinawa in history textbooks, films, literature, museums, and epigraphs on war memorials”(Figal 2007: 87) (cf. ibid.; cf. Hein Selden 2003: 13; cf. Duus 1988: 367; cf. Ishihara 2001: 89-91; cf. Figal 2012: 25).

In the same year the emperor died, the Himeyuri Peace Museum opened its gates to visitors, planned and built by the survivors themselves (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a, h; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 354-63; cf. Allen Sakamoto 2013: 1053). The surviving student nurses were among the first Okinawans to speak out about their experiences in the Battle of Okinawa (cf. Angst 1997: 104), and have also prominently featured in the male dominated history discourse of the mainland, also because of their enshrinement at Yasukuni Shrine due to their military service (cf. Angst 1997: 104-5; cf. Repo 2008: 219; cf. Tanaka 2008). In recent years, the patriotic memorialization and glorification of the HSC's sacrifice by the mainland has met with resistance from Okinawa, that has developed its own, distinct philosophy of peace it promotes (cf. Ishihara 2001: 94-105; cf. Figal 2003: 78-9, 83-5).

Peace promotion and the protest against the bases are inseparable in Okinawa, Figal (2003) finds (cf. p. 65) and Morris-Suzuki (1998) adds that Okinawan protests against US bases also quickly turned into protests against Okinawa's marginalized position within Japan (cf. p. 181). As Hein Selden (2003) and Repo (2008), for instance, argue, Okinawa has thus become a counter-weight to the Japanese revisionist war discourse and continues to carve out its own “hyphenated“, yet distinct identity as Okinawan-Japanese, and thus induces changes in Japanese society and its conception of Japaneseness as well.

The work present aims, by means of a comparative approach on the basis of the bilaterally contested narratives around the Himeyuri no Tō Memorial and Museum, to examine the predominant narratives about the HSC in Okinawa and Japan. After assessing the differences and possible overlapping areas of both narratives in consideration of the respective historical and socio-political contexts in which they developed, the next step will lead from description to analysis of current processes of politics of memory and identity. One particular interest is the question as to how the HSC narrative is utilized in Okinawan and mainland politics of memory and identity since 1945. Another question concerns the influence of Okinawa's politics of identity on Japan: How has the wartime past been depicted so far, and what are the bilateral claims to memory and its representation in the public sphere? Finally, to what extent is Okinawa able to influence the mainland's view of history, and what implications does this have for the possibility of and limits to both an Okinawan-Japanese identity, and a conceptual shift towards a broader understanding of “Japaneseness”?

After an introduction to the topic, relevant theories and terms, as well as to the current state of research in chapter 1, chapter 2 will examine the history of the Himeyuri Student Corps, hereafter also HSC. Chapter 2.1 thematises the history of education in Okinawa since 1879 in the context of Japan's intensifying assimilation policies, and the privileged standing of the female students that later formed the Himeyuri Corps as the new prefectural elite. Chapter 2.2 then aims to describe the HSC's experiences in the Battle of Okinawa, while chapter 2.3 depicts the postwar development of the Himeyuri cenotaph and peace museum, as well as the structure of the exhibtion today. Chapter 3 then examines the respective narratives in detail: Chapter 3.1 about the Okinawan narrative has been split into two parts: The first part, chapter 3.1.1, consists of translations of excerpts of selected survivors' testimonies from Iha (1992) and Nakasone (1995). The second part, chapter 3.1.2, then puts the testimonies into the context of current social and academic discourse to achieve a firm understanding of the Okinawan narrative. The same structure has been chosen for chapter 3.2 which addresses the Japanese narrative. In chapter 3.1.2, a contemporary wartime story about the HSC circulated in POW camps has been translated in excerpts (see Miyanaga 1982 for the original), and will be correspondingly put into the current academic and social context.

Chapter 4 then moves from the descriptive part of the work to the analysis based on the findings thus far. Chapter 4.1 addresses the distinct courses of Okinawa's (4.1.1) and Japan's (4.1.2) politics of identity and discourses on war memory since 1945 with special consideration of the HSC. Chapter 4.2 will then examine the bilateral interests in memory and claims to a desired depiction of the past. Here, the usual order Okinawa – Japan has been swapped: Chapter 4.2.1 first deals with the Japanese perspective, which will be further explained at the beginning of the chapter. Okinawan resistance to Japanese representations of the past will be discussed in chapter 4.2.2, before turning to the final point 4.3 which discusses the implications for the forming of identities and current inner-Japanese processes towards an Okinawan-Japanese identity (4.3.1), and a possible shift in the concept of what constitutes Japaneseness (4.3.2) in favour of an inclusion of Okinawans as Japanese. Chapter 5 then summarizes the findings and tries to give a brief outlook on possible further developments.

Seaton (2007) argues that research on Japan's war memories tends to excessively focus on the government's perspective, mostly depicting what he calls its “orthodox” narratives and thus failing to accurately portray the diverse and complex debate within society (cf. p. 1-7): Although strongly promoted in the media and by politicians, affirmative views of the war constitute a minor position, Seaton (2007: 140) and Saaler (2005: 168) find. Arguably superficial an approach to the diverse discourse among mainland Japanese, analysis of the LDP government's view of history against the Okinawan discourse is still considered expedient, as it is what Okinawans continue to challenge, as the present work aims to show.

In the scope of this work, political culture will be defined after Pye Verba as „[a] set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system. It encompasses both the political ideals and the operating norms of a polity. Political culture is thus the manifestation in aggregate form of the psychological and subjective dimensions of politics. A political culture is the product of both the collective history of a political system and the life histories of the members of that system, and thus it is rooted equally in public events and private experiences“ ( 2017).

Politics of memory will be defined after König (1998): „The inclination to re-interpretation of the past, of its adjustment to political needs of the present is universal. Where this inclination becomes the content of official politics, we are faced with politics of memory“ (my translation, cf.König 1998: 380).

For the overall structure and argumentation of the work present, the works by Angst (2003, 1997) and Repo (2008) have been of special importance to the development of a feminist critique of the narratives and their representation hereafter described. Further information about exhibit contents and their critique were provided by Gustafsson (2012). Figal (2012, 2008, 2007, 2003) has been an important source concerning the history of the Himeyuri Memorial and Museum and its contents – alongside the Himeyuri Museum itself (2017; 2006a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h) – as well as the development of the Okinawan memory discourse and its memorialization. Moreover, the Japanese re-entering of Okinawa prior to reversion and the gradual nationalization of Okinawan memorialscapes, as well as Okinawan counter-measures and narratives have been thoroughly described, the latter especially in Figal (2012) and (2003). The Himeyuri Museum (2001), Keyso (2000), Nakasone (1995), Cook Cook (1992), Iha (1992), and Miyanaga (1982) constituted the most important sources for survivors' testimonials in both Japanese and English. For the Japanese assimilation policies prior to the Battle of Okinawa, Oguma (2014), Angst (1997), Christy (1993) and Kerr (1958) were consulted. The postwar history of Japan's politics of memory were described by Shimazu (2003), König (1998) and Hijiya-Kirschnereith (1998). The overall postwar development of the Okinawan protest community and its framing as a united struggle by a peace-loving island people has been described by Allen (2009), Tanji (2006), Hook Siddle (2003, 2003a) and Vogt (2003). The latter were also important for the analysis of current processes of (re-)definition of Okinawan and Japanese identities, together with Hein Selden (2003). For a deeper understanding of the Yasukuni view of history, Buruma (2015), Masshardt (2009), Breen (2008a, b), Rose (2008) and Higashi (2005) were important sources.

The transcription of Japanese terms follows the Hepburn system (ヘボン式 he bon-shiki) and may deviate where exact quotes require a different transcription, or where other spellings have been naturalized. Relevant Japanese names and terms will, where first named, be given in Kanji and corresponding roman transcription.

Where not otherwise indicated, the word „Battle“ in capital letters will signify the Battle of Okinawa.

2 The History of the Himeyuri Student Corps, Memorial and Museum

2.1. Education in Okinawa since 1879 and the Himeyuri Girls as the New Elite

The Battle of Okinawa, also called the “Typhoon of Steel”(鉄の暴風 tetsu no bōfu; 鉄の嵐 tetsu no arashi) due to its savagery and massive destruction, is the only battle of the Pacific War (1931-1945) fought on Japanese soil, and one of the deadliest for all parties involved (cf. Hein Selden 2003: 13; cf. Duus 1988: 367; cf. Ishihara 2001: 89, 90; cf. Stewart Lowitz 2001: 142; cf. Figal 2012: 25; cf. Oguma 2014: 137). It is usually defined as having lasted for 82 days, from April 1st until July 23rd 1945. However, Ōta (1984, 2014) argues that it began with the invasion of the Kerama island group (慶良間諸 kerama shotō) already on March 26th, and that it formally ended no earlier than September 7th, while July 23rd was only the day when the suicide of Lieutenant General Ushijima Mitsuru (牛島満, 1908-1945) – Commander in Chief of the 32nd Army (cf. Ōta 2014: 1) – and Chief of Staff Chō Isamu (長勇, 1895-1945) one day prior had become known (cf. 1984: 2-4; cf. 2014: 1, 2).

Prior to the invasion itself, the American forces had bombarded the island of Okinawa from its west coast, deploying a massive arsenal of 564 carrier-based aircraft, ten battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers and 177 gunboats, as Figal (2012) lists (cf. p. 25). A contemporary newspaper article states that about 25% of Okinawans perished during the bombardment and subsequent heavy fighting unleashed on the islands of Okinawa Prefecture during the three months from April 1st until July 23rd (cf. Uno 1991: 1085; cf. Figal 2012: 25). Calculated using the wider time frame that Nakasone (1984) and Ōta (1984, 2014) suggest, the death toll of the Battle rises from a quarter to a third of the population (cf. Nakasone 1984: x-xi; cf. Ōta 1984: 54-5; cf. Ōta 2014: 1-3; cf. Allen 2009: 188-9). While giving a rather overall outline of the Battle, said article already mentions the Himeyuri Corps' “tragedy” (悲劇 higeki) in particular (cf. Uno 1991: 1085). Although denied shelter by the Japanese forces, the majority of the 222 girls survived the bombardment, yet most of the 1362 victims among the student nurses of the Himeyuri Corps and their teachers are said to have died within the last five days of the Battle (cf. Stewart Lowitz 2001: 142; cf. Angst 1997: 100-1; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c).

The story of the Himeyuri Student Corps (ひめゆり学徒隊 himeyuri gakutotai; ひめゆり部隊 himeyuri butai) unfolds in the context of the eve of the Battle of Okinawa, when about 2000 Okinawan students – 1050 of which died during the Battle –, both male and female, were mobilized for the war. The students from 21 prefectural secondary schools were mostly drafted as nurses for army field hospitals – in the case of the girls –, and for supply transportation or repair work in case of the male students. Lower grade students carried out duties such as repair of electric cables or distribution of telegraphs (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a,b; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 354-5).

The female student unit only became widely known as the “Himeyuri“ nurses in the post-war years3. It comprised 222 girls and young women aged 15-19, as well as 18 teachers from two girls schools in Naha 那覇, Okinawa Prefecture. Those were the female division of Okinawa Normal School (沖縄師範学校女子部 okinawa shihan-gakkō joshi-bu) (also called Okinawa Women's Normal School), and the students of the Okinawa First Girls High School (沖縄県立第一高等女学校 okinawa-kenritsu daiichi kōtō-jogakkō) (also called First Prefectural Girls High School) (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a, b; cf. Angst 1997: 100).

The name Himeyuri (ひめゆり, or 姫百合) – usually written using Hiragana only – is derived from the names of the two schools’ magazines. The magazine of the Okinawa Women's Normal School was called Otohime (乙姫, “young princess“ or “young lady“), while the Okinawa First Girls High School's was named Shirayuri (白百合, white lily). When the schools began to cooperate, the magazines as well as their names were merged into Himeyuri. While the actual meaning is “(red) star lily“, there are also translations as “wild (purple) lily“, “maiden lily“ or “princess lily“, if translated directly from the Kanji (姫百合 himeyuri) (cf. Shima 2015: 9; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a,b; cf. Angst 1997: 100). It is a flower very commonly seen among the flora of both Okinawa and mainland Japan and signifies purity and rejuvenation (cf. Angst 1997: 100).

The two schools were, according to Angst (1997) “[...] the top two pre-war girls higher schools in Okinawa […]“ (p. 100). The girls who attended these schools were the daughters of Okinawa's upper class families of pre-war times (cf. ibid.). The privileged standing of these secondary school girls that Angst (1997) describes, seems to be backed by the report Kerr (1958) gives about the state of education in Okinawa Prefecture (cf. p. 440-9.; cf. Angst 1997: 100-2): Since the year 1890, the central government in Tokyo did not intend to provide education above primary level for its newest prefecture. This situation was only changed by the initiative and efforts of the Okinawans themselves, filing petitions and actively seeking assimilation. Before 1910, when local Okinawan authorities were eventually granted budget autonomy and started building more schools, the provision of education had put great financial strain on Okinawa, and, as Kerr (1958) describes, continued to do so. By the year 1941, while incurring high costs of up to 2,5 million yen annually, Okinawa Prefecture had established 322 schools on the whole, eight of which were high schools for girls (cf. Kerr 1958: 440-9).

The Okinawa Female Normal School emerged from the establishment of courses for girls at the Normal School in Shuri in the year 1896 (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a,b). This school was the first to be established after incorporation into the Japanese nation, and was aimed at educating teachers (cf. Oguma 2014: 36-7). The Okinawa First Girls' High School was founded in the year 1900 (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a, b).

The development of a secondary school system for boys, however, had priority over the education of girls, from both the government's as well as the perspective of their own families (cf. Kerr 1958: 444; cf. Angst 1997: 102). The Okinawa Female Normal School thus originated from a former “adjunct to the normal school in 1900“ (Kerr 1958: 444) and was still dependent on private funds until the year 1902 (cf. ibid.). According to Angst (1997), education in Okinawa took a distinctively gendered turn, since especially poor families heavily relied on their daughters' assistance in everyday tasks. Even if sent to school like boys, the girls would usually tend to the small children and infants as soon as they started to cry, and could therefore hardly follow the curriculum. These girls were rather sent as komori (子守, “babysitter” or “nanny”) than as students. Whether passively ignored or actively denied, Angst (1997) contends that especially poor Okinawan girls were virtually barred from access to education by both institutions, state and family. However, the two schools attended by the student nurses of the Himeyuri Corps were different cases (cf. p. 102):

“The exception to the general rule for women was Okinawa's top prewar girls' schools, which were engaged in the critical task of inculcating metropolitan values in girls from the upper class who would become Okinawa's schoolteachers and nurses – new civic models of womanhood. Trained in the gendered attitudes and practices of the metropole, these girls were soon to be supportive of the pivotal, managerial class effecting the transition from colonized ethnics to the state's newest citizen subjects”(Angst 1997: 102).

Although Japan adopted a seemingly contradictory policy towards Okinawa as its new prefecture, introducing Japanese law, but making a point of preserving old customs and the Ryūkyū tax system that proved detrimental to peasants, the newly founded schools were designed to Japanise the youth and foster good imperial subjects by means of education (cf. Oguma 2014: 36-7; cf. Angst 1997: 102; cf. Christy 1993: 614; cf. Ōta 1984: 16). The Meiji government's education policy mainly centred on the “production of imperial subjects”(Christy 1993: 614) in its emperor-centred morality. In order to industrialize and militarize the nation, loyalty and unification under and in the Emperor were decisive factors (cf. ibid.). As the Japanese empire, in the face of expanding Western imperialism, incorporated more foreign territories where other languages were spoken, the focus of education and measure for a subject's loyalty towards the Emperor became the ability to speak standard Japanese as defined by the government. This assimilation policy was also adopted in Okinawa and is known as the kōminka (公民科, “imperial subject education“ or “citizen education”) or kōminka kyōiku (公民科教育法, education towards becoming Japanese citizens). It was part of the concept of the nation as a kazoku kokka (家族国家, family state), with the emperor as its father (cf. Christy 1993: 614, 620; cf. Tanji 2006: 21-26; cf. Ishihara 2001: 90).

At Okinawan schools this was, for example, apparent in the fact that every school kept a portrait of the imperial couple, which would be displayed during assemblies. The schools would also have a teacher with a special position as the picture's guard, who watched over it at all times, and the pupils were not allowed to directly look at the picture as a sign of respect, whenever on display (cf. Junko Isa as cited by Keyso 2000: 4). In the words of Heinrich (2004), it was “a policy aimed at eliminating existing cultural and linguistic discrepancies“ (cf. Heinrich 2004: 154). According to Christy (1993), the image of Okinawans as the children of the Japanese nation and the emperor himself fostered a sense of increasing closeness to the Japanese and growing distance from China (cf. p. 620). These policies eventually lead to Okinawans considering their own dialect and local culture as inferior, Ōta (1984) finds (cf. p. 16).

In 1941, the Okinawans had become Japan's largest minority group and although discrimination was still frequent, overall, the Okinawans showed themselves loyal with the Japanese nation. As Kerr (1958) remarks, the situation in Okinawa in 1941 was such that there were no anti-Japanese political organizations, and appeals to the population in opposition to Japan were not common (cf. p. 459).

With Meiji Japan's annexation of the Ryūkyū Kingdom (琉球王国 ryūkyū ōkoku) in 1872 (琉球処分 ryūkyū shobun, Ryūkyū Disposal4 ), Japan had gained an important link as regards communication between the government and the southern territories. Okinawa, however, did not provide economic benefit and its youth at large did not make for promising members of the army: Several ten thousand Okinawans served in the regular military labor corps, yet there were few who were trained for actual combat. This corresponded also to the lingering belief, especially among the older part of the population, that armed forces trained or stationed on Okinawa would only invite enemies and invasion. The Okinawan opposition to war had been such that prayers were offered so that one's sons would be found to be unfit for service (cf. Kerr 1958: 459-60; cf. Oguma 2014: 15-7). “Manifestations of extreme nationalism […] were unpopular in Okinawa“, writes Kerr (cf. 1958: 462): The Japanese response was massive propaganda, especially in schools, to prepare the young for the war effort: Admiration for the heroic deeds of Japanese soldiers, as reported from the continental invasion in China, had been fostered since 1931 (cf. ibid.). Death in the name of the emperor, for his honour and glory, was thus eventually established as evidence of supreme civic morality, kokumin dōtoku (国民道徳) and the highest honour for an imperial subject (cf. Ishihara 2001: 95; cf. Aniya 2008: 6).

2.2. The Himeyuri Student Corps in the Battle of Okinawa

The Japanese military leadership ordered the mobilization of the 222 girls and their 18 teachers of the Women's Normal School and the First Prefectural Girls' High School to join the medical unit of the Army Field Hospital in Haebaru 南風原, as well as a few other hospital units on March 23rd 1945. The Haebaru Army Field Hospital (南風原陸軍病院 haebaru genrikugun byōin) was located near Shuri Castle (首里城 shuri-jō) and ranged among many other medical facilities built within natural caves (壕 Okin. gama, Jp. ) throughout the Southern part of the main island (cf. Angst 1997: 100). It consisted of the Haebaru Primary School building and trenches dug around it which served as shelters where patients were to be accommodated (cf. Ishikawa 1978: 58). The girls had merely undergone a quick training as nurses since the end of 1944 by the time the mobilization order came into effect (cf. Angst 1997: 100-1).

“Every afternoon, after the regular classes, medical officers and non-commissioned officers of the medical corps conducted training in the school auditorium for all students above the second year in the normal school and all students in the third and fourth years of the Okinawa Prefectural First Higher School for Girls”(Ishikawa 1978: 58).

Angst (1997) also reminds us here that these girls and young women were from rather elite families and had grown up in a protected environment. She further backs this statement remarking that it had been the schools' rule that each student be accompanied by one of their 18 teachers in and outside of the schools' premises (cf. p. 100-1, 108).

The tasks of the student nurses comprised tending to the wounded by feeding or watering them, as well as bandaging wounds and exchanging the dressing. As fighting continued and supply shortages occurred, however, the assistance in operations and amputations without anaesthetics, the cleaning of infected wounds – which also meant picking maggots from the soldiers' open wounds – and the disposal of limbs or corpses became the most frequent duties, also for the younger students who had not received medical training before. Carrying supplies in and out of the cave, oftentimes covering rather long distances5, came with the risk of being shot or killed by bullets or shrapnel from the massive bombardment, but as one survivor recalls, it was a welcome task even to carry out bodies, since it meant a brief change from the stench inside the cave (cf. Angst 1997: 100; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2001: 143-4; cf. Ishikawa 1978: 58-60; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 356). Survivors of the HSC report that there had been shortages on personnel and medication as early as May 1st, leaving a whole of 20 nurses and doctors to care for about 700 patients in the Abuchira 糸数 (Itokazu6 ) cave. The students witnessed heavy cases of brain fever and had to tie deranged soldiers up when they became a threat to themselves or others. Reports of relentless screaming and starvation to the point that soldiers would beg the nurses to cook amputated limbs were also given (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2001: 143-4). The girls often worked in pairs in two shifts – night and day – unless one collapsed from exhaustion, which left the other to fulfill all the tasks alone (cf. Ishikawa 1978: 59). By May, the Japanese forces had already lost 80% of their soldiers (cf. Tanji 2006: 39), and the American troops reached Naha on May 23rd. When Shuri Castle – close to where the Haebaru Field Hospital was located – was surrendered after having withstood heavy shelling for three days, the battle went out of control (cf. Kerr 1958: 470-1; cf. Duus 1988: 367; cf. Uno 1991: 1085; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a, c), and the Japanese soldiers retreated towards the South. On May 25th, an evacuation order was given for the Haebaru Field Hospital as well (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c).

The student nurses were ordered to follow the soldiers and relocate to Ihara 伊原 in the South of the main island, and were required to treat soldiers amidst the battle, which often included injecting the fatally wounded with lethal drug doses (cf. Cook Cook 1992: 356-7; cf. Angst 1997: 100,108; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c). Heavy shellfire and rainfalls had altered the landscape into bare hills and puddles of mud where corpses and wounded civilians and soldiers were scattered. The student nurses were also forced to leave their wounded friends behind, as reportedly happened in Haebaru in the case of two members of the student corps (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c; cf. Figal 2012: 25-6).

To the military headquarters, defeat had already been a certainty in the early stages of the Battle of Okinawa, yet in order to maintain the ruling system, under the kokutai (国体, national polity) ideology, they adopted a strategy known as the “maximum bloodletting strategy“ (出血持久作戦 shukketsu jikyū sakusen) (cf. Ishihara 2001: 90). The word 持久 (jikyū, “persistence” or “tenacity”) implies that the progression of the US troops was to be delayed for as long as possible: Ishihara (2001) and Jinushizono (2000) argue that the Battle of Okinawa served nothing but this purpose of postponing the decisive battle on the Japanese mainland, for the sake of protecting the emperor system7 (天皇制 tennō-sei) and the national polity (国体護持 kokutai-goji) (cf. p. 90; cf. p. 103-4).

On June 18th, the HSC eventually received order to disband (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c). Shima (2015) sees this as the Imperial Japanese Army's renunciation of any further responsibility to protect the girls and keep them safe (cf. p. 12). The girls – as well as civilians – were forcefully driven out of over-crowded caves where the Japanese army stayed behind and sought shelter. The young women were left defenceless amidst the heavy bombardment and still intensifying fighting between the US soldiers and the Japanese, where tanks and flame throwers were also deployed. Deprived of shelter and also denied food and water by the Japanese army, which were held back in order to provide for the soldiers, the girls were told not to surrender to prove their loyalty as imperial subjects, and because the American soldiers would torture and rape them if captured. To give an example, such propaganda had – already at the beginning of the invasion – driven 700 women and children on the Kerama Islands and 600 to 700 civilians on Tokashiki (渡嘉敷島 tokashiki-jima) into mass suicide for fear of the alleged bestiality of the Americans (cf. Stewart Lowitz 2001: 142; cf. Angst 1997: 101; cf. Mansfield 2015; cf. Kerr 1958: 470-1; cf. Ōta 2014: 7-10; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 363-7).

The disbanded nurse corps, forced to escape the bombardment of the Army Field Hospital, separated and split into groups, which their teachers tried to keep together amidst the firebombings. A group of eight girls was killed on a beach. Out of the group of 51 girls hiding in the Itokazu Cave, only five survived a poison gas attack. Another girl who had lost her footing reportedly drowned in the sea, while others committed suicide with hand grenades shortly before the end of the Battle, after having reached the shore (cf. Angst 1997: 101; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 357, 359-62). The majority of the students and teachers killed died within the last five days before the end of the Battle on June 23rd 1945 (cf. Angst 1997: 101; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c). It ended with the discovery of the suicide of General (大将 taishō) Ushijima. He had evacuated and entrenched himself in a tunnel system built by the Japanese army with some of his officers (cf. Kerr 1958: 471; cf. Angst 1997: 101).

As the Himeyuri Peace Museum states, in the 90 days of the Battle before being disbanded, 19 student nurses died. In the last five days after the order, it was more than a hundred (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c). Most of the girls died on Kyan Peninsula (喜屋武 kyan) (cf. Angst 1997: 101).

2.3. The Himeyuri no Tō Memorial and Museum

Today, the main island of Okinawa alone comprises more than 300 monuments for the war dead – a density per square kilometre that Figal (2012) fathoms to be the highest in the world (cf. Figal 2012: 29). The Himeyuri Peace Museum (ひめゆり平和祈念資料館 Himeyuri Heiwa Kinen Shiryōkan8 ), who welcomed its 20 millionth visitor in 2014, is located in Ihara district, Itoman City (cf. Okinawa Island Guide 2017; cf. Ryukyu Shimpo 2014). The memorial and museum are located approximately 20 km from the former Haebaru Army Field Hospital. The cenotaph itself stands at the entrance to the former Ihara Third Surgical Cave (伊原第三外科壕跡 ihara daisan kega-gō), where 46 out of 51 student nurses had lost their lives. Seeking shelter within the cave, they had been hit by poison gas (cf. Angst 1997: 101; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 357; cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c).

The Himeyuri cenotaph was the second memorial to be built after the Battle, after the Konpaku no Tō 魂魄の塔 and shortly before the Kenji no Tō 健児の塔 dedicated to the 385 male students of Okinawa Normal School, organized into the Imperial Blood and Iron Corps (鉄血勤皇師範隊, tekketsu kinnō shihan-tai), of whom 159 survived. In charge of repair work and pioneer tasks, the boys had later been sent to the battlefield together with the soldiers of the Thirty-Second Army under General Mitsuru Ushijima (cf. Figal 2012: 29-30; cf. Figal 2007: 89; cf. Kerr 1958: 471-2; cf. Figal 2003: 76; cf. McCormack Norimatsu 2012: 23; cf. Ōta 2014: 3).

The Himeyuri Peace Museum was created by the Himeyuri Alumnae Association (女師・一高女ひめゆり同窓会 jōshi-ichikōjo himeyuri dōsōkai) in the year 1983 and added to the Himeyuri cenotaph's premises on Memorial Day 1989, funded and planned by the survivors. In the year 2014, it marked its 25th anniversary as a museum organized and run privately by the Alumnae Association that has since 1960 been a legally incorporated foundation (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006a, h; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 354-63; cf. Ryukyu Shimpo 2014; cf. Tamaki 2014; cf. Allen Sakamoto 2013: 1053; cf. Gustafsson 2012: 228).

As many similar memorials in Okinawa Prefecture, the Himeyuri no Tō (ひめゆりの塔, Tower of Himeyuri) was built shortly after the end of the war. In 1946, activities to collect the bones of the deceased, so-called ikotsu shūshū (遺骨収集, collection of mortal remains) campaigns were initiated and undertaken throughout the prefecture. This was also necessitated by the building of the US military bases: The confiscation of land by the occupiers forced many Okinawans to relocate from refugee camps to the most severely devastated south of the main island. Inspired by the mayor of Mawashi Town (真和志 mawashi), Kinjō Washin (金城和信, 1878-1978), hundreds of Okinawan volunteers of all ages collected the bones of the Battle's victims in a joint effort. This was not only intended, in a rather practical sense, to provide physical, but also spiritual hygiene and pacification for the souls of the war dead (cf. Ōta 1984: 30-6 as cited by Figal 2007: 89, cf. Figal 2012: 30-1; cf. Figal 2007: 88-92; cf. Nakasone 1995 : 417): ”Unlike war monuments (戦争記念碑 sensō kinenhi [emphasis in original]) built apart from the site of war deaths, early war memorial building in Okinawa was synonymous with bone collecting and interment” (Figal 2012: 30): Mass gravesites and war memorials thus came to be one and the same, resulting in what Figal (2007) calls “organic” memorialization (cf. p. 91; cf. Figal 2012: 32), which is unlike the Shintō tradition of the mainland, where bodily remains are not necessary for or excluded from memorial spaces such as Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 yasukuni jinja) (cf. Breen 2008a: 5).

After considering the circumstances of the immediate postwar memorial construction, when the majority of mortal remains were found between 1946 and 1955, a short excursion into Okinawan death and burial rites appears helpful to understand the Okinawans' relationship to the dead and the bodies of their deceased, and why Figal (2007) contends that these rites might, in a certain sense, have prepared the people for the task of bone collection (cf. p. 88-92; cf. Figal 2012: 32).

When a death occurs, the body is usually disposed of within a few hours. Usually, the whole family and the wider community take part in the burial rites, giving their condolences, as well as lighting incense on arrival at the house. Prayers for the successful departure of the deceased's soul and money are offered as an obituary gift. The body is washed and dressed in their best clothes, which is usually done by females, while the men are required to make a casket to place the body inside in the characteristic sitting position. After the burial ritual, the casket containing the body is placed within the family tomb. Children may be excluded from the ceremony due to beliefs that their souls will be taken away on approaching a grave (cf. Lebra 1966: 196-201). The palanquin built to carry the casket of the deceased is traditionally being kept at the outskirts of the community. If followed strictly, tradition also requires the entire community to throw out any food cooked on the hearth at the time of the death of a person, as it is believed to be polluted (cf. Lebra 1966: 196-7).

As regards the bone washing rites (洗骨, Jp. senkotsu, Ok. shinkutsi), there is no set date for the ritual. It is sometimes postponed until another death necessitates the removal of the casket, but usually conducted one to three years after death. The ritual is done exclusively by the closest relatives. After taking the casket out, the wife or son commonly touch the remains first. If not yet completely decomposed, remaining parts are taken off using large chopsticks or a sickle. The bones are washed with water and finally with saki (酒, Jp. sake), before being put into a funerary urn, beginning with the feet and ending with the skull which is placed atop. Now on the left side of the tomb, the urn is turned so that the eyes of the departed face the back of the structure, so that the spirit will be less tempted to leave. A final prayer is offered to apologize to the dead for having disturbed their bones. The relatives later purify their bodies with salt (cf. Lebra 1966: 200-1). Lebra adds that there are certain periods of time – on the tsushibii (年日, Jap. toshi-bi 9 ) and during nmari-dushi (厄年, Jap. yaku-doshi, “birth year“ or “year of misfortune”)10 when relatives will refrain from the ritual due to being weaker and more vulnerable to misfortune (cf. ibid.). To draw an intermediate conclusion, it may be stated that a certain sense of impurity, and also of a threat of worldly or even spiritual misfortune is given when treating mortal remains.

The construction of early war memorials in Okinawa was synonymous with the gathering of mortal remains and their burial. As bone collection campaigns continue to be conducted annually and dozens of bones are still excavated today, the war past remains in the Okinawan consciousness and shapes its narrative. These experiences inspired the notion that the corpses of the war dead have become the soil of Okinawa both physically and spiritually, which is only reinforced by the continuing discoveries of mortal remains (cf. Figal 2012: 30-31, 34; cf. Ishihara 2001: 96).

Between 1945 and 1955, bone collection campaigns were mostly conducted in the South, as the North had been spared equally extensive devastation. About 135.000 remains were found and either cremated immediately or interred in one of the approximately 100 ossuaries that had already been built in the region (cf. Ōta 1985 as cited by Figal 2012: 31).

The first memorial to be built in a similar way to the Himeyuri no Tō was the Konpaku no Tō, where the remains of the fallen were indiscriminately gathered by volunteers, taken to the beach and washed before being put in one tomb. For lack of material, cement, old bed frames of the American military and coral rock were used to build a cap over the remains. The Himeyuri no Tō and Kenji no Tō followed as Okinawa's second and third war memorials in February 1946 and March 1946 respectively (cf. Figal 2012: 32).

The aspect of the propitiation of the souls of the war dead is also implied by the designation as Himeyuri “no Tō”: The word 塔, which often appears in the names of Japanese war memorials, literally means “tower“ or “pagoda”, yet in this context refers to the term ireitō (慰霊塔, spirit consolation tower), or irei no t ō 慰霊の塔. This term is most commonly used within Japan to mark a site dedicated to the war dead. “In other words, the emphasis in the word ireitō [emphasis in original] is on a site for the consolation of the souls of the war dead rather than on the remembrance of war per se”(Figal 2012: 29). The choice of the word irei, or consolation of souls, thus implies an expression of remorse for the war, an interpretation easily understood by those who have lived the war, as Figal (2012) states referring to the writing of Ōta Masahide (大田昌秀, 1925-2017), a survivor of the Battle who had been a member of the Imperial Blood and Iron Corps and later became governor of Okinawa (cf. p. 29, 30; cf. Ōta Norimatsu 2010: 1,2).

The inauguration ceremony of the Himeyuri cenotaph as well as the first irei-sai (慰霊祭, “memorial service“ or literally “celebration for the consolation of the souls of the dead“) for the victims were held on April 7th 1946, with the surviving students of the associated schools attending. One of the surviving teachers, Seizen Nakasone11 (仲宗根政善, 1907-1995), recited his poem ihamakura (岩枕, stone pillow). The poem, entirely written in Hiragana, is now engraved into a memorial stone beside the cenotaph. As Nakasone (1995) points out, the engraving was done by the citizens of Mawashi Village (cf. p. 417-8): “Even though the stone pillows must be hard, may you rest in peace, your school friends pray“ 12 (my translation, cf. Nakasone 1995: 417-8).

The Himeyuri memorial's adjoining Peace Museum was modelled after the main school building where the girls of the student nurse corps had studied (cf. Stewart und Lowitz 2001: 142).

As the initiators of the construction and curators of the exhibition, the survivors themselves have thus far overseen the contents and strategies of depiction, as well as told visitors their stories personally, framing themselves as survivors instead of sacrificed daughters of the Japanese nation (cf. Repo 2008: 237-8): “Reaching a large audience with approximately 900,000 visitors each year, the Himeyuri Peace Museum can be said to pose a noteworthy challenge to the Yasukuni discourse about the Himeyuri“ (Repo 2008: 238) (see chapter 3.2.2).

When it first opened in 1989, the structure already comprised 1096 square metres and welcomed hundreds of visitors daily, locals and mainland Japanese alike (cf. Angst 1997: 103). As will be described in more detail in chapter 3.1.2, the museum develops its “critique of the Japanese Army in the name of peace“ (cf. Allen Sakamoto 2013: 1052). The museum's main message, that past mistakes should never be repeated again, is similar to that of many peace museums in Okinawa as well as mainland Japan. Allen Sakamoto (2013), however, contend that it is special in its intention to clearly identify the nature of the mistakes, as well as the portrayal of the Japanese cowardice and coercion in their treatment of Okinawans. It thus aims to show the Japanese military as perpetrators in a “brutally direct“ (Allen Sakamoto 2013: 1052) manner (cf. ibid.). The museum describes its motivation and purpose on its website:

“About 40 years have passed since the Battle of Okinawa, and yet the indescribable tragedy we experienced and witnessed on the battlefield still haunts our memory. We will never forget the horror of the pre-World War II militaristic education, which drove us to the battlefield with no skepticism but rather with a willingness to serve.We strongly feel that we must continue to tell our stories of a war filled with insanity and brutality now that the post-war generations, who have no idea what war is, have formed the majority of our population and that the peace-threatening signs in both domestic and international politics cannot be ignored. Believing an appeal for world peace will be the way to repose the souls of those who perished, we, the Himeyuri Alumnae, founded the Himeyuri Peace Museum on this site”(Himeyuri Museum 2006h).

The Himeyuri Peace Museum comprises six exhibition chambers, a multipurpose hall with a VTR room, as well as an additional room to chamber 4 with a cave diorama on constant display. The museum is built around a flower garden, sending the visitor on a round course through the museum (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2017). The first chamber, called Himeyuri no seishun (ひめゆりの青春, spring of life of the Himeyuri), or “Youth of Himeyuri“, deals with the life of the Himeyuri students before the war and the changes that ocurred leading up to it. Emphasis is placed on the citizen education and gradual militarization of the schools. This chamber also already depicts the beginning of the Battle of Okinawa and the mobilization order in March 1945 (cf. Himeyuri 2017). Chamber 3, “Deactivation Order and Roaming Towards Death“ (解散命令と死の彷徨 kaisan meirei to shi no hōkō), depicts the events that occurred after the order to disband. The deaths of the Himeyuri students are shown through archive films and testimonies of survivors. The order to disband the military issued is clearly depicted as unreasonable and as the cause of the deaths of over 100 students within a few days. Chamber 4, “Requiem“ (鎮魂 chinkon), focusses on the students and teachers who died during the Battle. Their portraits are on display, accompanied by accounts of survivors. From chamber 4, the additional room of the cave diorama can be accessed. Here, a life-sized diorama of the inside of Ihara Third Clinical Cave can be viewed. Only five out of 51 of the Himeyuri students and teachers hidden inside survived a tear gas attack on June 19th 1945 – the gas had concentrated within in the cave and suffocated the students inside (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2017, 2006c; cf. Cook Cook 1992: 357; cf Angst 1997: 100-1). Chamber 5 is called “Memorial“ (回想 kaisō, “memory” or “reminiscence”) and marks the end of the exhibition. Here, visitors can write down their impressions. A selection of these comments and essays is also disclosed on the museum's homepage, featuring both English and Japanese entries (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2017, 2006d, e). The new chamber 6, added in 2004, was – in the words of the museum – created as a space to bridge the past and the future generations. The concept is to provide a space for peace promoting activities, hence the name “The Passage to Peace“ (平和への広場 heiwa he no hiroba). This room conveys the wish of the alumnae association for a continued peace keeping effort by future generations (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2017).

The museum has also published and facilitated the publishing of various works treating the Battle of Okinawa in the form of collected survivors' accounts and scientific research. These publications – in Japanese language entirely – are also disclosed on the museum's homepage and to date comprise 13 volumes. There is also another section featuring ten works the museum considers especially recommendable in order to learn about the Himeyuri Student Corps in the Battle of Okinawa, which are, however, not published by the museum itself (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006f, g). Two of these books are also an important source for the work present (cf. Iha 1992; cf. Nakasone 1995).

The museum relies on the testimonials of the 90 survivors of the Himeyuri Butai (cf. Stewart Lowitz 2001: 142; cf. Allen Sakamoto 2013: 1053). Regarding the question as to why the survivors decided to only break their silence about 40 years after the end of the war, Angst (1997) remarks that in Okinawan tradition, a period of 33 years of silent mourning is required to put a soul to rest (cf. p. 104, 110). It can also not be overlooked that the museum opened in the year 1989, when emperor Shōwa (昭和, 1926-1989) died and Japanese society as a whole showed signs of increasing willingness to speak about issues such as the war and responsibility of the Emperor and the Japanese nation (chapter 1).

In the following, the Okinawan and Japanese narratives about the Himeyuri no Tō will be presented through translations of selected survivors' reports in the case of Okinawa, and of a contemporary story written based on hearsay that was circulated among POWs in the Japanese case. Both translations will, in a second step, be put into context and explained on the basis of the findings of current academic research on the history of the HSC in the Battle of Okinawa. After the respective narratives, their differences and commonalities have thus been made clear, an analysis of their influence on the current identity discourses in Okinawa and Japan will follow.

3 Okinawan and Japanese Narratives on the Himeyuri Corps in the Battle of Okinawa and the Reception of the Memorial and Museum

3.1. The Okinawan Narrative

3.1.1. Translation of Selected Survivors' Testimonials

After analysing the history of the HSC, their memorial and the museum in depth, the question arises as to how the memory of the Battle's events is shaped into narratives by representatives of different backgrounds. Before we examine the purposes of identity building and opinion-forming that these narratives have served since the end of WWII, it seems imperative the testimonies given by the surviving Himeyuri students themselves be taken into consideration. Please see Iha (1992) and Nakasone (1995) for the originals of the excerpts translated in the following. The corresponding pages are further indicated at the end of each part.

“At the Haebaru Army Field Hospital, Chapter 2: In the Student Cave“ (Iha Sonoko [ 伊波園子 )

[...] According to the shift system, the students had various tasks, such as heading for the hospital cave and nursing the wounded soldiers, reporting back to headquarters, carrying of food or work to expand the cave. But amidst this apparent carefreeness, like a wind blowing somewhere, [under] an order once given, we act precisely. We saw it as the pride of the students. Inside the cave were all kinds of [people], people reading relying on a faint ray of light, people who let their brushes run, people who swung their cross shaped picks in the work to drill through the cave, people who prepared themselves for the night shift getting sleep at noon.

During this time, too, the gravity of the battle was increasing by the moment.

Come the middle of April, the battle fire was drawing closer fiercely, carrying rifles and bullets, [it was like] the officers and the soldiers that had kept gritting their teeth sullenly began to enter the battle one after the other. The word was such that, when ten people would depart in pairs, at times when fortune was good, two or three would return alive, if bad, all of them would perish. It was at around this time that the students of the Normal School Boys Division13, who had headed out as a certain death corps as many as three times and suffered injuries for the third time, were sent to the hospital cave.

It was also exactly at this time that Lieutenant Nakamura and Lieutenant Mori of the machine gun division, who had kindly visited the student cave by night and let us know the daily development of the battle, were sent off by the students with shouts of banzai and left while looking back.

“Please be safe!“

“Everyone, you hang in there, too!“

Thinking of what was in the heavy hearts of the two who did not know what would become of this night, we shed tears.”(my translation; cf. Iha 1992: 44,46).

“18: The dispersion of hospital staff

Although the Haebaru Field Hospital had moved to Mabuni, there was no cave to accommodate the patients. There were patients who, having evaded the bullet rain and whom it took six or seven days and nights in the mud, had finally arrived. Upon being told that the hospital had already been dissolved, they just went into the green grass as they were and collapsed there. Crawling with pain and misery on their bellies, only those who could walk would help each other, cowering in houses that remained from the burning or under rock ledges. The hospital staff and but a small number of patients were dispersed over five caves and accommodated there. Having split into headquarters, first surgery division, second surgery division and third surgery division, the first surgery division was further divided into Ihara and Naminohira.

[The headquarter cave of the Army Field Hospital]

The Army Field Hospital's central cave was installed in[side] a natural cave, east of Yamagusuku. The hospital's board (of directors), subordinate to hospital principal Hiroike was there.

On the night of the hospital's relocation, the severely wounded Ishikawa Kiyoko and Yamashiro14 Yoshiko, brought in on a stretcher, and the pupil staff of the head hospital had been lead by teacher Nishihira Hideo and [finally] arrived at this cave. Tokuda Yasunobu, the students of the Shikina division, having lost both teachers Ishigaki Minobu and Ishigaki Sanetoshi, were lead by Shingaki Hitomasa and cowered under the ledge of the cave entrance, yet there was no room for accommodation, within short were moved to the third surgical division and finally shared the same fate as the third surgical division on June 19th.

[...] [Naminohira First Surgical Division Cave]

Ahead of the village of Naminohira, there had been two shallow caves built in[to] slopes, in the cave to the East, the students lead by Nakasone Seizen found accommodation, in the cave to the West, head nurse Uebara, subordinate nurses, medical orderlies and a number of students stayed. On the eve of June 18th, enemy soldiers were closing in on the village of Namihira, and [they] pulled back to Ihara First Surgical Unit.

[Itosu Second Surgical Unit Cave]

In the cave that had been constructed Northwest of Itosu, the field doctors of the Second Surgical Unit under responsible manager for examination and treatment Sagan, the nurses, medical orderlies and students lead by the teachers Yonamine Matsusuke and Uchida Fumihiko found accommodation. On the day of June 18th, the cave was horse-mounted15, and on the same night, Yonamine and Uchida and many students under them, fled the cave and relocated to the Ihara Cave, and the remaining persons under Captain Sagan fled by the night of the 19th. Captain Sagan, Sergeant Hirakawa committed suicide [自決 jiketsu, “suicide“ or “self-determination“; translator's note] South of Ihara.

[Third Surgical Division Cave]

In the cave where the Himeyuri cenotaph is standing today, there had been the field doctors, nurses, all of the medical orderlies and signalmen. All teachers Tamayose Hidefumi, Kochihira Megui, Aragaki Nimasa, Oyadomari Chiyo, secretary Okuzato Shōken and 40 students had found accommodation in this cave, but met with/confronted an enemy attack on June 19th , the personnel was wiped out completely and merely five students survived“ (my translation; cf. Nakasone 1995: 168-170).

Fatal Disbandment Order, Chapter 28: Unexpected Meeting; Records by Fukuchi Kiyoko [ 福地キヨ子

June 19th . Where I belonged to was the Tama rearguard [division]. This evening, too, a relocation order came. Is it a strategical relocation, are we going to get ourselves to safety, we did not know at all.

We merely descended to the Southern part of the island as ordered. Where we last pitched camp was the hill chain of Kyan, spanning Okinawa's southernmost tip.

On midday of June 19, the guard seized our heavy breathing, and reported: “Three American tanks. There are about 50 soldiers following behind each tank and they come attacking“.

The battle order came immediately. In the light of midday, we were targeted from the sky by American planes. Although the order had been issued, without being able to make even one step out of the cave, we simply waited for the American troops to close in on us attacking. After about half an hour had passed, upon thinking that [something in] the surroundings had rustled, the American troops, from the tip of the hill, poured a rain of bullets with automatic rifles and automatic machine guns and commenced a horse-mounting attack. Our weapons were but the hand grenades we all carried with us. We pulled the trigger and threw, pulled the trigger and threw, and resisted briefly, but since the soldiers, too, were fleeing the cave one after the other, I grabbed two hand grenades and rushed out as well. Amidst the rain of flying bullets, missing their targets overhead, around our waist, to our feet, going whoosh-whoosh, pew-pew, we ran with might and main.

Tatatatata, woom-woom, pew-pew-pew, the bullet rain grew even heavier. Ducking my head I fled with all my might, tucked my body against a slender pine tree's trunk, but eventually jumped into the margin of a field and lay face-down. In front of me, under a small rock ledge, one, two soldiers were cowering.

“Excuse me, please let me in“, I asked and finally evaded the rain of bullets, putting in one knee and making myself small.

That was the time when I could finally take a breath. In the instant that I noticed that [my] right hand that had been clasping the hand grenades felt as though it had been dealt a blow with a big stone, my little finger and ring finger became limp, and blood ran from them, overflowing. The hand grenade I had been clasping, without even exploding, was suspended by three [fingers], middle finger, index finger and thumb. I quickly stopped the bleeding from parts of my wrist and upper arm. I also had a feeling as if my right leg was numb. When I pushed my thigh from above my monpe16 , the monpe clung to my thigh stiffly and blood seeped out. “You were shot. You were targeted because you're wearing a white headband“, says the soldier next to me.


1 Miyagi Kikuko as cited by Cook Cook 1992: 363.

2 On the whole, 240 persons (222 students and 18 teachers) from the two girls schools died in the Battle of Okinawa, 136 of them after mobilization (123 students and 13 teachers), 91 (88 students and 3 teachers) who were not part of the mobilized group. The total death toll is thus 227 (211 students and 16 teachers) (cf. Himeyuri Museum 2006c, 2006a,b,h).

3 “In 1946, the bereaved family members of the HSC erected a small monument for commemoration of the HSC, and named it Himeyuri no Tō (The Tower of Himeyuri). The fact that they named the memorial as such also contributed to the misleading impression that they had already been collectively addressed as the Himeyuri Student Corps during wartime”(Shima 2015: 9).

4 When the Meiji government was established in 1869, its initial plan was to keep the Chinese-Japanese condominium over the Ryūkyū Kingdom intact, to reap the benefits of Ryūkyū's trade with China. However, after the last Ryūkyūan King Shō Tai (尚泰, 1843-1901) had postponed a visit to the imperial palace in 1875 and refused to severe trade ties with China silently, he could no longer withstand the pressure from Tokyo: In 1879, he was forced to sign a communiqué determining his abduction and Ryūkyū's integration into Japan under the new name of Okinawa Prefecture. He was escorted out of Shuri Castle by Japanese officials and exiled to Tokyo (cf. Oguma 2014: 16-7; cf. Huffman 2010: 11; cf. Kerr 1958: 381-4). The prefecture's new name also served to cut ties with the former kingdom's historical identification of independence, prosperity and cosmopolitanism, and introduced new identifying standards of (social) periphery, backwardness and poverty (cf. Allen 2009: 190-2).

5 As Ishikawa (1978) reports, the kitchen of the Haebaru Field Hospital where all meals were cooked was located at some distance to the hospital itself, and carrying food rations meant walking among flying bullets (cf. p. 60).

6 Abuchira is the Okinawan reading of 糸数 itokazu. Itokazu and Abuchira Cave are therefore synonymous.

7 According to Ohnuki-Tierney (2002), the Meiji Restoration created “a new emperor and a emperor system characterized by: (1) Divinity assigned to the king/emperor and the imperial system, thereby guaranteeing the emperor's two bodies (the individual emperor and the imperial system); (2) an 'inviolable' emperor above politics; (3) the emperor as commander of the military; and (4) the primordiality of the kingship and thus of Japan and the Japanese“ (p. 98) (cf. ibid.).

8 Literally “Himeyuri Prayer for Peace Museum“.

9 Celebration in February, dedicated to the completion of the respective birth year of a person. When these years are completed, it is not recommended to marry or to buy or build a house (cf. Perú Shimpo 2014).

10 Essentially, nmari-dushi, or birth years, are said to recur every 12 years, meaning that in the 13th, 25th, 37th , 49th, (etc.) year since a person's birth, they are thought to be more vulnerable to supernatural attacks and therefore have to be more cautious and take protective measures for their (spiritual) health. Apart from nmari-dushi, the seventh and 19th years, as well as several days during any given year, are also thought to hold more dangers than usual (cf. Lebra 1966: 36-7).

11 Professor emeritus of the University of the Ryukyus (琉球大学 ryūkyū daigaku) (cf. Ōta 1984: x).

12 “いはまくらかたくもあらむやすらかにねむれとぞいのるまなびのともは (ihamakura kataku mo aramu, yasuraka ni nemure to zo, inoru manabi no tomo ha) (Nakasone 1995: 418).

13 師範男子部 shihan danshi-bu. Most likely a reference to the Imperial Blood and Iron Corps.

14 May be pronounced Yamagusuku (山城) in Okinawan.

15 馬乗り攻撃 umanori kōgeki. “The cave strategy was effective in its own way, but Japanese troops were most afraid of what they called the 'horse-mounting' tactics of the enemy. While concentrating fire at a cave to keep the Japanese inside, Americans would approach it from behind and position themselves above the entrance as if to mount a horse, and from this vantage point they shot every Japanese trying to escape. In the case of natural caves, which usually have a few cracks and crevices, gasoline would be poured in into them and ignited. Americans would often toss hand grenades or hand satchel charges into those caves to seal them“ (Ōta 1984: 38).

16 モノぺ. A pair of trousers typically worn by (Japanese) farmers (JAPAN 1958: 906).

Excerpt out of 89 pages


One Memorial, Many Narratives. A Comparison of Politics and Culture of Memory Between Okinawa and Mainland Japan
University of Tubingen  (Asien-Orient Institut (AOI), Abteilung Japanologie)
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himeyuri, student corps, battle of okinawa, okinawa, wwii, Second World War, war, narrative, japan, mainland japan, japanese politics, politics of memory, memory, museum, himeyuri butai, himeyuri gakutotai, culture of memory, history, yasukuni, memorial, cenotaph, erinnerungskultur, student nurses, nurses, eirei, irei, bone collection, military, bases, japaneseness, identity, discourse
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Julia Swoboda (Author), 2017, One Memorial, Many Narratives. A Comparison of Politics and Culture of Memory Between Okinawa and Mainland Japan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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