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The government’s wartime designation of an “Osaka-Kobe Industrial Zone” for building and enlarging factories beyond Osaka City into its surrounding municipalities had profound and lasting effects on the location and size of Okinawan communities. The newly created jobs attracted Okinawan workers mostly from Osaka City, but also from Okinawa itself. In 1937, a Tōyō Ball-Bearing plant opened in Takarazuka, Hyōgo Prefecture, where an Okinawa Prefectural Association is still active today, holding regular gatherings and publishing a newsletter. In 1939, Kubota Steelworks built a 468,000-square-foot factory in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, where another Okinawa association remains active today.7 Sumitomo Metalworks enlarged its metal tube factory in Amagasaki City, Hyōgo Prefecture, to manufacture airplane parts. Other new and enlarged plants in Amagasaki made propellers, electrical equipment for military communications, rubber-covered wire, and torpedoes. Okinawans also worked at the Osaka Machinery plant that produced training models for the Imperial Army’s “dragon fly” reconnaissance airplanes. Construction of factories, workers’ dormitories, and other war-related facilities also created jobs for Okinawans.8
In the resulting “secondary migration” on the mainland, the largest population of Okinawans moved from Osaka to Amagasaki, just across the Kanzaki River, where their numbers increased nearly tenfold between 1935 and 1940, from 1,281 to 11,462.9 As in Osaka a decade earlier, they began organizing, at first in friendship societies of people from the same Okinawan locality. These merged in 1940 into the Amagasaki League of Okinawa Prefectural Associations, which consolidated after the war to become the present Hyōgo Okinawa Association, with a membership of approximately 5,000, according to a recent survey.10 During and after the war, it provided counseling free of charge to Okinawans seeking employment, negotiating with employers, applying for government permits or benefits, starting businesses, or trying to earn a living after their family breadwinner had died in the war.11
As the conflict widened in China and more men were drafted, not only were new jobs opening up, but accelerated production schedules brought overtime pay and higher incomes., Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō, the newspaper of the Kansai Okinawa Prefectural Association, began publishing barely two weeks after the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 7, 1937. It reported the following year that “under the present circumstances, businesses are competing as never before in unprecedented efforts to hire workers, offering optimal opportunities to both the educated and to factory workers.”12 A 1939 editorial expressed “our hope in this third year of the sacred war that we can take advantage of the present labor shortage to make gains in all areas of employment. Since in normal times we have encountered barriers to employment, we must not lose this opportunity for jobs that are stable and secure.”13 Born on rural Ishigaki Island, Kuroshima Anto recalled his decision in 1939, at age twenty-six, to leave for Osaka.
Escalating war brings heightened pressures to assimilate
Yet Okinawans’ wartime movement into the mainland work force was hardly
problem-free. In a January, 1939 roundtable discussion in the Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō, a participant noted that “there is still the tendency to exclude Okinawans and Koreans.” “Yes,” responded Hokama Chōki of the newspaper’s industrial labor section, “but things have gotten much better.” While acknowledging that the war had created many more jobs, other roundtable participants were less certain that Okinawans’ status among workers had greatly improved. Goya Hirotsugu, counselor at the Osaka Employment Agency, reported that “Just the other day we had a complaint about an employer who refused to hire an Okinawan, claiming there would be language problems.” And Medoruma Kōshin, counselor at the agency’s Ichioka branch, noted that “Nissan Automobile refused to hire an Okinawan recently because the company claimed that, although Okinawans worked hard, they were slow to respond and tended to change jobs even for a small raise in wages.”15
Goya suggested, in the same roundtable discussion, that Okinawans were perceived as slow to respond because their nonverbal signals were sometimes misinterpreted. Hokama explained that “Okinawans tend to reply in the affirmative by nodding and smiling, rather than in words. This causes them to be seen by some on the mainland as somehow vacillating, or to raise doubts as to whether they understand what has been said to them.” The participants agreed that employers should be informed that Okinawans are good workers and that differences in interpersonal styles do not affect their job performances. Medoruma added that Okinawans faced discrimination more often in small, privately owned businesses than in large enterprises.16 Hired for wartime work at Osaka Machinery, Shimabukuro Takehiko recalled in 1995 that “there were fewer exclusions of Okinawans and Koreans during the war when the factories needed our labor. It was a time when they would have hired a cat and put its paws to work.”17
Far from excluding them, some factory managers were so impressed with the work of Okinawans that they actively recruited them. Honjō Hiroo, President of Honjō Zinc Works in Osaka’s Konohana Ward, publicly praised the “diligence” of Okinawans Iha Mansei and Shimabukuro Keisuke, employed at his company for more than a decade since 1924. “They have changed our perception of people from Okinawa Prefecture,” he proclaimed. “Taking recommendations from these two men, I plan to hire many more of them.” True to his word, he increased the number of Okinawan employees to 150 when he opened two new factories in Osaka after 1937. He subsequently promoted two of them to foreman and manager at Honjō Factory Number Three, where virtually all the workers were from Okinawa, and recruited others to form the core of work forces at two affiliated factories in Amagasaki.18
Still, if hiring bans abated during the war, discrimination didn’t end. Kinjō Tomiko left Okinawa for the mainland a second time in 1943, at age nineteen. “I took a job at a munitions factory in Shiga Prefecture that made coil connectors for airplanes. . . . One of my coworkers was being harassed by someone in the accounting department who kept making disparaging remarks about Okinawans. When another woman came to us in tears, the supervisor of our dormitory floor, who was also from Okinawa, and I organized all the Okinawan workers for a strike. The next morning, we refused to go to work, causing a big uproar among the company managers. . . . After two hours they agreed to meet with us, and when we told them about the person in accounting, the harassment stopped immediately.”19
The problems often started with how Okinawans were referred to on the mainland. Many objected strongly to the term “Ryūkyū-jin” (Ryukyuan), which identified them with the former Ryukyu Kingdom and implied “foreign,” therefore inferior, status. “Ryūkyū-jin” (also pronounced “Riki-jin”) was used derisively when factory supervisors scolded Okinawan workers, or when notices posted at employment offices and rooming houses announced “Chōsen-jin, Ryūkyū-jin o-kotowari” (Koreans and Ryukyuans prohibited). In formal contexts, people from Okinawa preferred to call themselves “Okinawa-kenjin” (people of Okinawa Prefecture) or “Okinawa-ken shusshin-sha” (people from Okinawa Prefecture), and to refer to mainlanders as “tafuken-jin” (people of other prefectures, municipalities, and districts). Informally, they have often referred to themselves as “Uchinaan-chu” (Okinawans), and to mainlanders as “Yamatun-chu” (people of Yamato) or “nai-chaa” (mainlanders), terms in Okinawa dialect that can carry ironic or derisive overtones depending on context. In a sense, calling mainlanders Yamatun-chu, which identifies them with an ancient clan predating formation of a Japanese state, is Okinawans’ response to being associated with the former Ryukyu Kingdom. In the August 1, 1939 edition of Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō, physician Tamaki Tetsuya explained why the term “Ryūkyū-jin” was problematic:
Okinawans have been annoyed since the early decades of the twentieth century by popular depictions in the mainland media of Okinawa’s “rich” culture and “leisurely” lifestyle. For them, these two words carry stigmatizing double-meanings of exotic and indolent. “It’s easy,” Nakama Keiko notes, “to see through this ‘Okinawa’ created by mainlanders that reveals their superiority complex toward us.”21
To defend against exoticization and stereotyping, many Okinawans did what they could to assimilate, reaching out to their nighbors and co-workers. In his novel Michi no shima (Island Paths, 1976), Shimota Seiji tells of a young Okinawan who moved in 1940 to Osaka, where he found work as an apprentice cutting-machine operator.
Despite such experiences, Tokubei never changes his name, even though the official procedures were relatively simple, usually requiring only one trip to the city, ward, or village office to rewrite it in a household register. Most of those who made changes revised only their surnames.23
The trend to “mainlandize” personal names accelerated during the war, when pressures heightened to demonstrate loyalty to the Japanese state. The government’s policy of encouraging people in Korea, under Japanese colonial annexation, to adopt Japanese names became mandatory there after 1939. Although Okinawans were under no such government order, they were subject to social pressures at home and on the mainland. The Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education’s wartime advice to “change the readings of our surnames” coincided with the Kansai Okinawa Prefectural Association’s campaign on the mainland for “lifestyle reform.”24
With the Japanese government exhorting people to use “standard” Japanese as a show of unity in wartime, mainland community leaders launched a campaign to “eliminate Okinawan accents.” Tamaki Tetsuya wrote that “Because our language and customs are somewhat different, there is a feeling that we don’t completely fit in. . . . As Japanese citizens, we are, of course, loyal subjects of the emperor. So, under the circumstances, we should vow to get rid of extraneous sounds in our speech.”25
This was also the time of the notorious (and today much-studied) “dialect controversy” (hōgen ronsō) in Okinawa, where a group of mainland folklorists visiting in 1940 criticized local policies to enforce the use of standard Japanese in the schools as endangering the survival of the Ryukyuan language. The indignant response of educators there was echoed by Okinawans on the mainland. They conceded that “promoting the use of standard Japanese and preserving Okinawa dialects are both important,” but insisted that, for economic survival, “emphasis must be put on mastering standard Japanese.”26 Okinawans both at home and on the mainland saw the folklore scholars as seeking to exploit Okinawa’s “rich” culture, as material for their research, at the expense of its far-from-rich people.
Wartime pressures to assimilate from within the greater Osaka community culminated in leaders’ calls for a thoroughgoing “nationalization” (kokuminka) to eliminate or minimize differences between resident Okinawans and mainland Japanese. Like Tamaki, an author writing under the name “Yoshitake” in the Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō advocated the use of unaccented standard Japanese as one way to eradicate prejudice. He described his own encounters on the mainland with discrimination in marriage and employment in an article published on New Year’s Day, 1941.
Yoshitake went beyond advocating the use of “standard” Japanese, echoing calls for total conformity in Okinawan newspaper editorials during the “human pavilion incident” in 1903. He wrote, “If at the earliest possible date we could show we have become the same in all ways as the people of other prefectures, with no remaining differences, we would sweep away all their prejudices. This is the most advantageous path to our advancement.”28 Okinawans today view campaigns for assimilation on the mainland as much as rejections of an Okinawan identity and its cultural manifestations as adoptions of mainland lifestyles.29 “Rather than questioning the assumptions of the ‘majority,’” notes Nakama Keiko in retrospect, “they took mainland prejudice as a given and felt they had no choice but to ‘reform’ [i.e., assimilate] if they hoped to end discrimination.”30
Okinawans are hardly alone in turning to assimilation as a strategy for economic and psychological survival. “All known societies have been stratified,” notes Terrence Cook, “and as long as systematic inequities remain, one can expect some recourse to assimilation. . . . [G]iven the importance of the choice in question, it is quite plausible that an instrumental but boundedly rational reasoning may explain the choice . . . [I]ndividuals of an ethnic minority most likely [choose] assimilation [because] they perceive clear rewards in assimilating, whether for self-protection or for self-advancement in their careers. . . . [S]ome of them are enough alike in appearance or speech that they could ‘pass’ as if members of the dominant ethnicity.”31
Yet, even when community leaders were vigorously advocating wholesale adoption of the majority culture and lifestyles, at least some Okinawans on the mainland questioned the desireability of becoming “the same in all ways” as mainlanders. A resident of Osaka wrote in the October, 17, 1940 edition of the Ryūkyū Shimpō that “it is difficult for Okinawans to become like people of other prefectures because, although we are honest, they are inconsiderate and hostile. . . . They complain that we lack assertiveness and tend to withdraw, but we have many virtues to be admired.”
The author insisted that “No Okinawan is so lacking in a sense of public morality.” And he considered it “truly regrettable” that, “because of our difficulties with language, we are often misunderstood.”33
Although Okinawans may have questioned the extent to which they should assimilate, most maintained the emphasis on their Japanese nationality. This article’s harsh criticism is directed at “naichaa” (mainlanders) and “tafuken-jin” (people of other prefectures, municipalities, and districts), not at “Nihon-jin” (Japanese). Okinawans often emphasized their Japanese nationality during this period when “language and custom reform” (to mainland norms) was a popular slogan, and “being Japanese” meant being a citizen of a modern nation that had already won two wars (the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5 and Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95), and been on the winning side in World War I. Despite continuing encounters with prejudice and reservations about abandoning their culture, many Okinawans on the mainland, especially association leaders, viewed this “time of emergency” as an opportunity to affirm their identity as “the same Japanese” (onaji Nihon-jin). Tomiyama Ichirō judges this effort in retrospect as futile and self-destructive because firmly entrenched popular attitides and government policies in mainland Japan did not recognize Okinawans as members of the “imagined community” of nation.34
Responses to “spritual mobilization”
A history textbook used in Japanese primary schools, which were renamed “national schools” in 1941, included an episode from Okinawa during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5. Osaka’s newspapers had featured it in 1935 during the thirtieth anniversary celebration of Japan’s victory in that war. The widespread retelling of “The Five Brave Warriors of Hisamatsu” sparked admiration among mainland Japanese. It was even reported to have led to pay raises for some Okinawans working in small factories, where their wages had been 15% lower than those of mainlanders.35 The purpose of its dissemination in schools and in the media was to promote dedication and sacrifice among all Japanese, adults and children alike, in the war effort.
“The Five Brave Warriors” was classified in Japan as one of several “honored tales of loyalty and bravery.” Perhaps the best-known was “Human Bombs: The Three Brave Warriors,” which told of a 1932 incident in which three Japanese soldiers carried fused explosives into a Chinese fortification near Shanghai. A premature detonation killed them, but opened the way for a successful assault.36 The Hisamatsu episode occurred on Miyako Island in May, 1905, at a critical stage in the Russo-Japanese War. Islanders were said to have sighted a large formation of warships steaming north, which they recognized as a Russian fleet heading for the war zone. They immediately notified the Miyako local government office. But the nearest telegraph transmitter was on Ishigaki Island, about 100 miles away. Five sturdily-built fishermen from the Hisamatsu section of Hirara City were chosen to row their small fishing boat there. The information would be crucial because the Japanese Navy had been unable to locate Russia’s Baltic Fleet.
They set out on May 25 and arrived at dawn the next day. Their message was transmitted to the Japanese fleet which, however, had received a similar report an hour earlier from one of its patrolling cruisers. The resulting victory was decisive to the war’s outcome. And, although their message arrived later than the cruiser’s, the heroic status of the five fishermen remained undiminished.37 The Navy Ministry honored them in 1935, during the thirtieth anniversary victory celebration. Mainland patriotic organizations and veterans groups sent commendations and trophies to Miyako.
Public commemoration in 1935 of the “Five Brave Warriors of Hisamatsu” came during the fourth year of fighting in China. With the outbreak of full-scale war in 1937, Okinawan journalists in Osaka joined their mainland counterparts in public expressions of patriotism. An editorial in the Osaka Kyūyō Shimpō marking the first anniversary of the newspaper’s founding noted that “its birth just after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident closely links our newspaper with the nation’s destiny . . . To report the arduous battles of the Imperial Army is our patriotic mission. . . . The future of the struggle against the enemy in China is also our newspaper’s future.” True to its pledge, the newspaper published detailed accounts of sacrifices made by Osaka’s Okinawans on the battlefront and the home front.38 It printed the names and brief biographies of men departing for and returning from the war, and listed the names of Okinawan dead. Headlines extolled “deaths with honor in battle” and “the silent return of heroes.”39
The Kyūyō Shimpō also printed exhortations for Okinawans to support the war. A lead article in 1939, for example, urged Okinawan men in Osaka to “be especially cognizant of their military obligation, ready to serve with honor as Imperial Army soldiers in this time of crisis, and to shoulder their rifles at a moment’s notice if summoned by his Majesty.” The article’s headline, however, suggested that not all those eligible for conscription were eager to seve. “Are there men among us who have neglected to notify the military of their change in address? . . . We call upon you to register.” The article included the names of men listed with their hometowns in Okinawa, where orders had arrived from the local regimental headquarters to report for duty but whose current addresses could not be determined. It urged “Anyone with information about these men to immediately notify Mr. Toyokawa,” an Okinawan attorney whose address and telephone number were provided.40 Failure to register their new addresses at the local ward office was one way Osaka’s Okinawans, and other Japanese men, sought to avoid, or at least delay, military conscription, indicating that not everyone was cooperating enthusiastically in the war effort.41
Along with journalists, Okinawan composers and playwrights began infusing their work with patriotic exhortations. Taihei Marufuku Records, founded by composer and sanshin performer Fukuhara Chōki, released wartime recordings of Okinawan songs with such titles as “Wives on the Home front,” “Women, Be Strong,” and “A Toast to the Departing Enlisted Man.”42 Yet, even as he composed music supporting the war, Fukuhara came under official pressures that had the effect of devaluing Okinawan culture. Government censors ordered him to change the title of a song he had written with his wife Shizuko, originally issued in 1934 as “Ballad of the Warrior” (Gunjin-bushi). “It is entirely inappropriate,” the censors declared, “that the term honoring soldiers of the Greater Japanese Empire should be used as the title of a Ryukyuan folk song.”43 The incident acutely demonstrated the paradoxical position of Okinawans, who drew criticism for expressing their distinctive (“Ryukyuan”) culture even in the context of supporting Japan’s war against China. Government censors might have deemed the title inappropriate because the text of the song was in a dialect thought by many to represent an inferior subculture in Japan. Or, perhaps they objected because giving a “Ryukyuan folk song” that title seemed inconsistent with contemporary ideals of unity and uniformity. In any case, it was renamed “Port of Embarkment” (Debune no Minato), although the original title has been restored in recently published collections of Okinawan songs.44
The authors of Okinawan plays that drew overflow audiences in greater Osaka also turned to war themes. Since the 1920s, plays were performed daily at a small, converted Kabuki theater located in a section of Konohana Ward where many Okinawans lived. Theater groups from Okinawa also performed at other venues in Taishō Ward, and in the nearby cities of Sakai and Amagasaki. Touring greater Osaka in 1939, actors from Okinawa staged a dramatic sketch entitled “National Spiritual Mobilization.” The following year, another troupe from Okinawa performed a play entitled “A Drama Chronicling Troubled Times Between Japan and China.” An advertisement summarized the plot.
Like published songs, plays had to pass government censorship. Translations in standard Japanese were required for scripts in Okinawa dialect. Even after their approval, police in plain clothes came to theaters, synopses in hand, to check on performances. With stern wartime prohibitions against love scenes and what was considered “effeminate” material, actors would improvise prolonged interludes of music and dance until the police got bored and left, then perform the proscribed scenes that were often the audience’s favorites.46
Such expedients suggest that Okinawans sought some temporary relief from what Okinawan poet and longtime mainland resident Yamanokuchi Baku called, in his 1943 poem “Ōshō” (Drafted), “this khaki colored world” of mobilized Japan.
Okinawans living on the mainland today recall their efforts as children during the war to find some humor in the daily cacophony of militaristic propaganda and endless exhortation for greater toil and sacrifice. Yamashiro Kenkō, originally from Ie Island, Okinawa, remembers the changes in his elementary school during the war.
Besides playful takes as children on stern wartime admonitions and ideology, other Okinawans on the mainland recall doubts they had about the campaign for “spiritual mobilization.” In her account of the war years, Takada Hatsu writes
If Okinawans on the mainland had doubts about official claims that Japan was fighting a “sacred war” in which “victory was certain,” they could hardly have expressed them openly. People suspected only of having ”dangerous thoughts” (kiken na shisō) could be arrested and imprisoned. Nakamura Chijun, an Okinawan who joined the Yokohama police force in 1942, remembers how busy officers were from the Special Higher Police Unit (tokkō). “They brought people in every day for interrogations. Even those said to harbor thoughts inconsistent with national policy were jailed for more than a year.”50
At least some of the war’s survivors among Okinawans on the mainland still argue that the Pacific War was unavoidable, forced on Japan by other nations. Interviewed in November, 2000, six men in their 80’s living in Taishō Ward agreed that the nation had decided to fight because it found itself surrounded by the “ABCD” powers. That wartime acronym, much publicized by the government shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack, identified the Americans, British, Chinese and Dutch as thwarting Japan’s legitimate interests in Asia and threatening the country’s very survival by imposing hostile measures such as embargoes on essential raw materials, especially oil.51
Other Okinawans recall the early war years as exciting and inspiring. When eighteen-year-old Fujioka Hiroshige heard about the start of the Pacific War, he wanted to become a soldier immediately, dissatisfied with his status as a “home front youth” (gunkoku shōnen).
Organizations were also expected to do their part for “spiritual mobilization.” The Taishō Ward League of Okinawa Prefectural Associations, with its reported membership of 7,000, held rallies for soldiers departing for the front, received the remains of war dead, conducted public funerals for them, and made consolation visits to bereaved families. An article in the May 15, 1939 edition of the Osaka Kyūyō Shimpō praised the dedication of Washino Asako, who headed a local chapter of the Greater Japan Women’s League for National Defense. “She is gallantly providing encouragement and comfort in devoted service on the home front not confined to her family. ‘This has nothing to do with any special circumstances of people from Okinawa Prefecture,’ she explains. ‘I am only doing my part to fulfill my natural obligation as a citizen of the nation.’”54
To reinforce conformity and cooperation, Japan’s leaders established the Imperial Rule Assistance League in 1940. It sought, not always successfully, to reduce friction among competing institutions and organizations by concentrating even more authority in the national government. With the creation of what was called a “new order” (shin-taisei), many civilian organizations were abolished or absorbed into others hastily formed to support the war effort. Labor unions, for example, were merged into the “Patriotic Production Association.” On the local level, Okinawa prefectural and village associations in greater Osaka, which had become increasingly active as the fighting escalated in China, declined abruptly after the outbreak of the Pacific War, to the extent that little record of their activities during this period remains today.55
Turning tide of war brings labor conscription and food shortages
Although discrimination as companies’ policy had abated, Okinawans, like others in Japan, faced much harsher working conditions as the “quagmire” in China widened into the Pacific War. Teruya Shūshin quickly found a job at the Kawanishi Aircraft Factory in Amagasaki City where he moved from Okinawa in November, 1940, at age 23. Thirteen months later, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he began working long overtime hours on an accelerated schedule to produce transport planes for the Imperial Navy.56 Iha Zen’yū, originally from Okinawa’s Ishikawa City, had failed his draft physical due to a heart condition. He was running an awamori (Okinawan rice brandy) bar in Osaka until restrictions imposed on civilian enterprises in August, 1941, forced him out of business by limiting the operation of bars to two evening hours. After hearing that men not serving in the military whose jobs did not support the war effort were being conscripted for work in the mines, “I decided to close the bar and take a job making cannon parts at a munitions plant where I got hurt operating a lathe.”57
Kinjō Tomiko left Okinawa for the second time in 1943 because her mother said she’d be safer on the mainland if war came. “I’d worked a couple of years earlier at a spinning factory in Wakayama, and could see right away that the munitions plant I was assigned to in Shiga Prefecture had also been a spinning factory. The work I did two years earlier had also been grueling, but now, under the nation’s stepped up production regimen, we had to work even when we got sick. Besides that, meal portions at the dormitory were tiny and the food was awful. At home in Okinawa at least I’d been able to eat my fill of decent food.”58
Miyagi Masao also worked at a munitions plant in Shiga Prefecture. “We made the human torpedoes that men climbed inside and crashed into enemy warships, giving their lives for the emperor. In the company dormitory where we had to stay there was never enough food. They gave us meal tickets every ten days, but we’d use them up in five. After that, we only got breakfast in the mornings.”59
Uehara Kiyo left Okinawa for Osaka in 1943, at age twenty-one. “I was so happy to land a job at the Osaka Artillery Arsenal that paid high wages. They hired only thirty out of the eighty people who took their entrance exam. But I’d expected to do office work. Instead, I was assigned to operate a lathe that spilled oil all over my arms and shoulders, giving me a bad rash.” She wrote her mother in Okinawa who told her to return immediately. “I quit after working there six months.”60
While Uehara was able to leave her job, many couldn’t. Long hours and wretched food made Kinjō Tomiko want to quit her munitions factory job, but, this being prohibited, she was forced to adopt the tactics of Okinawan women confined to spinning mill dormitories before the war. “Finally, planning my escape, I sent a friend a letter telling her to meet me one Sunday. I got permission to go out for the day, then left for good.”61
After Pearl Harbor, the navy took control of the Ōtani Heavy Industries plant in Amagasaki where Kuroshima Anto was working.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Agena Hiroshi had just graduated from higher elementary school in Okinawa and was working on his parents’ farm.
Eighteen-year-old Machida Munetaka arrived in Osaka in 1935. His first job was at a company that made neon signs, but after full-scale war began in China, he left to work at almost double the wage for a company that manufactured cartridge belts and electric wire under military contract.
Job risks weren’t limited to machine operators. Nishihira Tsuruko compared her factory to a battlefield.
By 1945, Allied P.O.W.’s included American pilots whose aircraft were raining death and devastation on Osaka and other cities where war-related industry was heavily concentrated.
The war’s toll on city residents and evacuees
In December, 1943, the government had begun evacuating civilians deemed unessential to the war effort, and relocating some factories that produced munitions and other military supplies. But since moving heavy equipment and machinery often proved impracticable, many workers remained in cities that came under air attacks. Meanwhile, other residents who, like most Okinawans, had no relatives they could stay with in the countryside, were sent to designated rural areas where they often suffered extreme hardships. Some, especially young children, did not survive. Large numbers of schoolchildren in greater Osaka were transported, along with their teachers, to rural Shikoku in Tokushima Prefecture.
In late 1944, Isagawa Hiroshi was an elementary school student in Taishō Ward. Many of his classmates were also from Okinawa with no relatives in the nearby countryside. “The newspapers hoisted their lanterns in support of the war effort, printing stories daily about the joys of group evacuation. Our parents must have worried a lot about us leaving home without them, but we were in high spirits at first, as though we were taking off on a school excursion.” The mood changed abruptly after they boarded a boat for Shikoku.
Kinjō Yūji evacuated in the third grade with a group of school children from Osaka. He learned at the dormitory in Nara where they stayed that adults, too, could behave brutally. “We had a cruel house mother who badly mistreated children unless they paid her bribes. She served others heaping portions of rice, but I got only one tiny spoonful. Afrer a few months, I suffered from malnutrition and my stomach was sticking out like the children you see in photographs today of countries torn by war and famine.”66 Isagawa Hiroshi recalls, “I was ecstatic when my parents came to take me home in May, 1945. My classmates who had to stay there until the war ended looked like straggling soldiers when we finally saw them again three months later. Some of the sixth graders suffering from malnutrition weighed less than 20 kilograms (44 pounds).67
Most people who left cities with their families fared better than those evacuated in groups. Even without relatives to stay with, many were able to cope more easily with the dislocation, overcrowding, and food shortages. They also escaped the harsh regimentation forced on group evacuees that led to conflict among adults, scapegoating among schoolchildren, and occasional violence. Konawa Anka recalls that the farm family he stayed with in Arima “was very kind to us. They were especially happy when my mother volunteered to baby-sit their children. We were never short of food.”68 Shimabukuro Hisako was twenty-nine in the spring of 1945 when she and her two children evacuated to Ikeda in suburban Osaka Prefecture. Her husband had already moved there with the other employees from his company in Osaka City, now under heavy Allied bombardment.
Looking back fifty years later, Shimabukuro was still troubled by the Japanese military’s failure to defend Japan’s cities. “There were no bombing raids on that quiet village, but B-29s massed in formations overhead, then roared off into the western sky. Even as the air attacks got worse and worse, we never saw any Japanese planes in pursuit.”70 However, Shimabukuro doesn’t criticize merchants in suburban areas who were reluctant to sell food to evacuees. “With the Japanese people in the grips of uncertainty, it was only natural that shopkeepers should feel pressure to hold on to whatever food they had. I went to a nearby village not damaged by the bombing to buy rice and vegetables, and barter for other things. Somehow we managed to avoid starvation.”71 “Even when we had money,” Shinjō Seiichi recalls, “farmers wouldn’t sell us rice or potatoes. But they would barter, so we were able to survive, barely, by exchanging clothing and our sugar rations for food.”72
With the shrinking availability of daily necessities after rationing began in 1938, the government sought to bolster resolve with slogans such as “Covet nothing until victory” and “Luxury is our enemy.” Besides imposing severe shortages to supply the war, the government required war bond purchases, cash contributions, and metal ware donations. After 1941, rationing was extended to rice, fresh foods, clothing, soap, cookware, and utensils. People were constantly hungry, especially manual laborers. Many obtained foodstuffs on the black market. Nakamura Chijun remembers a story widely reported in the press about a judge who had starved to death rather than accept black-market goods.73 Government censors probably assumed this news would inspire Japanese to stop dealing on the black market, although it might have had the opposite effect on people determined to avoid the judge’s fate.
Kuroshima Anto felt acute hunger pangs when he returned from mandatory bayonet practice after a long work day at an Amagasaki factory. “I can still remember the taste of watery stew sprinkled with a few carefully counted grains of rice. . . . I got married in 1941. . . . Two years later, when the war was closing in on Japan, rationing got even stricter. Sharply reduced limits on the daily staples of brown rice and tofu imposed extreme hardships on us.”74
Distributing rations was one duty of the government-organized “neighborhood associations” (tonari-gumi), consisting of representatives from ten to fifteen households each. They also disseminated official directives, conducted air raid drills, and reported on anyone suspected of less than full cooperation in the war effort. Participation was compulsory. Okinawans who lived through the war still remember the words they sang to “The Neighborhood Association Briskly Knocking at Our Door” (Tonton karari to tonari-gumi).
Wives of men sent to the war were required to join the Association of Women Defending the Nation. Its members made thousand-stitch belts for soldiers who wore them to bring “good fortune in battle.”
Mandatory wartime wear were “mompe” work pantaloons for women and“geetoru” fatigue pants gathered at the knees for men. Women and schoolchildren had to undergo combat training with bamboo sticks as spears. Fifth grader Kinjō Seiki lined up with his classmates in the school yard every morning. “They had us attack two straw dummies, one of Roosevelt, the other of Churchill.”76
Wartime duties were hard to avoid, though some tried. Men who moved from Okinawa and other rural prefectures to the cities sometimes sought to evade or delay the draft by not registering their new addresses. They soon discovered, however, that, without registering, they could not receive ration passbooks. Then, when they showed up at the ward office, they were handed draft notices.77
Joining the drumbeat of exhortation, Osaka’s general circulation newspapers published several stories of “heroes on the home front” about mainlanders depicted as especially supportive of Okinawan soldiers. In August, 1938, the Ōsaka Mainichi Shimbun featured an article about Yoshikawa Yonesaburō, a stock broker from whom an Okinawan employee, Kinjō Eikichi, had stolen money. When Kinjō’s draft notice arrives, Yoshikawa vows to forgive everything and “send him off to the front with an unblemished record.” The piece concludes with Kinjō, who has no family, departing for war with his boss waving flags for encouragement.78
Aside from its patronizing overtones, the story perpetuates mainland stereotypes of Okinawans as unreliable employees.79 Nevertheless, an Okinawan community newspaper soon printed its own version, entitled “A Resolute Kinjō Leaves for the Front Vowing to Die for his Country.”80 Other articles told of “warmhearted” (onjō) mainland employers who “take care of” (sewa suru) Okinawan workers and their families, bidding young draftees farewell at induction centers, attending the funerals of war dead, and helping bereaved relatives. Although those accounts, too, may seem patronizing in retrospect, many employers gave strong support to their Okinawan employees bound for the front and to their families. The October 15, 1938 Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō ran a story of a company president who traveled all the way to an army hospital in Kumamoto to bring a wounded soldier a record of Okinawan folk music. Other articles described local community leaders visiting the homes of the bereaved. At Shinto shrines, they also offered prayers to departing soldiers for good fortune in battle and for full recovery to those back from the front wounded or ill.81
Many of these stories did not have happy endings, depicting the hardships and sacrifices of local Okinawans in heart-rending detail. One tells of Yoza Tsuru, who, after her son is drafted, must go to work as a traveling vegetable vendor to support her son’s pregnant wife, as well as her own younger sister and her sister’s child.82 “Model Home Front Wives” describes a woman from Okinawa who, after her husband is drafted, can’t support her family on subsidies provided by his company and a military aid association. She takes piecework at home to make ends meet. Another Okinawan woman states resolutely that “for us, the wives of soldiers, these circumstances are only natural when we live away from our hometowns. I accepted them long ago.” Another leaves her children with her husband’s mother after he is drafted and goes to work in a Taishō Ward metallurgy shop to support the family. Shortly after her husband returns from the front recuperating from wounds, she dies in a workplace accident.83
Loaded with patriotic slogans, such accounts were apparently published at least in part to inspire people to ever-greater toil and sacrifice in the war effort. Accounts in retrospect of the war’s survivors suggest that, at least for some, they might have had the opposite effect.
Prejudice and rampant abuse in the emperor’s army
A 77-year old army veteran, originally from Kochinda, Okinawa, was living in Taishō Ward when I interviewed him in November, 2000. Serving in China as an enlisted man in August, 1945, he recalled that his company commander had announced Japan’s surrender as a “cease fire.” Proud of his military service, he eagerly described the units he was asigned to, the places they were deployed, and what he and his buddies had experienced. He explained the Japanese army’s organization, weapons, and equipment, drawing detailed charts on note paper. Also knowledgeable about the U.S. military, he praised its technology and “know-how,” denouncing Japan’s “military clique” (gunbatsu) for foolishly going to war with America.
Toward the end of our interview, I showed him an article from the April 4, 1945 New York Times reporting discrimination against Okinawan soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army, and asked if he himself had ever been treated unfairly as a soldier.84 Seeming uncomfortable with the question, he responded somewhat indignantly that “everyone in the army was treated the same.” However, he also recalled that Okinawan soldiers had struggled with language, as had mainlanders from northeastern Honshu (Tōhoku) where the local dialects also differ significantly from “standard” Japanese. But while acknowledging that there had been discrimination against Okinawan civilians before 1945, he insisted it had ended after the war. Since then, he said, Okinawans themselves have been responsible for problems in their relations with mainland Japanese. He particularly criticized those who “isolated themselves” on the mainland by joining organizations such as the Okinawa prefectural associations.
His response echoes opinions expressed by other Okinawans on the mainland who deny the existence of postwar discrimination. It conflicts, however, with published recollections of men who served in the Japanese armed forces, and with many accounts of discrimination on the mainland since 1945. Atrocities committed against Okinawans by mainland soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa are thoroughly documented, and Okinawans serving in the local defense corps faced harsh and demeaning treatment from their mainland comrades-in-arms who skimped on their rations and used children as shock troops.85 Of course, individual experiences vary, and there were surely Okinawans in the Japanese military, particularly those fluent in ”standard” Japanese, who were “treated the same” as everyone else. This interviewee had joined the army when the Japanese military offered young men a highly respected occupation and secure employment, especially during economic hard-times.
Military organizations in Japan and elsewhere enforce a paradoxical kind of “equal opportunity” with a structured system of ranks at set salaries and quantitative criteria for promotion based in large part on chronological seniority (“time in grade”). Ienaga Saburō notes that, for those who had no special privileges as civilians, an “attraction of army life was a perverse equality found nowhere else in Japanese society. No matter how prestigious or wealthy a man’s family, all this was left behind when he entered the service. He was just another recruit. The NCOs [noncommissioned officers] were catered to by men who would not have deigned to speak to them in civilian life.”86
Before Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, conscription was widely resisted in the countryside as a kind of blood tax. After that, obligatory military service was more readily accepted, although many young men still did what they could to avoid it. Rising patriotic fervor after the “Manchurian Incident” of 1931 heightened pressures to serve. Moreover, in the 1930s, sons of poor farmers often found far better livelihoods, even as low-ranking enlisted men, than as “surplus population” in their home villages. Free room and board with prospects for a career and a pension were utterly unobtainable for most of their civilian compatriots, especially during the depression years. After they completed training, many found their military jobs far less arduous than the work they’d done on the farm.87 Ienaga points to “an even greater inducement [in] the relative ease of military life, as strange as it may sound. Compared to the dawn to dark backbreaking toil of the impoverished farm households where they grew up, many NCOs found army life ‘far easier,’ and ‘not very hard work, a lot better than being a farmer.’ . . . It is not surprising that second and third sons with no expectation of getting any land of their own should find military life attractive.”88
The armed forces in many countries have also offered at least the propect of escaping discrimination based on socioeconomic and/or minority civilian status. Neither the Japanese nor the U.S. militaries treated minority soldiers equally. Like Okinawans, Koreans encountered prejudice in the Imperial Japanese Army, and, along with Taiwanese soldiers, were assigned disproportionally as “shock troops.” Yet, unlike the American armed forces that practiced official segregation of all units until 1948, the Japanese military assigned Koreans—and of course Okinawans—to serve after training with mainland soldiers, and even, occasionally, as their commanding officers.89
Nevertheless, Okinawan soldiers faced special hardships that were exacerbated by the relentless pressures for conformity, the exhausting regimen, and the pervasive authoritarianism of military life. Most countries’ armed forces put new recruits through rigorous training that includes psychological and physical harassment thought to inculcate toughness, obedience, and a willingness to kill others and risk one’s own life unquestioningly. But the Imperial Japanese Army’s extreme form of “hard training” had the effect of desensitizing soldiers to human suffering—their own and others’. The violent abuse of trainees instilled callousness and anger that led to later atrocities against soldiers and civilians of other nations. Such “hard training” for desensitization is not required for American soldiers today who more often kill at a distance, using such high-tech weapons as “predator” drones and “tomahawk” cruise missiles.
Army veteran Shingaki Seiho recalls Okinawan soldiers’ difficulties with language. “Even when we understood what noncommissioned officers were asking us, they would beat us because we couldn’t immediately find the words to reply. Just among the Okinawan soldiers I knew, there were two who, unable to endure, became mentally ill.”90 Interviewed in September, 2000, a man drafted for service in Taiwan said that Okinawan soldiers’ struggles with language, especially their delayed responses to questions from NCOs, were used as an excuse for extra harsh treatment.
Sadistic abuse of new recruits from all prefectures was notoriously common. They were beaten for the slightest error or oversight, such as a speck of dust on a pair of boots.91 The violent harassment meted out to men struggling with language was also imposed on soldiers from northeastern Honshu. After their cruelly enforced “assimilation” in training, however, many Okinawan soldiers found things easier. Learning how to talk and act more like mainlanders also served them well after their discharges, especially if they lived on the mainland.
Nakama Keiko writes that, despite Okinawans’ efforts to conform, mainlanders still tended to view them as “second class citizens” (nijū kokumin). Even as “citizen soldiers” (kokumin heishi), they were considered “inferior” (ototte iru). For their part, Okinawan soldiers held the view (called by Nakama an illusion) that they were proving themselves equal to other Japanese as citizens of a nation at war.92 In fact, Okinawan draftees on the mainland felt the sting of prejudice even as their families and neighbors were bidding them farewell for the front. During one departure ceremony, described in the Ōsaka Kyūyō Shimpō, the departing soldier had just begun to speak in response to words of encouragement from the Okinawan Soldiers League when a passerby, seeing the League’s flag, yelled out, “It’s just some Ryukyuan.”
Osaka resident Oyakawa Takayoshi, drafted in 1937 at the age of twenty-one, was first assigned to a company comprised entirely of Okinawans because all training units of new recruits were organized according to the prefectures listed in their families’ household registers. “But the company commander made fun of us, saying it was really because Okinawa is thirty years behind the mainland.”94
Okinawan recruits had to endure such extra insults on top of the the relentless, often violent, abuse visited on all privates.
Agena Hiroshi soon realized “what a fool I’d been” to volunteer for the army in order to escape the long hours and harsh conditions of his conscripted labor at the Kyushu Army Arsenal. Assigned to train with a parachute squadron, he wore his uniform to bed at night to avoid severe punishment for arriving later than ranking squad members for morning formation. If any of them decided he hadn’t greeted them loudly enough, they’d beat him. NCOs made trainees lick their own boots, after claiming to see a speck of dust on the leather. New recruits got the smallest portions of rice without even a pickle to go with it, and were always hungry after eating. Detailed to wash the dishes, they would gulp down leftover rice from the plates of ranking squad members, and many got diarrhea.95
Later assigned to an equestrian unit, Oyakawa Takayoshi seems to confirm another of Ienaga Saburo’s observations: that the Imperial Japanese Army treated animals better than privates.96
Okinawan soldiers and civilian survivors of the war witnessed atrocities committed by Imperial Japanese forces, including rape, torture, “weapons training” using human targets, and mass killings of civilians and prisoners-of-war.98 Oyakawa’s account of his 1938–1940 service in China includes graphic descriptions of crimes committed by Japanese soldiers against Chinese civilians.99
Two days after his troopship steamed up the Yangtze River and arrived at Chiuchiang, he saw corpses being burned by the side of a road. “I couldn’t get the stench out of my nose for several days.”100 After that, Oyakawa’s battalion repeatedly came under fire. An ambush caught the troops resting after a long-distance march, killing and wounding many, and throwing the battalion into disarray. Pressed into service as a stretcher carrier, he saw soldiers dying of maggot-infested wounds.
When some salt was missing from storage in Oyakawa’s unit, the company commander decapitated the Chinese civilians believed responsible in full view of the other villagers as a lesson to them. Another company commander “tried out” his sword to kill a Chinese accused as a spy. That incident grimly foreshadowed the Battle of Okinawa, during which mainland soldiers killed Okinawan civilians wrongly accused as “spies” because they’d uttered a few words in their local dialect. Many more civilians than soldiers died in the battles and their aftermath in China described by Oyakawa. Among the hundreds of civilian corpses left in the wake of the fighting at Kaoan, Oyawaka saw “people with their heads cut off and naked women with cigarettes stuck in their vaginas.” When a civilian didn’t immediately hand over his rice to Japanese soldiers in Oyakawa’s unit—probably because he couldn’t understand what they were saying to him—the company commander ordered his troops to shoot him and his family. Oyakawa heard an infant crying among the tangle of corpses.104
Oyakawa does not claim to have done anything to prevent or protest these atrocities, or deny that, in remaining silent, he was involuntarily complicit. He writes only that joining workers’ organizations in his late teens influenced his feelings toward people vulnerable and powerless.
The prewar hardships of Okinawans living on the mainland might have made some especially sensitive to the treatment of Chinese civilians, and more willing to talk and write about it later. Other China veterans among Osaka’s Okinawans also recounted war crimes. Yasuzato Shōtarō described Japanese soldiers shooting Chinese prisoners-of-war captured after a battle in Su Province late in 1938.106 Matayoshi Kōei told how, in 1940, his senior NCOs walked into a village in the mountains of central China and took three or four middle-aged men from a house at gunpoint. After forcing them to carry heavy equipment over mountains for the unit’s redeployment, the NCOs “decided the men were no longer of any use, and shot them point blank with rifles.”107
Although I have not located eye-witness accounts by Okinawans who lived on the mainland, it must be noted here that American soldiers and sailors also committed atrocities. In recorded incidents, they killed Japanese prisoners of war, destroyed hospitals, and gunned down survivors in lifeboats from Japanese transport ships sunk by U.S. Navy submarines.108 George Feifer estimates that American soldiers committed thousands of rapes in Okinawa during and shortly after the battle there.109
Those who barely survived
Several Okinawan war veterans in greater Osaka said they felt lucky to be alive. Yasuzato Shōtarō’s company was “mopping up” in a dense forest after defeating a Chinese unit near the Soviet border in northern Manchuria when “straggling enemy soldiers surrounded us, and I barely escaped with my life.”110 Kaneshiro Kenji heard the “eerie sound of bullets whistling pyun-pyun” over his head, sometimes grazing his helmet, during fire fights in central China where he caught malaria.111 Near Hunan in September, 1942, Matayoshi Shigeo was wounded in the arm and chest. Carried on a stretcher to a field hospital, he lost consciousness for two days. “I woke up itching unbearably from maggots that crawled all over me because the clean bandages had run out.”112
Deployed from Shanghai to Hsiaoshan in 1938, Nakamura Chijun recalled that it was “extremely dangerous” to venture beyond the company perimeter. “If you were wounded, you could be captured. And, even if you later escaped and returned to your unit, you’d be executed according to the Japanese military code of conduct for having become a prisoner of the enemy [instead of committing mandatory suicide].”113
The army assigned Ujihara Usei to a construction battalion building an airfield on a small island off Saipan. On one of his weekly off-duty trips to town, he happened to meet his cousin at the restaurant she managed. She was one of approximately 20,000 Japanese emigrants in Saipan, the vast majority from Okinawa. She warned him that work on the airfield was extremely dangerous, and that several local residents had already died. “You’ve got to get out of there,” she told him.
Along with some 10,000 noncombatants, the battle for Saipan took the lives of approximately 30,000 Japanese soldiers, virtually the entire defending garrison.116 One year after its fall, Kina Seiso was “saved by the bell” at the end of the war in August, 1945, when Soviet forces surrounded his unit in Manchuria.
Kina’s ordeal was far from over. He barely survived a long forced march during which fellow soldiers died of exhaustion. Like tens of thousands of other captured Japanese soldiers, he was then sent to a Siberian labor camp. Many more of his comrades died during years of imprisonment under its slave-like conditions.
The final irony of his excruciating ordeal was Kina’s discovery, after marrying and settling in Amagasaki, that his imprisonment in Siberia was preventing him from getting a job. During Japan’s large-scale “red purge,” ordered by MacArthur between 1948 and 1950, even returnees from Siberian labor camps were suspected as “Communist-sympathizers.” Finally, Kina’s wife took him to the Hyōgo Okinawa Prefectural Association, where he was hired by the Okinawan owner of a large food-processing plant in Osaka.119
The long internment of P.O.W.'s in Siberian labor camps was only one of the disastrous consequences for Japan of the Soviet Union’s late entry into the war. On August 8, 1945, the Red Army launched offensives in Manchuria, northern Korea (then a Japanese colony), and the southern half of Sakhalin (Japanese territory since Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5).120 Soviet troops quickly overwhelmed outgunned Japanese defenders in Manchuria, of whom Kina Seiso was one, and steamrolled through the countryside. Of the approximately 300,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians in the area, there were 80,000 confirmed deaths. Ienaga Saburō wrote, “The extensive plunder, rape, and acts of force by Red Army personnel were clear violations of international law and deserve severe condemnation.”121 Fifty percent of the dead were civilians. Many, including children, were killed by Chinese taking indiscriminate reprisals for decades of Japanese occupation and colonial rule.
Becoming a prisoner-of-war with the rest of his unit, Ishikawa Kiyoshi managed to escape from a P.O.W. camp and eventually make his way to safety and repatriation, but not before witnessing the brutal final stage of the war in Manchuria. “Soviet soldiers would stop people on the street day or night, grabbing their watches, eye glasses, and other personal belongings. They’d break into homes, and steal whatever they could lay their hands on. . . . But I particularly remember what local residents did. . . . Chinese abducted and raped Japanese civilians, and led the Soviet troops to where they were hiding.122
Thus did Okinawans in China witness not only atrocities against Chinese civilians perpetrated by Japanese soldiers on the losing side of the war, but also rapes and looting committed against Japanese civilians by the Soviet and Chinese “victors.” Okinawans on the Japanese mainland were among the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed or maimed in saturation bombings by the U.S. military during the last six months of the conflict.
Catastrophic finale: Air attacks on mainland cities
A single atomic bomb destroyed the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing some 70,000 within the first few days.123 With no response from the Japanese government to Allied conditions for surrender, President Truman went on the radio. “If they do not accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”124 On August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and its troops advanced into Manchuria. The following day, August 9, a second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki,125 while massive “conventional” bombings of Japanese cities continued. On August 14, one day before Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender—also over the radio, 145 B-29s dropped 707 tons of ordnance on greater Osaka.
Truman’s words, brimming with Old Testament righteousness, were characteristic of a president celebrated for his “plain speaking.” But his threat of “a rain of ruin” on unspecified victims raises deeply troubling questions about Allied saturation bombings during World War II.126 International outrage over the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has deflected attention from “conventional” air attacks on Japanese cities which took a much higher toll in lives and homes between February and August of 1945. They caused the deaths of an estimated 800,000 men, women, and children in Japan, overwhelmingly civilians.127 Tens of thousands more died of illness and starvation in the aftermath of devastation and chaos.128 Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was an Air Force colonel during World War II with a key role in planning the attacks. He later recalled his commander, General Curtis LeMay, telling him at the time that they both would be prosecuted as war criminals if the Allies lost the war.129
American planes by the hundreds flew bombing and strafing raids on almost every major city in Japan. Air attacks killed people riding buses and trains crushed or set aflame, walking in urban business centers where walls of fire trapped and incinerated them, and at home in residential neighborhoods turned into deadly infernos by firebombs. An estimated 97,000 died in one firebombing of Tokyo alone.130 The delayed effects of burns and radiation poisoning from the two nuclear attacks killed or debilitated tens of thousands in the years that followed, including Okinawans living on the mainland. Tokeshi Kōyū, classified as a “second-generation atomic bomb victim,” died in 1969 at the age of 19 from leukemia diagnosed as resulting from radiation to which his father was exposed in Hiroshima.131
Between dusk of March 13 and dawn of March 14, 1945, 270 B-29 bombers dropped approximately 2,000 tons of bombs in waves of attacks on Osaka City. They were followed by seven more major attacks and some thirty smaller-scale raids in June, July, and August. In total, they killed, injured, or left homeless a recorded 1,305,114 persons, including 10,388 dead. Air attacks destroyed virtually every standing structure in thirteen of Osaka’s twenty-five wards,132 leaving landscapes that came to be called “plains of burnt ruins” (yake-nohara).
While B-29s dropped bombs, Grumman P-51s strafed with their machine guns. They concentrated their attacks on greater Osaka’s industrial areas, where the largest Okinawan residential communities were located. Thousands of people migrating annually from Okinawa had found jobs or were sent to factories there as conscripted labor. The July 10, 1945 night raid on Sakai killed 1,860 people in wards where many Okinawans lived. Allied bombers raided Amagasaki ten times, particularly targeting its industrial zone along the Osaka City border, home to the largest Okinawan community in the city. Three hundred and four B-29s attacked Kobe, home to another large Okinawan community, on March 17, 1945, thirty-four more than had raided Osaka three days earlier. They left most of the city in rubble. (Residents of Kobe who survived this attack were reminded of it almost exactly fifty years later, when the Kobe-Awajishima Earthquake and resulting fires again devastated the city on January 17, 1995.)133
Aside from evacuating civilians, the Japanese government’s ineffectual efforts to defend cities against air attacks seem in retrospect more like “spiritual mobilization.”134 “Before the bombing started we saw more and more U.S. reconnaissance planes passing in the sky over Amagasaki,” recalled Kuroshima Anto. “The city was on their return route from scouting Itami Airfield, and they flew so low we could even see the faces of the crew.”135 Antiaircraft artillery had virtually no effect and fighter-interceptor planes were nowhere in sight. Teruya Shūshin recalled that “thousands of shells were fired from antiaircraft guns lacking the range to come anywhere near planes that flew over ten thousand feet feet. It was pitiful.”136 Only the propaganda remained stalwart. Newspapers and posters gave upbeat instructions with manga-like illustrations urging city residents to cover their lamps with black cloth at night and to join volunteer firefighters in bucket relay drills. Neighborhood associations organized housewives to train with bamboo spears in case the enemy landed. Newspaper headlines and poster captions proclaimed, ”Firebombs can’t scare us,” and “This is how we’ll defend our cities.”137 More pointed criticism of the Japanese government came from Osaka resident Higa Hanako who, after hearing the emperor’s surrender radio broadcast on August 8, 1945, reflected on “all the lives that could have been saved if he’d only made it earlier.”138
Shimabukuro Masahiko, originally from the small Ryukyu island of Ishigaki, witnessed how events were belying such cheerful pronouncements.
As in all wars, there were moments of consolation, relief, and even inspiration. Okinawans on the mainland describe narrow escapes from “seas of fire,” adrenalin-fueled rescues of loved ones and neighbors, tearful reunions with family members and relatives they thought had died, and an incident that became famous as a symbol of resilience and hope amidst the devastation: Three men, their homes destroyed by fire and with only the clothes on their backs, gathered in the burnt-out ruins of Taishō Ward with a sanshin (Okinawan shamisen) they had managed to salvage from the ashes. As they began to play and sing the best-known Okinawan folk song “Asato-ya yunta” (Ballad of the Asato Family), others gathered to listen or join the singing. At that moment, it is said, postwar recovery began for Okinawans in Osaka.140
The Battle of Okinawa
Although it raged hundreds of miles to the southwest, the Battle of Okinawa devastated the lives of Okinawans on the mainland who lost family members and homes in the prefecture. In 1944, Osaka’s newspapers began reporting the events leading up to this last and worst battle of the Pacific War. What came to be known as the “ten-ten air raid” of American planes on October 10 left much of Naha, Okinawa’s capital, a plain of burnt ruins. Japanese forces deployed earlier to form an “Okinawa Defense Army” now anticipated a “decisive battle” against invading American forces. In preparation, the military mobilized local civilians, including schoolchildren, to build fortifications and airfields. Evacuations to the mainland had already begun. Some of the transport ships carrying women, children, the infirm, and the elderly were sunk by Allied torpedoes, with a loss of more than 2,000 lives.141 On April 2, 1945, Osaka’s newspapers reported that American forces had landed on Okinawa and that the Japanese navy had launched a “floating chrysanthemum offensive”142 with “special attack [i.e., suicide] squadrons” of “kamikaze” pilots crashing their planes into U.S. warships.143
Both sides’ enormous sacrifices in the Battle of Okinawa, the costliest of the Pacific War for both Japan and the United States, seem particularly outrageous in retrospect. Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo had already withdrawn the crack 9th Division from the “Okinawa Defense Army” in December, 1944, and redeployed it to Taiwan, mistakenly antiipating that Taiwan would become the site of a major battle. When invasion of Okinawa was imminent, the high command canceled anticipated force replacements there, having abandoned its planned defense on the beaches. Revised directives from headquarters ordered soldiers and civilians alike to wage a protracted war of attrition that would inflict high American casualties, slowing the Allied advance and buying time to prepare for an anticipated invasion of the mainland.144
Okinawans on the mainland followed newspaper accounts of how the towns and villages where they had grown up were becoming battlegrounds, one after another. Newspapers continued to publish officially approved reports of the fighting, but the Japanese military had suspended all private correspondence between Okinawa and the mainland after U.S. forces captured Iwo Jima in February, 1945, so mainland residents could only worry about the fate of their families, relatives, and neighbors. The headlines on June 26 announcing Japan’s defeat in Okinawa as another “shattering of jewels” (deaths with honor) must have reminded them of similar headlines a year earlier, when a recorded 6,217 Okinawan civilians in Saipan died with the U.S. capture of the island. 145
Much later they would learn that twenty times as many local residents lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. Imperial Headquarters’ strategy of sacrificing Okinawa as a “throwaway pawn” imposed devastating losses on both armies. 146 It also resulted in massive civilian casualties, mostly women and children killed or wounded by U.S. bombings and shellings, and in the crossfire of ground combat. Many also died because Japanese soldiers, seeking cover for themselves, forced them from caves and shelters at gunpoint. Others starved to death after the Japanese military seized dwindling food supplies from farms and homes.147 The term “typhoon of steel,” initially referring to cannon barrages from U.S. warships, came to denote the Battle of Okinawa as a whole. Eighty-two days of what Okinawans also call “hell on earth” took the lives of a recorded 122, 228 local residents, 65,908 mainland Japanese, and 12,500 Americans before organized resistance ended in late June of 1945.148 As in Saipan, hundreds of Okinawan civilians plunged to their deaths off ocean cliffs when U.S. forces closed in. Others died at their own or family members’ hands on orders from Japanese soldiers who distributed grenades, telling them that, if they were captured, the American “devil-beasts” would torture them for information, rape the women, then slaughter them all. When the grenades ran out, people resorted to razors, knives, rope, rocks, and other household or farm implements. Their deaths, misleadingly referred to as “group suicides” (shūdan jiketsu), must also be understood in the context of heavy indoctrination starting in elementary school, where children were exhorted to make unquestioning sacrifices, including the giving of their lives without hesitation, for the sake of nation and emperor.149
Ōshiro Kiichi, born in Nago, returned to Okinawa from his home on the mainland the year before the battle. His chronological account of the fighting provides an overview of events.
Ōshiro’s description of his supervising officer from the mainland, who kindly urged him not to sacrifice his life in a losing cause, is a notable exception to the many accounts by battle survivors of mainland soldiers who brutalized Okinawans before and during the fighting.152 “The navy men acted more like gentlemen than the soldiers,” recalled a woman living in Osaka who had been drafted in Okinawa during the war to work in a Japanese military mess hall. “The soldiers handed me a grenade and told me to kill myself if I encountered an American. Luckily, I never did. Later, I threw it away in a field.”153
Ōshiro’s enthusiastic praise of Americans after his capture no doubt reflected, in part, the relief he shared with other Okinawan and mainland prisoners of war who had heard about the Imperial Japanese Army’s treatment of soldiers and civilians they captured in China. His experience also clashed conspicuously with the ordeals of Japanese soldiers captured by Soviet forces in Manchuria. Ōshiro’s praise for the American military is not shared by many P.O.W.’s who remained in Okinawa, where some were interned for as long as a year in refugee camps.154
Miyagi Masako also became a P.O.W. at the end of the battle. She was eight years old when, after weeks of “playing war” with her childhood friends, the real fighting drove her family from their home. For the next several weeks they were constantly on the move, threatened by air attacks, illness, starvation, and death all around them.
Miyagi’s mixed evaluation of her treatment by the U.S. military was common. Okinawan civilians who survived the Pacific War recall with gratitude the relief efforts of American forces that saved their lives, but they also remember crimes committed by individual soldiers and tactics that caused heavy civilian casualties. Evacuating with other Okinawan schoolchildren to the mainland in August, 1944, Tamaki Kiyoko describes her terror at seeing an enemy submarine fire at the transport ship that carried them.
In anticipation of the Allied invasion, evacuations of Okinawa began after the fall of Saipan in June, 1944. By late March, 1945, besides the 60,000 Okinawans moved to the mainland, another 20,000 were taken to Taiwan, Miyako, and Yaeyama. Gushi Kiyoko of Amagasaki criticized the U.S. Navy for the deaths of more than 2,000 civilian evacuees, including hundreds of schoolchildren, aboard passenger ships sunk by American torpedoes. “There might have been strategic value in targeting cargo ships sailing north from Okinawa. But the Americans with their advanced intelligence-gathering techniques must have known that evacuation boats were carrying non-combatant civilians.”159 Other Okinawans on the mainland blamed the Japanese government for evacuation plans that were drawn up “belatedly, hastily, and carelessly,” allocating too few ships, which were therefore overcrowded, and choosing sea routes that were heavily patrolled by American submarines.160
Okinawans living on the mainland today also recall atrocities committed by American soldiers. Battle-survivor Yamashiro Kenkō recounted one of the all-too-frequent incidents of what Okinawans called “girl-hunts” (musume-gari). “After I was captured and brought to a shed with other refugees, one of the American soldiers picked out a young woman. Ignoring the screams of her children, he led her away at gunpoint and raped her.”161 Interviewed in July, 1999, another woman recalled, “I made sure to muss my hair and blacken my face with charcoal before the Americans took me to a refugee camp.”
During the battle, American forces killed not only Japaese forces but also Okinawan civilians taking shelter with Japanese soldiers in caves. They also sprayed areas with phosphorous and CS (military-issue tear gas), which are sometimes classified as chemical weapons. Moreover, the U.S. government seized large tracts of privately owned farm land for its military bases, claiming that this was permitted by the “Rules of Land Warfare” under the 1914 Hague Convention. Yet these seizures continued long after the war ended, and the U.S. military still occupies these lands to this day. However, U.S. policy toward military and civilian prisoners of war in Okinawa is said to have accorded generally with Geneva Convention standards. American forces provided food rations, clothing, shelter, and medical care for hundreds of thousands of demobilized soldiers and refugees, assigning them to comparatively light work details. American soldiers worked devotedly in this effort, also volunteering their time off, to distribute canned foods, powdered milk, medicine, and military fatigues. However, many also victimized Okinawans. Sexual assaults on young women and teenage girls during and shortly after the battle are estimated to be in the thousands.162
Imperial Army atrocities against civilians during the Battle of Okinawa were often committed in the course of carrying out military directives. To prevent civilians from being captured, Japanese soldiers distributed hand grenades to local residents with orders to kill themselves and their families.163 Inside crowded cave shelters, mothers strangled infants at gunpoint because soldiers wanted to prevent a baby’s crying from revealing their location. Japanese soldiers killed hundreds of Okinawans civilians accused as spies simply for speaking in their local dialect.164 Long-standing prejudices surfaced in the decisions of military commanders and the acts of individual soldiers who viewed Okinawans as inferior, and therefore expendable.
Okinawans living on the mainland today also remember soldiers in Okinawa forcibly seizing food from civilians who were close to starvation, and withholding it even from those who served as their comrades building military airfields and fortifications. “The Imperial Army troops had plenty to eat, but they gave us Okinawan workers only one brown-rice ball (nigiri) apiece,” recalled Kinjō Eikō, an Amagasaki resident today who, at age sixteen, had served in a construction battalion on the Central Airfield. “Later, our rations dwindled to almost nothing. We had to chew sugar cane leaves and fill our stomachs with river water.”165 The food shortage was particularly hard on Okinawan schoolchildren, conscripted for the unaccustomed heavy labor of digging fortifications and hauling equipment. Labor mobilizations also took people away from their income-earning jobs, depriving their families of daily necessities.166
The Battle of Okinawa was fought because the Japanese government decided to sacrifice the prefecture even after Konoe Fumimaro, a former Prime Minister, influential senior statesman, and advisor to the emperor, had urged two months earlier that the war be ended.167 The battle took more than a quarter of a million lives. Most Okinawans who survived were left destitute, homeless, or both.168 Many now consider the imposition of such disproportionate losses to be the ultimate form of discrimination.
This article is adapted from “Chapter Four: Wartime” in Steve Rabson, The Okinawan Diaspora in Japan: Crossing the Borders Within, University of Hawaii Press (2012). The book is based on the author’s two-year study in residence (1999-2001) in Taishô Ward of Osaka City, location of the largest Okinawan community (approximately 20,000) on the Japanese mainland, where he conducted interviews, collected writings, and administered a questionnaire survey.
Steve Rabson is Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University, and a Japan Focus Associate. His other books are Okinawa: Two Postwar Novellas (Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1989, reprinted 1996), Righteous Cause or Tragic Folly: Changing Views of War in Modern Japanese Poetry (Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1998), and Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa, co-edited with Michael Molasky (University of Hawaii Press, 2000). Islands of Resistance: Japanese Literature from Okinawa, co-edited with Davinder Bhowmik, is forthcoming from University of Hawaii Press.
Recommended Citation: Steve Rabson, "The Okinawan Diaspora in Japan at War," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 41, No. 1, October 13, 2013.
Ota Masahide and Satoko Norimatsu, "The World is beginning to know Okinawa": Ota Masahide Reflects on his Life from the Battle of Okinawa to the Struggle for Okinawa”
Steve Rabson, “Okinawan Perspectives on Japan’s Imperial Institution”
1 Kaneshiro Munekazu, “Esunikku gurupu to shite no Okinawa-jin” (“Okinawans” as an ethnic group), Ningen kagaku 37 (1992), 40.
2According to municipal government records, more than 13,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city and its environs. Yūhi: Ōsaka no Okinawa (Launching Forth: The Okinawans of Osaka), Ōsaka Okinawa Kenjin Rengō-kai (1997), 84. .
3This total figure comes from the Cornerstone of Peace monument opened in Okinawa’s Peace Memorial Park in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war’s end. Among the dead, this source lists 74,796 Japanese from other prefectures and 14,005 Americans.
5Nakama Keiko, “Nitchū sensō-ki no zai-Han Okinawa-jin” (Okinawans in
Osaka during the Sino-Japanese War [of 1937–45]), Ōsaka Jinken
Hakubutsu-kan kiyo (Bulletin of the Osaka Human Rights Museum) 4 (2000), 70, n. 44.
6Okinawa Kenjin-kai Hyōgo-ken Honbu, ed., Shima o deta tami no sensō
taiken-shū (Collected War Experiences of People Who Left the Islands),
Okinawa Kenjin-kai Hyōgo-ken Honbu (1995), 160.
7Nakama, “Nitchū,” 70, n. 44 and Maeda Yoshihiro, et al., ed., Deigo: 21-seiki o hiraku
kinen-shi (Deigo flowers: volume commemorating the start of the 21st century), Sakai
Okinawa Ken-jin Kurabu (2001). Deigo, translated as “Indian coral bean,” is the official flower of Okinawa Prefecture.
8Takarazuka iryō seikyō nyūsu (Newspaper of the Takarazuka Medical Services Cooperative) 52 (January 1, 1986), 10.
9Kaneshiro, “Esunikku gurupu to shite no Okinawa-jin,” 40.
10Estimated figures in Okinawa Ken-jin Kai Hyōgo-ken Honbu, comp., “Anketo shūkei
ichi-ran hyō” (Chart of aggregate survey totals) (2000).
11 Nakama, “Nitchū,” 44–47.
12October 15, 1938 edition, quoted in Nakama, “Nitchū,” 48.
13January 15, 1939 edition, quoted in Ibid., 48.
14Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 45.
15January 15, 1939 issue, quoted in Nakama, “Nitchu,”48–49. If Okinawans were more
likely to change jobs than mainland workers, it might have been, as previously noted, a
result of management policies that sought to maximize profits by discriminating against
them in wages, benefits, and working conditions.
17Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 57.
18Nakama, “Nitchū,” 50–51.
19Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 187–188.
20Quoted in Nakama, “Nitchū,” 59–60. The term “Ryūkyū” has acquired a more positive
resonance recently amidst the continuing “Okinawa boom.” It appears in the lyrics of
popular songs by Okinawan rock bands and was the title of the 1995 c.d. Ryukyu Magic
22 Shimota Seiji, Michi no shima (Island paths), Shin-Nippon Shuppan-sha (1978), 302-
23Ryūkyū shimpō, 240–241.
24See Alan Christy, “The Making of Imperial Subjects in Okinawa,” positions
east asia cultures critique 1.3 (Winter, 1993), pp. 607-639.
25Quoted in Nakama, “Nitchū,”. 61.
29See interviews with Okinawan residents of Osaka in the series “Ōsaka to
Okinawa,” Mainichi shimbun (March 9 to April 9, 1987).
31 Terrence E. Cook, Separation, Assimilation, or Accommodation: Contrasting Ethnic
Minority Policies, Praeger (2003). 100.
32Quoted in Nakama, “Nitchū,” 63. The author is identified by the Okinawan surame
34 Tomiyama Ichirō, “On Becoming ‘a Japanese:’ The Community of Oblivion and Memories of the Battlefield,” Yoseba (March, 1993). Adapted and expanded in Senjō no kioku (Memories of the Battlefield), Nihon Keizai Hyōronsha, 1995. Trans. Noah McCormack and posted at Japan Focus, October 26, 2005.
36Although celebrated at the time as as a suicide attack, it was later learned that the soldiers had been told they would have time to run clear of the explosions. The fuses, ignited before their advance, burned more rapidly than expected, making escape impossible and their bodies were blown to bits. The three soldiers from Kyushu were members of Japan’s long-oppressed Buraku minority. See Ueno Hidenobu, Tennō heika banzai: bakudan san-yūshi josetsu (Long live the emperor: an explanation of human bombs: the three brave warriors; Chikuma Shobō (1989).
37Maeda, Deigo, 44–46.
38Nakama, “Nitchū,” 41–42.
40 Ibid., 45.
41Maeda, Deigo,,50 and Yūhi, 80.
42 Okinawan folk music has become enormously popular throughout Japan in recent years. These songs are rarely performed, but occasionally as satire of militarism.
43Nakama, “Nitchū,” 57.
44Ibid. “Ballad of the Warrior” is included the collection “Okinawa no min’yō” (Okinawan folk songs) in Toma Ichirō, ed., Ryūkyū geinō jiten (Dictionary of the Ryukyuan performing arts), Naha Shuppan-sha (1992), 597.
45Quoted in Nakama, “Nitchū,” 57–59.
47Reprinted in Yamanokuchi Baku shishū, 61 and translated in Steve Rabson, Righteous Cause or Tragic Folly: Changing Views of War in Modern Japanese Poetry, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1998), 10.
48Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 263–264.
49 Ibid., 198–199.
50Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 83–84.
51 Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, HarperCollins
52Japanese press reports often exaggerated the military’s successes in China.
53 Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 178.
54Nakama, “Nitchū,” 46–47. Washino emphasizes her identity as a “citizen of Japan,”
downplaying “any special circumstances of people from Okinawa Prefecture.”
56Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 76.
60 Ibid., 148.
61 Ibid., 188.
62 Ibid., 45–48.
63 Ibid., 205.
64 Ibid., 73.
66Interviewed by Miyagi Kimiko in “Osaka kara Henoko e: Kinjō Yuūi-san ni kiku,”
Keeshi kaji 51 (June, 2006), 58–65.
67Isagawa Hiroshi, “’Jigoku’ datta sokai seikatsu,” (Life in “hell” as an
evacuee), in Senka to ue: Ginowan shimin ga tsuzuru sensō taiken (War ravages and starvation: The collected writings of Ginowan City residents on their war experiences), ed. Ginowan-shi Gajimaru no Kai, Kōbundō Insatsu (1979), 305–315.
68 Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 29.
75 Maeda, Deigo, 45. There was also a version of this song in Okinawa dialect.
76Kinjō Seikō, “Okinawa no Kokumin-gakkō jidai” (The age of “national schools”), Keizai shicho (January, 1972) 102.
77 Records of the Japanese Army Ministry show that, besides failing to register their new addresses, thousands of Japanese men avoided the draft by lying about their ages or family circumstances, forging names, faking adoptions, feigning illnesses, physically mutilating themselves, or fleeing as far away as America. Such statistics belie the stereotype, widely purveyed during and after the war, of the Japanese people as monolithically fanatical militarists. See Rabson, Righteous Cause, 158 and Takashi Fujitani, “Kindai Nihon ni okeru kenryoku no tekunorojii: guntai, ‘chihô,’ shintai,” translated by Umemori Naoyuki, Shisô 845 (November 1994).
78In the August 27, 1938 edition of Ōsaka Mainichi shimbun, quoted inNakama, “Nitchū,” 55.
79 Nakama, “Nitchū,” 55.
80In the September 1, 1938 edition of Ōsaka Kyūyō shimpō, quoted in Ibid., 56–57.
81In the October 15, 1938 edition, quoted in Ibid, 43–44.
82In the June 15, 1939 edition, quoted in Ibid., 56.
84The article summarized the history of discrimination against Okinawans in Japan, but asserted erroneously that Okinawans were assigned in the Japanese military mainly in labor battalions and as servants to mainland officers. Such misinformation might well have been publicized by the U.S. military for propaganda purposes at the start of the Battle of Okinawa. American officers repeatedly asserted, during and after the battle, that Okinawans’ social status in Japan proved that they were not really Japanese. This claim was disseminated among both Americans and Okinawans during the fighting to separate Okinawans from the “enemy Japanese military,” though it included Okinawan soldiers. After the war it became an excuse for prolonging the postwar U.S. military occupation. General Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of occupation forces in mainland Japan and Okinawa, strongly advocated that the U.S. retain control of Okinawa because of its strategic location. He told George F. Kennan in March of 1948 that “the people [of Okinawa] are not Japanese, and had never been assimilated when they had come to the Japanese main islands.” Quoted in Yoshida Kensei, Democracy Betrayed: Okinawa Under U.S. Occupations, Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University (2001), 39.
85See Oyakawa Takayoshi, Ashiato (Footprints), Matsuei Insatsu, 26 on Okinawans singled out for harassment in the Imperial Army. See also Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 184,Ishihara Masaie, Gyakusatsu no shima: Kōgun to
shinmin no matsuro(Island of massacres: The last days of the emperor’s army and subjects), Baneisha (1978) and Ishihara, Shōgen, Okinawa-sen: Senjō no kōkei Dai 1-kan (Testimony: Witnesses to the Battle of Okinawa, Volume 1), Aoki Shoten (1984). Also see Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 68–75; Norma Field, In the Realm of a Dying Emperor: Japan at Century’s End) Vintage (1993), 56–69; and Michael Molasky and Steve Rabson, ed., Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa, University of Hawaii Press (2000), 22.
Many Okinawans have described prejudice and discrimination they encountered on the mainland after 1945. See, for example, Uda Shigeki, Uwa nu ukami-sama (Sacred Pigs: The life of Tokeshi Kōtoku), Uda Shuppan Kikaku (1999), 173–96, and Ōta, Ōsaka no Uchinanchu.
86Ienaga Saburō, Taiheiyō sensō, Iwanami Shoten (1968). Translated by Frank Baldwin as The Pacific War, Pantheon (1978), 53–54.
87This was a period of extreme rural poverty in Japan when farm families, especially in the country’s northeastern region, sold their daughters into prostitution for brothels in Japan’s cities and abroad.
88Ienaga, The Pacific War, 54.
89Takashi Fujitani, “Racism under Fire: Korean Imperial Soldiers in Japanese World War II Discourses on Nation, Empire and Ethnos,” invited lecture to the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies at Harvard University, May 2, 2003.
90Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 184.
91For a thorough account of young recruits’ experiences in the Imperial Japanese Army, see Edward J. Drea, “In the Army Barracks of Imperial Japan,” Armed Forces and Society 15.3 (Spring, 1989), 329-348..
92Nakama, “Nitchū,” 52–53.
93From the December 1, 1939 edition of the Ōsaka Kyūyō shimpō, quoted in Nakama, “
94Oyakawa, Ashiato, 26.
95Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 205–207.
96 Ienaga, The Pacific War, 52.
97Oyakawa, Ashiato, 28–29.
98Four of the most notorious incidents are: (1) The Nanjing Massacre, previously known as the Rape of Nanking. Japanese troops went on a rampage after occupying the city in December of 1937, raping women and girls, and killing large numbers of Chinese civilians and prisoners-of-war . (2) After Japanese forces captured them in the Philippines, thousands of Filipino and American prisoners-of-war died of starvation or exhaustion, or were executed, during the Bataan Death March of April, 1942. They were among hundreds of thousands of P.O.W.’s the Japanese military captured in the Philippines, China, and Southeast Asia who became forced laborers under abominable conditions, resulting in many deaths. (3) The Japanese military maintained “comfort stations” in or near areas of conflict where hundreds of thousands of women and girls, many of them captured or transported by the Japanese military, were forced to have sex daily with large numbers of Japanese soldiers. The largest number were from Korea and China. (4) The Japanese military carried out chemical and biological warfare experiments on imprisoned Chinese, including the removal of vital organs and deliberate infection with fatal diseases; and conducted vivisection experiments on American air crews captured in Japan. [See John W. Dower, War Without Mercy Dower: Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon (1986 ) in which the author also describes atrocities committed by Allied forces during in the Pacific War.
99Oyakawa, Ashiato, 31–45
102Ibid., 33–4. Ishikawa Tatsuzō’s 1938 novel Ikite iru heitai, based on the author’s observations of the war in China, includes passages describing atrocities by Japanese soldiers against Chinese civilians. The Japanese government banned this work and prosecuted Ishikawa who received a suspended sentence. It is translated as Soldiers Alive by Zeljko Cipris (University of Hawai’i Press (2003).
103Oyakawa, Ashiato, 34. These seizures observed by Oyakawa were part of a military allocation policy that required Japanese forces in China outside Manchuria to “live off the land” so that Japan’s Kwantung Army in Manchuria could maintain full strength and readiness in case of a conflict with the Soviet Union.
104Oyakawa, Ashiato, 37–40.
106Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 35.
108 Dower, War Without Mercy, 61–71.
109 George Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb, The Lyons Press (2001), 372–374.
115Ibid., 49–50. For an account of the fighting in Saipan and the subsequent
controversy about how civilians died there, see Haruko Taya Cook, “The Myth of the
Saipan Suicides,” The Quarterly of Military History 7.3 (Spring, 1995), 12–19.
116Figures in Dower, War Without Mercy, 298–289. Also see Bix, Hirohito, 475.
117 Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 140–142.
119Ibid. This was one of the bizarre consequences of Japan’s “red purge” that was a byproduct of McCarthy era witch-hunts in the United States. In total, more than 27,000 were purged from government, universities, public schools, and private companies. See Hirata Tetsuo and John Dower, “Japan’s Red Purge: Lessons from a Saga of Suppression of Free Speech and Thought,” Japan Focus website, July 9, 2007,
120Ienaga, The Pacific War, 150.
122 Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 147.
123The estimated total doubles to approximately 140,000 when subsequent deaths from burns and radiation are included. See George Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa, 12 and 408.
124Quoted in David McCullough, Truman, Simon and Schuster (1992),
125Deaths from the attack and its aftereffects of burns and radiation are estimated at
70,000. See Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa, 408.
126 See Merle Miller, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, Berkley Publishing Corporation (1974) Truman’s popular nickname “give ‘em hell
Harry” carries grimly ironic overtones, considering that, as commander-in-chief, he gave
the orders to turn Japanese cities into infernos of death.
127 Figure cited in Andrew Gordon, ed., Postwar Japan as History, University of California Press (1993), 225.
128When it came to the saturation bombing of cities, Japanese were perpetrators as well as
victims. Bix describes the Imperial Navy’s bombing of Chungking and other large
Chinese cities as “indiscriminate” and “using many types of antipersonnel explosives. . . .
In the first two days of raids, they reportedly killed more than five thousand Chinese
noncombatants and caused enormous damage” (Bix, Hirohito, 364). In February of 1945, three months before the end of the war in Europe, Allied aircraft firebombed Dresden, Germany, killing an estimated 135,000 in a city with no facilities of significant military value. This was one month before the firebombings of Tokyo and Osaka in March.
129Interviewed in Errol Morris’s 2003 documentary film “The Fog of War.”
 Figure of 97,032 for the firebombing of Tokyo is cited in Dower, War Without Mercy, 298. Also see Peter J. Kuznick, “The Decision to Risk the Future: The Atomic Bomb and the Apocalyptic Narrative,” Japan Focus, July 23, 2007; and Mark Selden, “A Forgotten Holocaust: U.S. Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities and the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq,” Japan Focus, May 2, 2007.
131Uda, Uwa, 163–164.
132Figures cited in Yūhi 50, 84.
133Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 92 and 263. Measured at 7.2 magnitude, it destroyed 512,846 homes and buildings, and caused 6,433 deaths in southern Hyōgo Prefecture. Here and note 85, 135, and 161 problems of spacing. Also, please eplace all circumflexes e.g. here notes 14, 17, 19 and many others such as 138, 159, 161, 163 with the standard macron: Hyōgo.
134The inadequacy of Japan’s air defenses is described in Gordon Daniels, “The Great Tokyo Air Raid, 9–10 March, 1945,” in ed. W.G. Beasley, ed., Modern Japan: Aspects of History, Literature, and Society, University of California Press (1975), 119.
135Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 47–48.
136 Ibid., p. 76.
137 Ienaga, The Pacific War, 141, Maeda, Deigo, 44–51, and Hyogo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 46.
138 Hyogo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 88.
140Yūhi, pp. 83–86.
141 Ibid., 87 and Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 54.
142The chrysanthemum is the flower forming the official crest of the Japanese imperial family.
143 Figures cited in Bix, Hirohito, 485.
144Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa, 90–96.
145Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 40.
146“Sute-ishi,” literally “throwaway stone,” referring to the game of go.
147Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 56–90.
148Ibid, p. 90.
149 Feifer, The Battle of Okinawa, 341 and Tonaki Morita, “Okinawa shinwa no saikō” (Reconsidering some myths about Okinawa), Keeshi kaji 47 (June, 2005), 60–65.
150Kadena Town in central Okinawa was the location of the Japanese military’s “Central Airfield,” captured by American forces during the first days of the Battle of Okinawa. After the war, the American military seized surrounding farmlands for a vastly expanded “Kadena Air Base” which is now the largest American air installation outside the U.S., occupying more than 60% of Kadena Town. [Anywhere! That deserves to be highlighted in the text perhaps.
151Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 25.
152Eyewitness accounts of the battle also describe close camaraderie between Okinawans and mainland soldiers. See Jo Nobuko Martin, A Princess Lily of the Ryukyus, Shin Nippon Kyôiku Tosho (1984). Martin writes from firsthand experience as a member of the Himeyuri gakutō-tai (Princess lily student brigade) comprised of high school girls and their teachers conscripted to serve as battlefield medics. Many were killed in the fighting or committed suicide to avoid capture.
153 Interviewed in July, 1999.
154Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 262, and 270.
155The term “palm fern hell” refers to times of famine in the Ryukyu Kingdom when people ate the palm fern (sotetsu) plant to avoid starvation. The poisonous portions had to be carefully removed.
156This dish came to be known as “Mobil tempura,” and often caused diarrhia.
157Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 276–279.
159Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 222. Although Gushi’s outrage is understandable, she overestimates U.S. reconnaissance capabilities. The Navy learned the positions of ships from decrypted Japanese messages, and was able to track them with submarines. But these messages did not necessarily specify the cargo, so U.S. submarines attacked merchant ships which they thought might be transporting weapons. Some they torpedoed not only carried Japanese civilian evacuees, but also American and other Allied prisoners of war who died by the hundreds in the explosions or from drowning.
160Yōju 35, 74–75.
161Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 266. Also see Shinzato Keiji, et al., Okinawa-ken no rekishi (The history of Okinawa Prefecture), Yamakawa, (1980), p. 223; and, in English, M.D. Morris, Okinawa: A Tiger by the Tail, Hawthorn (1968), 102. Violent crimes committed by U.S. forces reached a recorded peak of more than 400 per year during the Vietnam War. See “Introduction” in Steve Rabson, trans., Okinawa: Two Postwar Novellas, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley (1989, reprinted 1996), 28–31
162 Rabson, Two Postwar Novellas, 2 and 29 and George Feifer, Tennozan: The Battle of
Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb, Ticknor and Fields, (1992). 372–374. Rapes
and other serious crimes are still committed by individuals among the approximately
30,000 U.S. forces and 20,000 military dependents stationed in Okinawa today. Sexual
assaults by individuals among the 6,000 Japan Self Defense Force personnel have also
been reported in recent years.
163The 32nd Army in Okinawa applied the Japanese military’s 1944 guideline entitled “Soldiers and Civilians Live Together and Die Together.” See Ôe Kenzaburô, “Misreading, Espionage and ‘Beautiful Martyrdom for the Country”: On Hearing the District Court Verdict in the Okinawa ‘Mass Suicides’ Case,” article in Sekai (June, 2008) translated by Scott Burba in Japan Focus (October 5, 2008) at .
164 Molasky and Rabson, Southern Exposure, 22. Ōe writes, “The 32nd Army issued an order stating, ‘Effective immediately: The use of any language other than standard Japanese is prohibited, regardless of military or army civilian employment. Anyone caught conversing in the Okinawan language will be punished as a spy.”
165 Hyōgo-ken Honbu, Sensô taiken-shû, 250.
166Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 47.
167 Bix, Hirohito, 487–490.
168Tsuha, Heiwa Shiryōkan, 90.