Waging Peace on Okinawa

Author: Gerald Figal

Abstract:

"Waging Peace on Okinawa" examines peace discourses as enacted in tours of battle sites and war (peace) memorials on the main island of Okinawa. Pointing out linkages with and divergences from mainland Japanese peace practices, the essay focuses on "peace guides" that have emerged as the backbone of educational tours that cater to Okinawan and, especially, mainland Japanese schoolchildren. Staffed by volunteers in conjunction with private and public organizations, peace guide tours and their supporting materials endeavor to promote peace by conveying a historical knowledge of the Battle of Okinawa that is more richly contextualized - "complete" - than that which is typically found in official textbooks, commercial tours, and patriotic pilgrimages. "Complete" in this context implies open discussion - even highlighting - of the violence and discrimination Okinawan civilians suffered at the hands of Japanese during the battle, but it also signals discriminatory treatment toward Okinawans before and beyond the battle (the most concrete example of the latter being the maintenance of U.S. military bases under the U.S.-Japan security arrangement). Peace guides and their supporters thus find themselves in a battle over historical representation that arguably has more to do with immediate political and economic issues than with setting the historical record straight.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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March 2001