SHIZUOKA: 'River Kwai' train back up and running
SHIMADA--The steam locomotive which during World War II ran on the Thai-Burma Railway featured in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai" went back into service for the first time in four years on Sunday, railway officials said.
The C-56-44 locomotive was built in Kobe 1936 and shipped to Thailand in 1941. It was one of two C-56s that were returned to Japan in 1979, after which it was put into service along the Oigawa railway line here.
In 2003, it was taken out of service for repairs. In an unusual move, the C-56-44 engine's boiler was replaced with a similar one from a C-12 locomotive. The boiler and tender were repainted green, the same color it wore on the Thai railway after the war. (IHT/Asahi: October 8,2007)
Suicide issue heats up in Okinawa
Incensed by the government's decision to expunge descriptions in school textbooks of the army's involvement in wartime mass civilian suicides in Okinawa, survivors are coming forward with tales of Japanese soldiers encouraging islanders to take their lives.
In the meantime, the Okinawa prefectural assembly plans to compile an updated version of the prefecture's history comprising witnesses' accounts that local governments have gathered in recent years.
The move comes after the education ministry, jolted by Okinawa's backlash to its controversial decision, softened its stand on the issue. It said the Textbook Approval Research Council, a ministry-appointed panel, will discuss the matter if textbook publishers file requests for modifications of passages of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.
Since the passages in question have already been deleted, publishers will seek changes to reflect the Imperial Japanese Army's involvement in the mass suicides in time for high school history textbooks to be used starting in April.
Members of the panel are expected to take into consideration witness accounts pointing to the army's responsibility in many of the atrocities.
The textbook controversy erupted in late March when results of the ministry panel's textbook screening were disclosed. The textbooks dropped references that Japanese soldiers forced islanders to commit mass suicide after the panel decreed there was insufficient evidence.
Education ministry officials assert that there are conflicting views as to whether the army did in fact order mass suicides.
About 120,000 Okinawans, about one-quarter of the wartime population in the southernmost prefecture, died in the only land battle fought on the Japanese soil involving civilians.
In some cases, Okinawan civilians were handed grenades by Imperial Japanese Army soldiers and told to blow themselves up so that they would not become POWs. The exact number of those who died in mass suicides is not known.
In July, the prefectural assembly sent a fact-finding team of its education and welfare committee members to the Kerama islands, west of Okinawa's main island, to gather witnesses' accounts of mass suicides.
Many elderly residents in Zamamijima, one of the islands that form the Kerama islands, spoke of a mass suicide on March 26, 1945, that claimed some 130 lives.
Haruko Miyahira, 81, who lives on Zamamijima, vividly recalls what her elder brother, then deputy mayor, told their father on the eve of the tragedy.
"There's no doubt that the enemy will land here," she quoted him as having said. "I have been ordered by the military that (residents) should die rather than surrender. Let's die together."
Miyahira believes that her elder brother, who had been in close contact with Japanese troops in his capacity as deputy mayor, had been ordered to organize a mass suicide.
The elder brother and most of his family members, as well as her younger brother, are presumed to have killed themselves along with dozens of islanders in a cave.
Miyahira and her parents, as well as her elder brother's second daughter, who waited for instructions in a cave elsewhere, survived.
Miyahira still recalls being told by a Japanese soldier that "(You) should die (rather than surrender) with good grace because falling in the hands of the enemy is a disgrace as a Japanese."
At the time, she was hiding in a cave to escape from a barrage of bombings before U.S. troops landed on the island.
Kyuei Yogi, 78, also recalled the Imperial Japanese Army's involvement in mass suicides. Yogi, who was a junior high school student in Naha, had returned to Gerumajima island, part of the Kerama island chain, on Feb. 8, 1945, and was living with his grandparents.
Yogi, who formerly served as Zamami village head, said the commander of Japanese troops deployed on nearby Akajima island came over to Gerumajima that day and assembled the islanders in one spot.
He said the commander told them to the effect that it was only a matter of time before U.S. soldiers made landfall and that the man said then, "When they do, all you have to do is commit suicide."
Yogi was planning to hang himself in a cave where he had taken refuge, but he was dissuaded from doing so by other islanders.
More than 50 residents, or about half the population at that time on Gerumajima, died in mass suicides, according to a chronicle of the Zamami village and other documents.
Men strangled their wives and children before they hanged themselves, according to the accounts.
Harumi Miyagi, a historian specializing in women's history who conducted research on Zamamijima, said there was no question that mass suicides occurred under the Imperial Japanese Army's rule.
"(The island) was under the control of Japanese troops stationed there," she said. "It is an indisputable fact that the islanders were cornered psychologically by the various statements the soldiers had made as well as by the grenades they delivered to the islanders."(IHT/Asahi: October 8,2007)