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Okinawa Memorial Day

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5/30/2018 11:01:59 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
The day after the last day of the Battle of Okinawa, is called "Okinawa Memorial Day". This is a public holiday observed in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture annually on June 23 to remember the lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa. It is not celebrated nationally throughout Japan. The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground engagement of the Pacific War fought on Japanese soil. Over 240,000 lives were lost and numerous buildings on the island were destroyed along with countless historical documents, artifacts and cultural treasures. It is estimated that about the half of the war victims were local Okinawan residents, among them children.
This day is important for Okinawans, and is an important day for antiwar activists throughout Japan, but is not recognized as a holiday outside of Okinawa Prefecture. It is hardly honored, commemorated, or even remembered in any way by most Japanese on the main islands, in spite of the fact that Okinawan lives and properties were sacrificed for the sake of the people on the main islands, and in that sense, people on the main islands are indebted to Okinawans because of how Okinawans have been sacrificed in various ways from 1945 to the present.
The Battle of Okinawa lasted from 1 April until 22 June 1945, while the operation called "Iceberg" had been held. 240,000 Okinawans were killed in the Battle of Okinawa. The Island of Okinawa is approximately the size of Long Island in New York, so this was a large percentage of the people. It was one of the most traumatic events in Okinawan/Ryukyuan history. It led to a sudden and severe degradation of life for the vast majority of the population, as the best land on the prefecture was seized by the US military, and to this day, very little of the land has been returned. The US seized Okinawa Island from the Okinawans in 1945, stole land from Okinawans, built military bases all over the island, and governed it until 1972. But even after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the bases continued to exist and violence against the people of Okinawa by American soldiers continued " that is, violence in the form of murders, rapes, etc.
Okinawans are also often referred to as the "Ryukyuan people" by scholars. There are/were a number of dialects spoken throughout the Ryukyuan island chain, so there is cultural diversity even among Ryukyuans (just as there is tremendous cultural diversity throughout Japan. The modern nation-state that formed in 1868 immediately started destroying cultural diversity, aiming to standardize much of the country, but linguistic diversity has stubbornly persisted). The name for Okinawa Island " the main island of "Okinawa Prefecture" in the local language is "Uchinaa". Use of Ryukyuan dialects is seen frequently in antiwar and anti-base demonstrations by Okinawan protestors, as a way of emphasizing the value of their native culture, recognizing how they have been colonized by mainland Japanese, and showing resistance to that colonization " both actual colonization and the colonization of the mind/heart that leads to the internalization of Japanese discriminatory views of Ryukyuans.
The huge U.S. military presence continues to cause friction between Okinawans and military personnel. Additionally, despite being under Japanese control, U.S. military bases are not being reduced despite promises to do just that. Furthermore since 1972, there have been reported 116 military aircraft accidents, such as fires and crashes, causing additional resentment toward the continued occupation of Okinawa by U.S. military bases and personnel.