- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

NAHA, JAPAN A teacher, some say, affects eternity: She can never tell where her influence stops.
That perfectly describes Fumiko Nakamura, a teacher who has not stopped exhorting her students to fight against the Americans in the Battle of Okinawa, for Japan, for the emperor, for heroic ideals.
Now, in her 87th year, she continues exhorting all who will listen, but in another direction.
Ever since the bloodiest land battle of World War II in the Pacific which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives here in Okinawa in the spring of 1945, including about a third of the island's civilians Mrs. Nakamura has turned against war. She is showing its brutality, using film footage of actual combat, to new generations to nudge them toward peace. As director-general of the Okinawa Historical Film Society in Naha, capital of Okinawa prefecture, she emphasizes "the realities of the war."
But her battle against the U.S. military presence also continues. The Naha resident often makes the pilgrimage to the Cornerstone of Peace at Itoman, a city in southern Okinawa. The monument bears names of the dead from both sides. Mrs. Nakamura pledges as she makes rubbings of the names of relatives and former students, "We will never let your descendants die such a terrible death as you did."
"If they were alive today, they would be around 75 years old. But to me they are still my students," the former teacher said. "They were thrown into the front line."
Remorseful now, she is one of the very people who helped hurl those youngsters into battle. During the heyday of Japanese militarism, teachers like Mrs. Nakamura encouraged their students to fight for the state and die for the emperor.
Fumiko Toyama, a student of Mrs. Nakamura in 1937 when Japan was already at war in China, recalls: "She used to ask all of us in class if we could die for our country. Whenever our 'Yes!' was not loud enough, she'd snap: 'Louder!' I really felt ready to die."
My students "died without enjoying any of the joys of life like graduation, getting a job, marriage, and rearing a child," Mrs. Nakamura said. "I will carry this sin as long as I live."
The Battle of Okinawa, the only ground battle fought in Japan during what Japanese refer to as the Pacific War, is known here as "the Typhoon of Steel." It raged for three months, killing about 210,000 people including at least 14,000 Americans and roughly one-third of the 450,000 civilians on the island and destroying 90 percent of its buildings.
Mrs. Nakamura's mother was one of many civilians killed by American naval bombardment. Kamikaze attacks sank 30 U.S. Navy ships and damaged more than 350.
Mrs. Nakamura, who was born in 1913 at Nago, a northern Okinawa city, says her parents always placed priority on her education. But it was a difficult era. The worldwide Great Depression came in her teens, and she was indoctrinated in militarism as Japan sought to expand in China, fearing the Soviet Union would take it first.
"We were indoctrinated in militaristic schooling, with wartime slogans, songs and propaganda," she recalled. "It was an era when you couldn't say anything."
Times have changed. Mrs. Nakamura is saying a lot these days as one of Okinawa's most vocal activists against the U.S. military presence, appearing on local broadcasts, in newspapers and at protest rallies, and through her long stewardship of the Okinawa Historical Film Society.
The society was founded on Dec. 8, 1983 42 years to the day, on Asia's side of the International Date Line, after Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor to buy and preserve unedited footage of the Battle of Okinawa from the National Archives in Washington, using individual donations.
At the onset, the group asked every Okinawan to donate 100 yen (about 40 cents at that time) to pay for one foot of film. This earned it the nickname "Ichi-Fito Undono-Kai" Association of One-foot Donors. A fund-raising campaign brought hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just from Okinawa but across Japan.
The first combat footage bought by the group arrived the following year. The images evoked heartbreaking memories: American bombing and shelling of the island, Marines using flamethrowers to burn Okinawan civilians and Japanese soldiers hiding in caves; a civilian girl in rags hunkered down and trembling with fear.
Some say the films brought catharsis, encouraging many of those who went through the battle to share their memories with others.
"They tended to keep their painful and shameful experiences private. Some fled, leaving family members behind, and others looted," said Hiroshi Hosaka, a professor of communications and sociology at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. "But the films made them realize everyone had similar experiences."
Mr. Hosaka added, however, that the scenes also traumatized some Okinawans who were trying to forget the battle.
The society now owns 260 films of the Okinawa battle. With this footage, it has produced movies and videotapes in Japanese and English. These documentaries are shown as "testimony to the realities of the battle," not only to Okinawans but also to students in educational programs at schools and communities across Japan.
Mrs. Nakamura says she hopes that the films help those who have not experienced war to learn its brutality and ugliness, to help them avoid repeating past mistakes.
Last year, a few months before the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, Mrs. Nakamura sent a videotape of the World War II battle to each G-8 leader. Twenty days later, she got the first thank-you letter. It was from President Bill Clinton in Washington.
"When I saw the letter I just exclaimed: 'How great democracy is! It responds promptly,'" Mrs. Nakamura said. In the next few weeks she received similar letters from the other leaders except Japan's Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
Although Mrs. Nakamura appreciated Mr. Clinton's letter, she was totally disappointed by his speech at the Cornerstone of Peace memorial when he came to Okinawa.
"I don't think Mr. Clinton saw the tape," she said, "because he vowed to strengthen the military alliance with Japan in front of the names of so many victims, instead of saying he prayed for those who were killed in the battle."
The Okinawa Historical Film Society, Mrs. Nakamura said, refuses any money from governments or corporations.
"Once you took their money, you would be tied to the money," she said. "'Here are development funds for Okinawa, so please let the military bases stay.' Even if they don't say that explicitly, they would force you into compliance with the money. We have seen this for a long time."
In Nago, Mrs. Nakamura's hometown, activists said Tokyo pressured the city to accept a new U.S. military facility in exchange for money. Ironically, Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto, who has said the city will allow a floating U.S. Marine heliport to be built in nearby waters, was a student of Mrs. Nakamura.
"Tateo was a very good student," she said calmly. "When I see him on TV, he seems to have more gray hair these days. He is probably under enormous pressures from the government and local business groups. I wonder if he really speaks from his heart."
Okinawans have chafed for more than five decades from the U.S. military presence on their island, even though it creates thousands of jobs and brings a lot of development money from Tokyo. The subtropical prefecture, which accounts for 0.6 percent of Japan's land area, contains about 75 percent of the U.S. military installations in Japan.
"Okinawa has long hosted U.S. military bases that we don't want. For the past 56 years, we have suffered from problems stemming from the bases and our lives have been in danger," Mrs. Nakamura said. "Military bases are the root of all evil. We don't want bases where they train people to kill."
Last month, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Tokyo that Washington will try to reduce the size and the impact of its military presence on Okinawa. Mrs. Nakamura is skeptical.
"I would be ashamed to see my students in the next world unless I continue working to bring peace to Okinawa," she said.


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