Elder survivor pays respects at the Cornerstone of Peace memorial in Okinawa.
(Photo: The Asia-Pacific Journal)
90 million people were killed by state violence in the 20th century — so far the bloodiest century in human history. 20 million people of these war dead (mostly civilians) were killed in Japan's wars in the Asia-Pacific, that began against Korea and China, even before Dec. 7, 1941.
Even after US firebombings decimated all of Japan's major cities, including Tokyo, the militarist government would not admit defeat, until after its loss in the Battle of Okinawa (the last battle of the Pacific War), and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This is why Okinawa, together with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has remained a center of peace activism and peace education in Japan.
Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial:
In late March 1945, a fierce battle such as has rarely been seen in history took place on these islands. The "Typhoon of Steel" that lasted for ninety days disfigured mountains, destroyed much of the cultural legacy, and claimed the precious lives of upward of 200,000 people. The Battle of Okinawa was the only ground fighting fought on Japanese soil and was also the largest-scale campaign of the Asia-Pacific War. Even countless Okinawan civilians were fully mobilized.
A significant aspect of the Battle of Okinawa was the great loss of civilian life. At more than 100,000 civilian losses far outnumbered the military death toll. Some were blown apart by shells, some finding themselves in a hopeless situation were driven to suicide, some died of starvation, some succumbed to malaria, while other fell victim to the retreating Japanese troops. Under the most desperate and unimaginable circumstances, Okinawans directly experienced the absurdity of war and atrocities it inevitably brings about.
This war experience is at the very core of what is popularly called the "Okinawan Heart," a resilient yet strong attitude to life that Okinawan people developed as they struggled against the pressures of many years of U. S. military control.
The "Okinawan Heart" is a human response that respects personal dignity above all else, rejects any acts related to war, and truly cherishes culture, which is a supreme expression of humanity. In order that we may mourn for those who perished during the war, pass on to future generations the historic lessons of the Battle of Okinawa, convey our message to the peoples of the world and thereby established, displaying the whole range of the individual war experiences of the people in this prefecture, the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.