Monday, June 2, 2014

“Banzai!” The Compulsory Mass Suicide of Kerama Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa: Kinjo Shigeaki interviewed by Michael Bradley

Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki ("Level Five,"1997)

Chris Marker fans will recognize the name of Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki, who was featured in the late French filmmaker's Level Five, about the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. As in the 1997 film, the Baptist minister describes how the Japanese government forced Okinawans to commit suicide and kill family members in this new APJ interview,"'Banzai!' The Compulsory Mass Suicide of Kerama Islanders in the Battle of Okinawa," by Michael Bradley:
We were to call out Banzai (Long Life!) to the emperor three times. We knew that this was what Japanese soldiers did when they were going to die on the battlefield. The village head didn’t exactly tell us to commit suicide, but by telling us to shout Banzai, we knew what was meant.

Soldiers distributed grenades among us...There weren’t enough grenades to go around because there were so many of us. Actually, my family didn’t get one. Anyway, once the grenades were given out, that was taken as a sign and the killing began immediately. The grenades were detonated, but there were few of them, so most people survived the blasts. Then people began to use clubs or scythes on each other – various things were used.

It was the father’s role to kill his own family, but my father had already died. I was only 16 years and one month old, high school age. (Although, I wasn’t in high school.) My older brother and I didn’t discuss how we would do it, but we both knew we had been ordered to kill ourselves and our family...

It’s a mystery to me why I was kept alive during the war. At that time, life was treated as something insignificant. People killed each other so easily. Part of the reason we had been prepared to kill our own families was because of the nationalistic education we’d received. We were taught that Americans were not human, that they were our enemy and had to be killed.

The Japanese government should now face up to their history – their previous emphasis in education was on killing and suicide and they have never properly acknowledged that. They should admit that the Imperial army slaughtered people in China and other Asian countries. Also, they should be making efforts now to get along with China and their other neighbors, and not to cooperate only with the Americans.
 Reverend Kinjo Shigeaki (2014) 

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