Sunday, September 30, 2007

my eyes are stinging a bit today. must be from all the sun and the swimming in the salty water of the sea. yep. just another late september day. i think late september and october are basically the best months on Okinawa. just calm, sunny with a light breeze and cool water. paradise, indeed.

went to two of Ogimi's four elementary school undoukais today. All four schools hold their sports day on the same day but making it to all four would have been quite a task. Plus i sort of slept in so only showed up to Kijoka's (my village) undoukai around 11am. Walked there with hopes of getting a free lunch but those hopes weren't too high. Walked to the pitch, a sweet woman who works at the BOE and always looks after me walked me over to the tables under the shady tents, pointed to a chair, brought me a cup of cool tea. Just as i was sitting down, a junior high school student was passing out the bento lunches to everyone seated under the tent. K-san motioned for the student to place a bento in front of me as well. I looked shocked but inside happy that my plan worked out perfectly. :) ha ha seems rather shallow, eh? but really this is just how it works and after two years of these events i know what to expect. but there is no such thing as a free lunch in japan either and so after watching a relay of parents and their elementary school kids, i was invited to participate in the rope pulling event: men vs. women, though they politely referred to us as team "red" and "white." The women won the first time, then we switched sides and the men won the second time. The whole thing was quite fun. After lunch the kids performed a beautifully choreographed and brilliantly executed eisa routine. Junior high kids from Kijoka helped out as well as the fathers who were dressed in Ogimi's eisa costumes and were dancing with the poll of Kijoka. If you live here or have lived here that might make sense, if not. sorry. it's hard to explain. but i'll post pics later on.

I went to Ogimi elem. school's undoukai after Kijoka's eisa. Got there just in time to watch adult vs. elem. kids vs. junior high school kids relays. Kids won out every time. Then it was the finishing the dance with everyone on the pitch, including me. Then it was off home to grab beach stuff and go lounge about for a couple of hours after a refreshing dip in the sea. The water is perfect right now. Chilly at first but under the blazing sun, a welcoming sensation on the sweaty skin.

Yesterday I joined two hundred people or so from Ogimi village in the protest against the proposed changes to the Japanese history textbooks. The protest took place at the park near the Ginowan Convention center in the south of the island. Hordes of people were walking to the sight with placards and signs. It was my first such gathering--not counting the anti-war protest Shelly and i walked into while in New York...and quickly walked out of.
I walked with the superintendent of Ogimi schools and he explained to me the situation, so i'll relate it to you hear as i understand it. During the battle of Okinawa numerous atrocities against the peaceful Okinawan civilians took place and most of them were perpetrated by the Japanese military that came and occupied the island drawing American forces away from mainland Japan and to this tiny chain of islands. One of the atrocities that are well documented was the forceful way in which Japanese military encouraged Okinawan citizens to commit suicide if the arrival of American troupes was imminent. Men and women were given grenades to use on themselves and their families in case the Americans landed on their islands. This happened on Zamami and Tokashiki island and hundreds of people died. This fact is currently written in the Japanese textbook but sometime last year the Ministry of Education proposed to cut out the part of the history which paints Japanese soldiers in the bad light. The bit will be re-written so that suicides are mentioned but the role the Japanese military played in those suicides is not. And that outraged many on Okinawa, an island that is still dealing with occupation of American forces and feels that Japan still treats them as second-rate citizens whose opinion is not worth knowing.
The protest has been in the works for 4 months. Village, town and cities governments were asked to send people to represent themselves at the gathering. 120,000 people were at the park yesterday and the sight was awesome! I didn't understand every word of the speeches but I understood the feeling behind them. My favorite speech, though, was by two senior high school students. I did understand their shouts of "We want to learn the truth, so write the truth!!"
The whole two hour event was seemed really powerful to me so I really hope it causes a few heads to turn in the Japanese Ministry of Education and the proposed changes are abandoned.

i'll finish here.
but here's a BBC article i got after googleing "okinawa and textbook and protest"
Huge Japan protest against textbook
am sure you can find more if you have time. i'm off to my adult conversation class. ta ta


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