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Stone lanterns and
cherry blossoms line road
to Chiran Peace Museum

 

Japanese textbooks and teachers do not cover much about kamikaze pilots and other special attack force members who made suicide attacks near the end of World War II. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology authorizes textbooks, but it has in the past refrained from approval of textbooks with detailed discussions of kamikaze pilots, primarily due to their association with Japan's past militarism. However, in 2001 the Ministry authorized a junior high school textbook compiled by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which many people have criticized for its distorted history that glosses over Japan's wartime atrocities (Nakamura 2004). The Asahi Shimbun (2004), which argues that the textbook lacks a balanced historical view, states:

Another characteristic of the textbook is that it stresses the importance of devotion to the state. For example, it describes in detail the kamikaze suicide pilots and cites the pilots' farewell messages and parting poems. The book urges students to think about how people during the war must have felt.

The Japan Times (Nakamura 2004) reports that only about 0.1% of junior high schools in Japan have adopted the textbook, but supporters of the book argue that it tries "to instill in children a love for their country through school education" and promotes "respect for Japan's traditional cultural values."

Although nationally few schools address kamikaze pilots in their curriculum and textbooks, several teachers in elementary schools in Kagoshima Prefecture have developed one-hour classes for use in their social studies or ethics curriculum. During the Battle of Okinawa, almost all kamikaze pilots sortied from Kagoshima Prefecture air bases in Kanoya, Chiran, Kushira, Kokubu, and other towns. After the war, several museums related to kamikaze pilots opened in Kagoshima Prefecture to keep alive the memory of kamikaze pilots. The Teacher's Organization of Skill Sharing (TOSS) in Kagoshima published a book in 2003 entitled Koukuu tokkou "Chiran" o jugyou suru (Teaching classes about "Chiran" aerial special attacks). This book presents lesson plans from sixteen different elementary school teachers in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The small town of Chiran in Kagoshima Prefecture sponsors an annual speech contest, which includes divisions for junior high school and high school students. The speech contest rules allow high school students from all over Japan to participate, but about 90% come from Kagoshima. The speech committee restricts junior high participants to Kagoshima, primarily due to the difficulty children from other prefectures would have in traveling to Kagoshima. About two thousand students submit speech drafts to the contest each year.

In the 1990s, the following two movies about kamikaze pilots received recommendations by Japan's Ministry of Education, National Congress of Parents & Teachers, Japan Film Society, and other groups.

Although recommended for viewing by children, both movies are for all ages. Nijuuroku ya mairi (A Moon Twenty-six Days Old), another 1990s film about kamikaze pilots, has a young girl as one of the main characters.

Several kamikaze-related Japanese books for children have been published in recent years, including a picture book for young children about three kamikaze pilots who make friends with an eight-year-old girl on the night before they sortie from Chiran Air Base.

Sources Cited

Asahi Shimbun. 2004. Editorial: Textbook controversy. August 28. <http://www.asahi.com/english/opinion/TKY200408280188.html> (August 30, 2004), link no longer available.

Nakamura, Akemi. 2004. Board OKs nationalist-bent history text. The Japan Times. August 27. <http://202.221.217.59/print/news/nn08-2004/nn20040827a2.htm> (November 30, 2004), link no longer available.