(FYI: This article is where we got the name for our blog)
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
The New York Times
Published: March 29, 2008
TOKYO — A Japanese court rejected a defamation lawsuit on Friday against Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, agreeing with his depiction of involvement by the Japanese military in the mass suicides of civilians in Okinawa toward the end of World War II.
In a closely watched ruling, the Osaka District Court threw out a $200,000 damage suit that was filed by a 91-year-old war veteran and another veteran’s surviving relatives, who said there was no evidence of the military’s involvement in the suicides.
The plaintiffs had also sought to block further printing of Mr. Oe’s 1970 book of essays, “Okinawa Notes,” in which he wrote that Japanese soldiers had told Okinawans they would be raped, tortured and murdered by the advancing American troops and coerced them into killing themselves instead of surrendering.
“The military was deeply involved in the mass suicides,” Judge Toshimasa Fukami said in the ruling. Judge Fukami cited the testimony of survivors that soldiers had handed out grenades to civilians to use for committing suicide, and the fact that mass suicides had occurred only in villages where Japanese troops had been stationed.
The defamation lawsuit, filed in 2005, was seized upon by right-wing scholars and politicians in Japan who wanted to delete references to the military’s coercion of civilians in the mass suicides from the country’s high school history textbooks. Last April, during the administration of Shinzo Abe, then the prime minister, the Ministry of Education announced that references to the military’s role would be deleted from textbooks.
Some 110,000 people rallied in protest in Okinawa last September, in the biggest demonstration in the prefecture since the early 1970s. The protests, as well as Mr. Abe’s resignation and his replacement by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, a moderate, led the Ministry of Education to put back most of the references in December.
The about-face was an embarrassment for the government, which has always denied accusations by China and South Korea that it engaged in historical whitewashing, and has contended that its school textbooks are free of political bias.
“The judge accurately read my writing,” Mr. Oe, 73, said at a news conference.