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Learning English - Words in the News
 
27 June, 2007 - Published 16:32 GMT
 
Textbook changes in Japan
 
Okinawa map

The Japanese island of Okinawa has urged the government in Tokyo not to change school textbooks that say the Japanese army forced Okinawa civilians to commit suicide in the Second World War. This report from Keith Adams:

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It's not the first time Japanese textbooks have been criticised for revising history. China has frequently accused Japan of glossing over wartime atrocities. But now education ministry officials are coming under fire from their own countrymen.

The dispute is over the events of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. In March the ministry decided to tone down references to Japanese soldiers forcing civilians on the island to commit suicide, rather than surrender to American forces. It argued that the suicides were voluntary.

The local assembly in Okinawa has now issued a statement saying that's not so. Eye-witnesses at the time described fanatical soldiers handing out grenades with which people killed themselves. The assembly said it was an undeniable fact that the Japanese military were involved in the mass suicides, and that the truth should remain in print as a warning, to prevent a repeat of such tragic events. Some two-hundred thousand people died when American marines stormed Okinawa in 1945.

Keith Adams, BBC

Listen to the words

glossing over
underplaying, not fully explaining the details of, somewhat ignoring

atrocities
terrible and cruel acts (against people)

coming under fire
receiving criticism

tone down
reduce, adjust to make less forceful

civilians
ordinary people who are not part of the military

Eye-witnesses
people who saw the event in question

fanatical
extremely enthusiastic (with a negative connotation/meaning)

handing out
giving

undeniable
certain, unquestionable

in print
written down as a record


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