June 27, 2018
Ginowan, Okinawa Pref.- As nearly three-quarters of a century have passed since the end of World War II and wartime memories get more and more blurry, Japan is facing a challenge: how to help young generations learn about peace.
An entrepreneur in Okinawa Prefecture, southernmost Japan, believes discussion holds the key.
"What is the brutality of the Battle of Okinawa?"
Shun Kuninaka, 25-year-old president of Gachiyun Inc., asked students in his lecture on peace at Futenma High School in Ginowan held on June 13.
"Please have a talk for a minute or so." His cue prompted students into discussion.
"I've heard that students often don't remember what they were told in peace learning programs that relied on one-way communication," in which lecturers do all the talking and students listen, he said in an interview.
His company plans peace-learning programs for students in and out of the prefecture, where the Battle of Okinawa, a large-scale grueling ground battle, was fought between the Imperial Japanese Army and the U.S.-led Allied forces in the final stage of World War II, with over 200,000 people including many civilians killed.
Kuninaka established the company when he was a third-year student of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. The corporate name derives from "gachi," which means being serious in Japanese, and "yuntaku," an Okinawa dialect word meaning chatting.
Gachiyun's programs put weight on questions to participants.
One of the activities the company employs in a program, for example, involves cards with war survivors' testimonies written on them, photographs and a chronological table. A staff member assigned for each group comprising about 10 students asks questions using with those tools and help students express their opinions. Staff members are university students.
"Posing questions that help engage students in discussion is important," he said.
Topics that Gachiyun takes up in learning programs and lectures include not only the Battle of Okinawa but also issues related to U.S. bases in the prefecture, where some 70 pct of U.S. military installations in Japan are concentrated.
A seed for his business came when a school outside Okinawa contacted a university discussion circle Kuninaka launched. The school asked for help in introducing two-way communication in peace education and his circle organized a debate at the school.
As similar requests kept coming in, Kuninaka decided to set up the company, which he said has so far dealt with requests from some 250 schools.
Kuninaka, an Okinawa native, lost his great-grandfather in the Battle of Okinawa, which ended on Saturday 73 years ago.
Shortly after he set up the circle, Kuninaka visited the Cornerstone of Peace, where rows of stone plates with the names of victims of the battle inscribed on them are placed, in Peace Memorial Park in the Okinawa city of Itoman.
It was at that time when he overheard a student visiting there on a school trip saying, "That cliff is where those who gave up fighting in war died." Kuninaka was shocked.
That experience has made him place the battle at the center of programs, he said.
"We have war survivors' testimonies, but we have not thought out how we can communicate those testimonies" to younger generations, Kuninaka said.
He said he wants to create a program that can make people like the student in the park "think a little bit" about peace. Jiji Press
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