A Japanese city's plan to seek UNESCO recognition for its collection of documents related to its role as a launching base for "kamikaze" suicide attacks during World War II is raising questions over how such memories should be preserved. Kampei Shimoide, mayor of Minamikyushu, and others associated with the project say they hope that registering the document collection as a UNESCO "Memory of the World" will help ensure it will convey the horrors and suffering of the war to future generations. Chiran, a tea-farming town that's part of today's Minamikyushu, was the site of an Imperial Japanese Army base that launched hundreds of attack missions during the Battle of Okinawa in the war's final months.
Among the items the Chiran Peace Museum is seeking to include in the "Memory of the World" registry are "hachimaki" headbands inscribed by families and friends, farewell messages, and letters from the pilots, who took off on their bombing raids carrying only enough fuel to reach their targets. "Take courage, forget the past, and find new ways to be happy in the future," says one, written by 23-year-old pilot Toshio Anazawa to his fiancee before he died. To apply for the UNESCO "Memory of the World" recognition, Minamikyushu must gain approval from Japan's education ministry, but it's unclear whether that effort will succeed. Seventy years after Japan's defeat in August 1945, sensitivities over its wartime legacy remain acute, especially in neighboring China and South Korea.