Abstract

This article examines the trajectory of the story of the Battle of Okinawa to ponder the ethical dimensions of remembering, or failing to remember, mass trauma. Little has been written about the battle's impact on Okinawa's civilian population. Instead, the story of the deaths of as many as one-third of the pre-battle population, including many dead by mass suicide, has disappeared from popular consciousness and been supplanted by the iconic story of the Okinawa occupation: Teahouse of the August Moon. In this article, I review the battle then examine contemporary magazine coverage; in addition, I analyze the novel and film versions of Teahouse to show the rapidity with which the original story was subsumed to a spectacle that neutralized the traumatic story. Arguing that this disappearance of the Okinawa story via the Teahouse texts fits Kalí Tal's theory of “codification” of stories of cultural trauma, I ask readers to consider the ethical cost of such codification.

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