Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa

(Okinawa spy senshi)

- JAPAN / 2018 / Japanese, English / Color, B&W / DCP / 114 min

Directors, Narration: Mikami Chie, Oya Hanayo
Photography: Hirata Mamoru
Editing: Suzuo Keita
Music: Katsui Yuji
Assistant Director: Higa Masato
Producers: Hashimoto Yoshiko, Kinoshita Shigeki
Produced by: Documentary Japan, TOFOO, LLC., Mikami Chie, Oya Hanayo
World Sales: TOFOO, LLC.

The Battle of Okinawa, in which the arrival of US troops at the end of World War II led to the death of more than 200,000 people, including civilians. Behind it lies a hidden history: guerilla units made up of young boys, the nightmare of malaria, “friendly fire” genocide, and adolescent officers from the so-called “Nakano School,” Japan’s primary military intelligence training center. Bringing the battle’s biggest taboos into the light of day, this film sounds a warning against re-armament.

[Director’s Statement]

In war, in the shadow of the military conflict in plain sight, a secret war is always taking place. In no war do civilians remain free from harm. Once the Okinawan islands deformed into battlefields, young boys were trained to engage in terrorism and espionage, and people spied and informed on their neighbors to prevent the leaking of military secrets. Okinawans murdered Okinawans. Why did so many die, even out of the line of enemy fire? Bleak tales from the Battle of Okinawa that have heretofore remained untold.

Mikami Chie

Most Japanese people see the Battle of Okinawa as a tragic historical tale existing only in the past tense. But to know the war behind the war, here depicted, is to know the essence of this country—connected by paths just below our feet from that time seventy-four years ago, right up our lives in this very moment. This film is not just about the past. I especially want all those who seek protection from a powerful military to watch this film.

Oya Hanayo

Mikami Chie

Journalist, film director. Mikami joined Mainichi Broadcasting System as an announcer in 1987. In 1995 she moved to Okinawa for the launch of Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting Corporation. While working as main anchor for the local news show, she also produced many documentary programs. The theatrical version of The Targeted Village (2013) won the Directors Guild of Japan Award and the Citizen’s Prize at YIDFF 2013. Since becoming freelance, her films We Shall Overcome (2015, YIDFF 2015), The Targeted Island: A Shield Against Storms (2017, YIDFF 2017) and the present work have also seen theatrical release.

Oya Hanayo

Born in Chiba, 1987. Journalist, documentary filmmaker. As a student, she reported on devastation caused by war in the Yaeyama Islands. She joined Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting in 2012, put in charge of issues such as the US military bases and Japan Self-Defense Forces deployment. Her work I Was the Terrorist (2016) won Asahi TV’s top Progress Award in 2017. Becoming freelance the same year, she is now based in the US. Her coverage has since centered on the relationship of humans to war and the military, as well as that of violence to the state. This is her first feature-length directorial work.