'Our dignity is being trampled on'

May 15 marks 50 years since Okinawa's sovereignty was returned to Japan by the United States. But the southern prefecture continues to struggle with the legacy of the occupation amid fears that it may find itself again on the front line of war.

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Armed with shovel, headlight and mosquito coil, spry and nimble former boy scout Takamatsu Gushi-ken climbs steep slopes deep into the hot and humid forests in the outskirts of the southern city of Itoman in Okinawa.

His mission: to unearth the remains of the missing dead from the 82-day Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The intense fighting is said to have been the bloodiest in the Pacific theatre during World War II, with as many as 200,000 casualties. Tens of thousands remain unaccounted for.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2022, with the headline 'Our dignity is being trampled on'. Subscribe