Japan changes name of Iwo Jima to shore up tradition in face of Hollywood onslaught
TOKYO -- Japan has changed the name of the Pacific island of Iwo Jima, site of the famous World War II battle, to its original name of Iwo To after residents there were prodded into action by two recent Clint Eastwood movies.
The new name in Japanese looks and means the same as Iwo Jima -- or Sulfur Island -- but sounds different, the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute said.
The institute announced the name change Monday after discussing the issue with Japan's coast guard. An official map with the new name will be released Sept. 1.
Iwo Jima was the site of the World War II battle immortalized by the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal of The Associated Press of U.S. Marines raising the American flag on the islet's Mount Suribachi.
Before the war, however, the volcanic island was known as Iwo To by the 1,000 or so civilians who lived there.
They were evacuated in 1944 as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific. Some Japanese navy officers who moved in to fortify the island mistakenly called it Iwo Jima, and the name stuck. After the war, civilians weren't allowed to return and the island was put to exclusive military use by both the U.S. and Japan, cementing its identity.
Never satisfied that the name Iwo Jima took root, locals took action in March after the release of Eastwood's two films "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers" spotlighted the misnomer.
"Though we're happy for Iwo To, which has been forgotten by history, the islanders are extremely grieved every time they hear Iwo To referred to as Iwo Jima," the local Ogasawara newspaper reported at the time.
Ogasawara, the municipality that administers Iwo To and neighboring islands, responded by adopting a resolution making Iwo To the official reading. Residents and descendants of Iwo To evacuees petitioned the central government to follow suit.
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