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NAHA, Okinawa — The cities of Naha and Itoman have rescinded instructions for their workers to line the streets and wave Japanese flags when Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit Okinawa this weekend after labor union protests.

Displaying the national flag, called “hinomaru,” is a touchy issue on Okinawa, where more than 200,000 people were killed, including about one-third of the civilian population, during the Battle of Okinawa.

Many Okinawans blame Japan’s former militarism for the carnage, believing they were sacrificed in an attempt to stall the Allied juggernaut advancing on mainland Japan.

The imperial couple was to arrive in Naha on Friday for a four-day visit to open a new national theater in Urasoe and to pay respects to those who died during the Battle of Okinawa at Peace Prayer Park in Itoman.

The trip also marks their first visit to the outer island of Ishigaki and Miyako.

After protests from the municipal employees union, both cities issued instructions that any flag-waving would be strictly voluntary.

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