People of Tokunoshima in island-wide protest -- "Absolute Opposition to Bases!"

Photos: Jiji News Agency

As usual, Satoko Norimatsu has the latest and best coverage on all things Okinawa (and Tokunoshima) at her Peace Philosophy Centre Blog--"Hantai!" - Tokunoshima's Record-Breaking Addition to Ryukyuans' Democratic Voices:
On April 18, a rally was held in Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture to oppose the relocation of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa to the Island. The participation of 15,000 people, 60% of the population of about 26,000, is a record-breaking size of gathering on the island.

Signs read:

"Tokunoshima does not need military bases."
"Absolute Opposition to Bases! "
"Tokunoshima - an Isalnd of Long Life and Children"
"Protect the Island of "Yui"(mutual support)"
"The treasures of the Island are Nature, Children, and Kindness"
"We Oppose US Military Bases!"

The most frequently-seen word in this photo is hantai (反対), meaning "opposition."

According to Okinawa Times report, 60 organizations, including all the three towns of the island and their mayors were involved.

One of the mayors said, "It will be poisonous for us if we drink the soup of economic subsidies." He was talking about the "economic rejuvenation projects" and hefty subsidies, what the central government has always provided the municipalities that host bases in Okinawa. He knew that once the local economy becomes dependent on such subsidies, it will be difficult to get out of it, as many Okinawan base-hosting municipalities have experienced.

This rally is the latest addition to the series of democratic voices of Okinawa. Again, Tokunoshima is part of Kagoshima Prefecture now, but traditionally it is part of the larger Ryukyuan culture, and I would still call a voice from Tokunoshima one of Okinawans' (Ryukyuans'). (See my April 6 post "Is Tokunoshima Really Outside of Okinawa?)

According to another report on April 18 in Okinawa Times, the associations of mayors in Okinawa announced that out of 41 municipalities (cities, towns, and villages) of Okinawa, a total of 29 have submitted position statements regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station. A total of 23 municipal assemblies have passed statements that opposed inter-prefectural relocation, i.e. construction of another base within Okinawa, and asked Prime Minister Hatoyama to keep his pre-election pledge that the relocation site would be outside of Okinawa prefecture.

Speaking about subsidies, Medoruma Shun on April 15 again is relentless on the corruption over the base relocation. He quotes Ryukyu Shimpo's April 15 article that reported on April 14, seventy-three parliamentarians formed a group to endorse legalization of casinos in Japan. It is officially called "Coalition of Parliamentarians for Promotion of International Tourism Industry," but it is dubbed "the Casino Caucus." The chair of the organization is Koga Issei, a DPJ member, and one of the seven vice chair is notorious Shimoji Mikio, an Okinawan representative of People's New Party, who has endorsed plans to relocate Futenma within Okinawa.

Okinawa is one of the top candidates for building a casino under the possible new legislation. Medoruma says, "Even after the administration change, the policy of 'carrots and sticks' by the central government will continue, and Shimoji is about to jump on those carrots." Construction of a new casino would be a delicious reward for burdening another military base. "This is why Shimoji insists of inter-prefectural relocation, no matter how much sharp criticism he receives within Okinawa." (see March 16 post for more.)

Another event that is coming up, which Shimoji is not going to attend, is the April 25 Okinawa Citizens Rally. It is expected to draw 100,000 people or more. Okinawa's Governor Nakaima is still oscillating over his attendance to the rally, but whether the indecisive governor is there or not, Okinawa and its people are going to add another important chapter to its history.

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