Peaceful Protests In Okinawa

I am deeply impressed by the high level of consciousness and acute awareness of people in Okinawa right now, who are committed to peaceful protests against American military bases in their prefecture. Remember that over 90,000 people showed up on April 25, 2010 - they have hit the page 1 news around the world with this solemn and dignified tactic, and they are winning the hearts and minds of millions anyway.

Do watch this video from the Live Earth concert in 2007. It starts with the news report from Okinawa, that a pair of dugong have been filmed in June 2007, a rare event. "They came back," Cocco says, with joy.

These good people deserve better!

Shisaku, a blogger I like, has the latest on how Prime Minister Hatoyama is now struggling to get his cabinet to agree on a statement on Friday - and how he has failed. Mainichi/Kyodo reports today Thursday May 27, that the Social Democratic Party...

...will not sign a Cabinet resolution as long as Hatoyama presupposes that the relocation site will be in the coastal area near the Marines' Camp Schwab, party members said.

In other words, there is no united Japanese government support for the so called U.S.-Japan "road map" and the relocation of Futenma to Henoko just will not happen without a lot of struggle. What kind of awful battle will this lead to?

My hope is that it stays peaceful.

DMZ Hawai'i reminds us of the way America has approached the Pacific Ocean since the late 1890s, as the "American Lake":

From Japan to Guam to Hawai’i, Activists Resist Expansion of US Military Presence in the Pacific

But there are a number of cases where Japanese people have rallied very hard and violently against American military bases. These local struggles are often disregarded - media here does not like to remind people of such events. Don't expect U.S. media to have such a long memory, either. You can read more about the Okinawa rape cases in 1995 here (pdf). 107 of 169 U.S. defendants in rape cases were found guilty of sex-related crime between 1988 and 1995?

The U.S. Navy Base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo was attacked by two rocket bombs in September, 2008. I can't find any reports on who may have been behind this, so we have to assume that the violent protesters are still at large. In July 2008, over 13,000 Japanese had protested in Yokusuka against the basing of George Washington in Japan, saying that the onboard fire showed that the nuclear-powered carrier was unsafe.

Hikarigaoka Park (pdf) in Nerima, Tokyo was called Grant Heights, a U.S. base returned to Japan in 1973. It had been the Narimasu Airfield during WW2.

Time Magazine had this to say in 1952:
Reluctantly, but with a brave show of willingness, U.S. occupiers gave back, chunk by chunk, pieces of the privilege, pomp and plenty which, through history, have been always the rewards and often the corrupters of conquerors. They are not relinquishing it all, by any means. Under the separate Japanese-American agreement allowing U.S. forces to remain in Japan, they will enjoy—but pay for—many extraterritorial privileges.

Ten-Cent Cigarettes. In well-built suburbs with names like Washington Heights, and Grant Heights, U.S. occupiers and their families will live only slightly less luxuriously than they do now. Top brass will no longer have two to six free Japanese servants, but good house help will be available cheap ($20 to $30 a month). They will still get duty-free whisky, 10^ American cigarettes, 25¢U.S. movies, cheap food from Army commissaries and free or subsidized medical service.

Contrast such prose with the reality of the 1950s:

Naka Sakai was brutally shot and killed by an American soldier, William S. Girard on January 30, 1957 at the US Army Shooting Range, Soumagahara, Gunma prefecture. Massive local protests led to the base becoming a Japan Ground Self Defence Forces base after complete U.S. withdrawal in 1958.

There were huge protest at the Tachikawa U.S. Air Force Base west of Tokyo when the runway was lengthened in order to accommodate C5As. The local farming community got involved, and Tachikawa was returned in the 70's and the former base is now a public park. The worst air crash of its kind at the time occured near Tachikawa on June 18, 1953 with a C-124 Globemaster... More memories here.

Sasebo is another U.S. military base that has seen many protests over the years. Most recently, activists gathered as the nuclear carrier Ronald Reagan, the USS John C. Stennis, the USS La Jolla and other U.S. warships have visited the harbour. In 1969, about 100,000 protested the visit of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. That was during the Vietnam War, but while that may seem like a long time ago, troubles continue. Simply put, we, who live in Japan and Asia, do NOT want more U.S. helicopters, like the awful Osprey that are going to be based at Henoko. Just forget about it. Remember the Sasebo rape trial in 2004?

On a more positive note, here is a list of a large number of U.S. military facilities returned to Japan. (Update: Not all are actually "returned" - many are still used or shared by U.S. military)

More from wikipedia:

While some Japanese citizens appreciate the mutual security treaty with the U.S. and the presence of the USFJ, a large portion of the population demand a reduction in the amount of U.S. military bases in the region. Many of the bases, such as Yokota Air Base, Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Kadena Air Base, are located in the vicinity of residential districts, and local citizens have complained about excessive aircraft noise as well as various crimes perpetrated against local civilians.

From 1952 to 2004, there have been approximately 200,000 accidents and crimes involving U.S. soldiers, in which 1,076 Japanese civilians have died. Over 90% of the incidents were vehicle or traffic related.

According to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement U.S. personnel have partial extraterritorial right, so in most cases suspects were not arrested by Japanese authorities. In 1995, the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl by two U.S. Marines and one U.S. sailor led to demands for the removal of all U.S. military bases in Japan. Other controversial incidents include helicopter crashes, the Girard incident, the Michael Brown Okinawa assault incident, the death of Kinjo family and the death of Yuki Uema.

In February 2008, a 38-year-old U.S. Marine based on Okinawa was arrested in connection with the reported rape of a 14-year-old Japanese girl. This triggered waves of protest against American military presence in Okinawa and led to tight restrictions on off-base activities.

U.S. Forces Japan designated 22 February [2008] as a Day of Reflection for all U.S. military facilities in Japan, setting up a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force in an effort to prevent similar incidents.

(The source for the data on U.S. military crime is Ryuji Tsuchiya, high officer in the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee of Japan's Parliament on 2 July 2005)

If you haven't read the book or seen the film from 2004, how about checking out Ryu Murakami's 69, about the Sasebo protests back in 1969, and what it may have been like to be a high school student back then in northern Kyushu!

監督・李相日Director: Sang-il Lee
妻夫木聡 Satoshi Tsumabuki
安藤政信 Masanobu Ando
金井勇太 Yuta Kanai
太田莉菜 Rina Ohta

In the words of his youthful narrator: "Victory went to whoever had the most fun."

Photo of Buddhist monks from globaltimes- please also remember the protest by rev. Taira Natsume in 2004:

For six decades, the inhabitants of Okinawa have lived alongside thousands of US troops. Now new plans for base expansion have provoked fierce resistance.

Taira Natsume is a mild-mannered, bespectacled parson and pacifist in the Martin Luther King mode, but he warns he will not be pushed too far. "If the authorities come back with more people we'll be waiting for them," he says. "I'm not a violent man but they're not going to get through." It is a baking hot day in Henoko, a tiny fishing village in Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture. For 110 days, the reverend and 8,000 supporters have been coming to this sun-bleached beach to fight off government engineers trying to begin drilling surveys for a proposed offshore helicopter base for the US military.


i wonder if we should be celebrating the mere 'return' of bases to japanese sovereignty--is this getting at the heart of global militarism or just changing some window dressing? clearly, the defense forces are a different case altogether, but in many ways, there's nothing guaranteeing that they stay this way forever (see attempts by successive cabinets to subtly transform the role of the sdf under the us's watchful eye), and they are still space that absolutely deserves to be expropriated by communities for more productive purposes than housing warm bodies for the death machine.
Barbro Kalla said…
Free Okinawa!
Looking forward to reading about what a new PM can/will do.

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