The late Okinawa Gov. Chobyo Yara experienced extreme anxiety in 1975 ahead of Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko’s first visit to the prefecture, according to Yara’s recently disclosed diary.
Amid negative sentiment toward the Imperial family among Okinawas, Yara (1902-1997) wrote on July 8, 1975, that he could only “turn to God” for the Imperial Couple’s visit to turn out a success, his diary, disclosed in September by the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, shows.
In the diary, Yara writes of the stress he felt ahead of the visit by the Crown Prince and Princess — now Emperor and Empress — on July 17 that year to attend the Okinawa International Ocean Expo, held in part to commemorate the prefecture’s reversion to Japan in 1972 following its postwar administration by the U.S. military.
Due to the role played by Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) in the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, a dim view of the Imperial family had developed among locals. A message from the Emperor, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, to the U.S. General Headquarters in September 1947 expressed his hope that American forces would continue to occupy the prefecture.
In June 1975, graffiti was found on a cenotaph in the city of Itoman in southern Okinawa Island, some of which said, “Stop the Crown Prince’s visit to Okinawa,” and in July, the prefectural teachers union — Yara’s main support organization — expressed its opposition to the visit.
While asking executives of the union for their cooperation over the couple’s visit, Yara also ordered the removal of fliers and posters expressing opposition to their trip around local government buildings to display a firm stance against those opposed to it.
“I just have to see how the situation will unfold. I turn to God,” said Yara, Okinawa’s first governor after its reversion and the last head of the local government that operated under U.S. occupation. On July 11, he wrote that the visit was “a source of anxiety and headaches.”
“Today, the day when my life reaches a crucial point, the climax of my life, I pray and pray to God, please help me perform my duty without any trouble,” Yara wrote on the day of their arrival.
His prayers were not exactly answered. Yara describes witnessing activists appearing from a trench several minutes after the Crown Prince and Crown Princess arrived at the Himeyuri War Memorial and throwing a Molotov cocktail at them: “It became chaotic as we saw the fire spreading in front of the monument. It was a disastrous failure. Couldn’t security guards notice (the activist beforehand) from a professional viewpoint?”
When Yara later apologized for the incident, the Crown Prince calmly replied: “I’m glad that nobody was injured. Please don’t worry, Mr. Governor,” leaving Yara “at a loss for words.”
Yara also expressed his admiration for the Crown Prince, saying he showed “a noble personality” when paying his respects to war victims at the memorial. As the rest of the couple’s visit went smoothly, Yara wrote he was surprised to see larger than expected crowds come out to welcome them.
In conclusion, he said the visit would have been perfect if not for the Molotov cocktail attack. “I deeply regret that,” Yara said, adding, “I guess it was my fault.”
Emperor Hirohito visited places across Japan after the end of World War II, but he did not make a trip to Okinawa before his death in January 1989. Emperor Akihito in 1993 became the first reigning monarch to visit the prefecture. He and the Empress made their ninth trip to Okinawa earlier this week.