Ceremony an affront to Okinawans

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds a ceremony Sunday to commemorate the day that Japan recovered its sovereignty under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which took effect on April 28, 1952, ending the Allied Powers’ occupation of Japan.

But it must be questioned whether it is proper to hold such a ceremony. The government’s having the Emperor and the Empress attend the ceremony also smacks of political use of the Emperor.

April 28, 1952, was the day that the Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara islands were administratively separated from Japan and placed under the administration of the United States. Although these islands have reverted to Japan, Okinawa is still suffering from a heavy presence of the U.S. armed forces.

Mr. Abe said that the harsh historical fact that Okinawa was placed under U.S. rule for many years should not be forgotten. But it seems that he is trying to strengthen the case for changing the Constitution by using the ceremony as a means of underlining the fact that the current Constitution was written and promulgated during the occupation period.

Attention must be paid to what former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said in a recent interview with Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times: “I am afraid that this ceremony will serve as a step to change the shape of Japan and to open the door for changing the Constitution.” He pointed out that the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution is a “treasure which the Japanese obtained by making great sacrifice” and that most politicians do not know the cruelty of war and that these politicians are trying to change the Constitution including its Article 9.

A recent poll conducted in Okinawa Prefecture by Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting shows that 69.9 percent of those polled did not support the ceremony while 59.6 percent said that no officials of the Okinawa prefectural government should attend the ceremony. Although Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima will not attend the ceremony, a vice governor will.

Among those who did not support the ceremony, 53.9 percent said that April 28, 1952, was a “day of humiliation” for Okinawa and 39.7 percent noted that Okinawa’s sovereignty has not been restored, apparently in view of the fact that about 20 percent of the land area of Okinawa Island is still used by the U.S. armed forces for its facilities. Mr. Abe should realize that the ceremony rubs many Okinawans the wrong way.

It is widely known that the Emperor makes short poems of the traditional Okinawan style and is conscious of the sufferings of Okinawan people. After his and the Empress’ visit to Okinawa in November 2012, he said, “It is important for all Japanese to think about the fact that people of Okinawa are having hard times.”

He also feared that the memory of the Battle of Okinawa, which is said to have killed more than 90,000 Okinawan residents, is fading away. One cannot help saying that it is inconsiderate for Mr. Abe’s government to have the Emperor attend the ceremony.