Alleviate Okinawa’s burden

Forty-one years have passed since Okinawa reverted from U.S. administration to Japan on May 15, 1972. But Okinawans are far from happy. The heavy presence of U.S. military bases — occupying nearly 20 percent of Okinawa Island’s land area — continues. In addition, Okinawans are more affected by tensions of arising from the Japan-China territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which are part of their prefecture.

Okinawans may feel that Japanese living on the mainland do not understand their frustration and stress. To prevent a schism from growing between Okinawans and the rest of Japan, mainland Japanese should be more keenly aware of Okinawa’s history — especially the hardships brought by World War II — and current base-related issues.

The Battle of Okinawa lasted from the end of March to late June 1945, killing some 200,000 people — nearly half civilians. About a quarter of Okinawa’s 500,000 residents died as a result of the battle.

In 1996, Japan and the United States agreed on the reversion of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma, located in the midst of Ginowan City in the central part of Okinawa Island, and is often called the most dangerous airport in the world due to its urban location. Japan and the U.S. are now pushing a plan to move the Futenma functions to the less populated Henoko area in Nago City in the northern part of the island. Most Okinawans, however, want the functions moved out of their prefecture.

On March 22, the Defense Ministry submitted to the Okinawa prefectural government an application for land reclamation off the Henoko coast area, a necessary procedure to build a Futenma replacement facility. This move only strengthened an impression among Okinawans that the government in Tokyo is sacrificing their interests to maintain smooth relations with the U.S.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exacerbated Okinawan people’s pain by holding a ceremony on April 28 to commemorate April 28, 1952 — the day that the San Francisco Peace treaty took effect, ending the U.S. Occupation. But on that day, the Okinawa, Amami and Ogasawara islands were administratively separated from Japan and placed under U.S. control, marking the start of a process in which U.S. bases were consolidated in Okinawa. On April 29, Japan and the U.S. agreed to add 12 more MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotar aircraft to the Futenma base this summer despite Okinawan opposition.

On May 13, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said that he had recommended to a U.S. Marine Corps commander at Futenma that marines make greater use of the prefecture’s adult entertainment shops (fuzoku). This thoughtless, nonsensical idea is an insult to Okinawan dignity.

If the current situation continues, the schism between Okinawa and the central government will deepen. To prevent this, Mr. Abe must rethink the Henoko plan as well as strive to reduce the burden posed by the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

  • long term resident

    Please provide some FACTs about Futenma being “…often called the most dangerous airport in the world due to its urban location.” That is a made up lie. Please cite some study from the FAA, Japanese equivalent or any recognized aviation organization. You can’t!

    When was the last class A mishap at Futenma?

    As to the crime rate concern, according to the Japanese police, you’re safer living next to an American than an Okinawan. The crime rate per 1000 Okinawa is higher than the the SOFA crime rate per 1000 SOFA personnel. (please refer to the 3rd graph http://nihon.awardspace.com/okinawa_sofa_crime.html )

    I know this is an editorial, but is should be based on some sort of facts not just imaged information you pull out you a**!

    • A yamatonchu

      To Long term resident:
      The point is NOT a comparison between the SOFA crime rate per 1000 SOFA and the crime rate per 1000 Okinawa residents. The point is the fact that SOFA crimes occur in Okinawa. The claim that people in Okinawa may say is that they would not have SOFA crimes at all if Futenma base did not exist.

      • long term resident

        You are correct, there would be no SOFA crime, but there still would be crime. YOU are missing the point! If you want to curb crime in Okinawa, you’d be better off addressing the Okinawans who are committing crimes, not sensationalizing every crime committed by a SOFA member. Are you trying to say that a women is any less raped or better off just because an Okinawan did it vice a SOFA member? Are you any less robbed by an Okinawan? The point is that any crime committed by a SOFA member is front page news for weeks, and is being exploited for political purposes. The same crime, many times over is never reported when it’s done by an Okinawan.

        Quick question, would you rather live in an area where you had a 3 in 1000 chance of your family member getting raped or 5 in 1000 chance. If you say 5 you’re being dishonest because you know family is safer in the 3, which is the SOFA area.

        Wake up, you’re being manipulated by special interest and the media.

      • David Jones

        Crime, no crime, complete social disarray. Who cares. On an island as small as Okinawa the feeling of a concentration camp isn’t far from mind when your entire life is dictated by the whims of two squabbling non-Okinawan governments, worrying about China.

        I would rather live in my home land without the foreign occupying forces. I was stationed in Okinawa for 2 years and learned Japanese there, this isn’t about crime (although it is a symptom of the problem) this is a matter of Okinawan sovereignty. The Japanese were invaders here (Oki) too, a culture, language, and a people whom may be too passive for their own good existed here before the Japanese occupation and subsequent American acquisition.

        The only reason Quantico believes Okinawa is valuable is because its strategically placed. Human rights be dammed from their perspective. If they want to move a base, move it to Guam (same problem with the Chamorro there). Its another page in a long history of ambivalence.

        Is Futenma dangerous? Well, Long term resident the answer is most definitely yes. My job was directly related to aviation operations. The point isn’t when the last mishap occurred, its who will suffer when the next inevitably occurs. The answer is obviously the Okinawans that the plane falls on.

        There are positive effects of these occupying forces, the bars and brothels are booming businesses. The youth are encouraged to learn the language of the invaders instead of their ancestry (Uchinaaguchi is still spoken by the way) and of course the psychological effects of being subjugated on ones soil is terribly humbling.

        The people of Okinawa are just lucky they don’t have any resources to reap. Then they would probably been eradicated when it was convenient, and we would have another unincorporated territory.

  • haavbline

    “The Battle of Okinawa lasted from the end of March to late June 1945, killing some 200,000 people — nearly half civilians. About a quarter of Okinawa’s 500,000 residents died as a result of the battle.”

    Today, most Okinawans do not know the part of WWII history that the Japanese Imperial Army were responsible for the forced mass-suicides of most of those 100,000 civilian deaths.

  • Starviking

    The problem with moving Futenma’s functions out of Okinawa is that it is an impossible task: the Marines are there because it is close to areas they may need to deploy to. If it was moved out of the prefecture it could be difficult, if not impossible, for the Marines to get to where they were needed in a timely fashion.
    If the JT is worried about Futenma being a danger, it should push for the move to Henoko.