Tsuyoshi Sakurai remembers when Japan allocated 1 billion yen to Okinawa in its first financial assistance package in fiscal 1962, when the islands of the Ryukyus were still under U.S. rule.

"Until 1961, the U.S. never allowed us to provide money to Okinawa. They feared that the Okinawans would look toward Tokyo, instead of the U.S., if we provided money," said Sakurai, 67, who worked on Okinawan issues from 1965 through the early 1980s as an official of the Prime Minister's Office and the Okinawa Development Agency.

President John F. Kennedy greenlighted the initiation of financial assistance in 1961, and by 1972, when Okinawa reverted back to Japanese rule, the budget allocation had snowballed to 45 billion yen.