• Kyodo

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Shoichi Chibana, an antiwar activist in Okinawa, has won back his plot of land inside a U.S. Navy communications installation commonly known as the “Elephant Cage” in the village of Yomitan, after the government’s expropriation period expired Monday.

The 236-sq.-meter plot, which is still enclosed by a high fence, is part of a 53-hectare military facility used for decades before Chibana inherited it from his father in 1994.

Chibana got his property back under a plan in which land used for the Sobe Communications Site and the U.S. Marine Corps Yomitan Auxiliary Airfield nearby will be returned to landowners in stages by the end of March.

“This is a place that symbolizes my life of opposing anything linked to war. I’ve long been waiting for the return (of the plot),” said Chibana, 58, a member of the Yomitan village assembly.

He has the right to use the land, but Japanese officials have asked him not to use mobile phones or electronic devices, and not to build on the site to avoid interfering with the communications array.

Chibana is one of the so-called antiwar landlords — people who refused to give up land used by U.S. military facilities as a way of opposing them.

In 1996, the Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa announced the Sobe facility would be returned to the landowners by the end of March 2001. The land reversion was part of a package of measures aimed at reducing the concentration of U.S. military facilities in the prefecture.

Implementation of the agreement was delayed and the central government allowed the U.S. military to continue using the land under a special law despite Chibana’s objections.

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