TOMIGUSUKU, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Senaga Island, a small dot of land 300 meters from the southern tip of Naha airport, is a perfect place to watch jets land and take off.
Before the war it had a village of 30 households, but now Senaga is just a gathering place for families and young men and women who watch the planes whiz past.
The Tomigusuku Municipal Government, looking to boost tourism, wants to turn Senaga into a hot-springs resort.
The village residents were resettled after the war on Okinawa Island by the U.S. military, which built an ammunition depot on Senaga. The islet was returned to Japan in 1977.
Linked to the mainland by bridge, it has remained unpopulated, although it has a sports field and some stores.
The Tomigusuku board of education said a castle belonging to a powerful regional clan was built on the islet in the 14th century. A sacred patch of ground and a large rock believed to have been related to the Okinawa creator goddess Amamikiyo were preserved within the castle.
However, most of these cultural assets were demolished, reportedly by the Occupation forces to make way for ammunition storehouses and roads.
Now it appears likely lodging facilities including a spa will be built there after the Tomigusuku municipality struck a hot spring in February.
Central government and prefectural officials ran into objections from the city and its assembly in 2007 when they proposed building a second runway at Naha airport.
Their plan contained three options, including one to build the second runway closer to the ocean, about 210 meters from the current runway.
Arguing that Senaga Island was considered a sacred isle and the birthplace of the city, the municipality and assembly members said they could not approve the plan, considering residents’ feelings.
Another reason for their opposition was the city’s plan to develop the island as a tourist draw without destroying its historical and cultural value.
Central government and prefectural officials withdrew their plan to build close to the island last October in the face of the opposition by residents and were forced to choose from one of the two remaining proposals, neither of which would affect the island.
The city meanwhile found the hot spring.
Tatsuya Oshiro of the local board of education said someone — no one seems to know who — rebuilt the place of worship on the island after the U.S. pulled out and worshippers come from all over Okinawa.
Hiroshi Takara, 61, of Tomigusuku, voiced hope that the city not only builds a hot-springs hotel but also reinstates the sacred ground.
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