NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Shuden Teruya is known in the city of Okinawa as an “anti-war landowner” and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Teruya, 77, owns some 7,000 sq. meters of land within the huge U.S. Kadena Air Base that straddles the city as well as the towns of Kadena and Chatan on Okinawa Island. With two 4,000-meter-long runways, the U.S. Air Force base is the largest in East Asia.
The land lot owned by Teruya was expropriated by the Japanese government as part of the Kadena base even though he has refused to sign a lease contract since 1971, the year before Okinawa reverted to Japanese rule.
“Owners of assets cannot use them as they wish in Japan,” Teruya said.
A legal revision in 1997 authorized the government to expropriate land at its discretion for use by U.S. forces in Japan.
During Diet deliberations on the revision, Teruya shouted from a gallery seat, “Don’t sell out Okinawa!” and was arrested for obstructing parliamentary proceedings.
Teruya’s resistance to the government traces back to the Battle of Okinawa.
U.S. forces landed on the main island on April 1, 1945. Teruya, who was 7 years old at the time, fled to a mountain area in the city of Nago with his pregnant mother and six other family members. His mother gave birth to a boy who lived less than 20 days because she could not breast-feed him for lack of nourishment.
The family surrendered to U.S. forces a few days after the Battle of Okinawa ended. Teruya’s mother died in a makeshift U.S. prison camp in Sedake, Nago, because she did not eat the food offered by the U.S. military.
“I didn’t even feel sad because I was so desperate to survive,” Teruya recalled. “War dehumanizes people.”
Landowners who refuse to sign contracts to lease land for U.S. military bases receive compensation, but it amounts to less than the rents paid to those who sign.
Even so, “leasing land to military bases is the same as contributing to war,” Teruya said. “I cannot hold my head up before my dead mother and younger brother if I agree to lease my land to the (U.S.) base, which leads to war. I cannot sell my soul.”
Teruya was among more than 3,000 people who gathered in Sedake in late March to protest the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Nago from Ginowan within the island.
“I will continue my campaign (against military bases) so as not to waste (the) sacrifices made during the Battle of Okinawa,” Teruya stressed, looking far out to sea from Sedake along Oura Bay.
It is in the vicinity of where his mother died 70 years ago and the site where the Japanese government’s preparation work is underway for the Futenma replacement airstrip.
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