Naha – A government plan to use soil that could contain the remains of people who died during World War II in landfill work in Okinawa Prefecture’s Henoko district is drawing increasing opposition.
Local assemblies in prefectures other than Okinawa have adopted opinions against the plan to procure soil mainly from the southern part of Okinawa, because remains of many people from their own prefectures are still likely to be buried there.
The landfill work is part of a central government project to build a new U.S. military facility that will take over the functions of the Marine Corps’ Futenma air station in the Okinawa city of Ginowan.
Under the current plan, the soil for the landfill will be mainly collected in the southern area, where many soldiers and civilians were killed in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
The Defense Ministry says that contractors will ensure that soil containing any remains is not used in the landfill work.
But “it is impossible to tell visually whether remains are present,” said Takamatsu Gushiken, 67, a volunteer who has collected remains of the war dead in southern Okinawa for four decades.
“From a humanitarian point of view, it is unacceptable to build a base on a foundation containing human remains,” Gushiken said.
He went on a hunger strike to urge the Okinawa Prefectural Government to reject an application that will allow the use of soil from the southern area.
According to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum in Itoman, the Battle of Okinawa left more than 200,000 people dead, including 66,000 from other prefectures, such as 10,800 from Hokkaido and 4,000 from Fukuoka.
Remains of tens of thousands of people are believed to be buried still in Okinawa.
Since June, the assemblies of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture’s capital, Nagano Prefecture’s namesake capital and Nara Prefecture have adopted opinions opposing the use of soil from southern Okinawa in the landfill work.
“I hope that the issue will be made known nationwide to families and relatives of those who perished in the Battle of Okinawa,” Gushiken said.
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