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Japan: Okinawans vent frustration over Futenma

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Citizen Media, International Relations, Politics, Protest

The end of May has come. And with it, Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama reaches his self-imposed deadline [1] [en] to announce to the U.S., and his own country, a decision on the relocation of the American military base of Futenma [2] [en], in Okinawa prefecture.

After having shilly-shallied for months, pledging to re-examine the first agreement [3] [en] signed by the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party [4] (LDP) and the U.S. in order to find a new solution which reduces the number of bases in Okinawa, Hatoyama has now backtracked.

The base will be relocated to Camp Schwab, near the small village of Henoko [5] [ja], in the center of the northern island of Okinawa.

Okinawa residents who last year supported and voted for the Democratic Party of Japan [6] [en] in the hope that the new government would finally relocate the facilities outside their prefecture, or even outside of the country, saw their wishes dashed. A relocation of the bases turned out not to be possible [7] [en] as the government deemed the presence of the American military forces in the area still crucial for the security of Japan and Asia.


Soldiers at Camp Schwab. By Flickr id: boviate

Yukihiro Okinawa, fed up with politicians who aren't able to keep their promises, expresses his disappointment [9] about the failed relocation of the base:


“At minimum, outside the prefecture.”
“Landfill is a desecration of Nature.”
This is what Prime Minister Hatoyama repeated to the citizens.
However, when the end of May came, the blasphemous decision was to keep the “landfill inside the prefecture.”
Our leaders are liars, and this reckless decision puts the future of Okinawa on a dangerous path.
They are shameful people… politicians without principles, get lost!

At Henoko. By Flickr id: selena lynn

ECO recalls [11] how, when she was little, her conception of “normal” was living near a military base, until she one day realized that “normality” is in fact something else:


Okinawa always ends up being the victim. When I was a kid I lived in Furushima, Naha [the capital city of Okinawa prefecture].
Right near where I lived was the base of Ameku, and I grew up without feeling any sense of discomfort.
Now, the area has been returned and has become a new city center, with parks, museums and shopping malls.
When I think of it now, I realize how the previous landscape was not normal after all.
It's scary how we get accustomed to things, isn't it?
Chuushima uchinaa (the beautiful island, Okinawa)
For the future of Okinawa
Nuchidoh takara (life is a treasure)
for all the children
I say no to the relocation to Henoko!
Absolutely not!

The failure of Hatoyama's government to take a clear stand on the relocation issue and carry out its plan even in the face of U.S. pressure has been the target of heavy criticism from opposition parties and the national media.

Eiji criticizes this attitude [12], which he considers hypocritical, as earlier governments never even hinted at straying from the status quo in Okinawa:


When I think back to how little [the Liberal Democratic Party [13] and the New Komeito Party [14]] have done to solve the Futenma issue over their 10 years in power, and then consider the period from last year to the present, anger swells up inside me.
Only Uchinanchu (the Okinawa people) can say if [Hatoyama] betrayed us or not.
We have no interest in those from the mainland, who in the past have done nothing but dump this problem on our shoulders, now trying to act on our behalf.
You have no say on this issue.
Nobody trusts you, nor takes you into consideration.
I do not believe that any Okinawa people wish that Prime Minister Hatoyama resigns.
Their expectations of him will hold up until the end.
Just the fact that he has uttered things like “outside the prefecture” or “outside the country” has made him a prime minister like no other.
It is only the Uchinanchu that recognize that.

The Sea I want to Protect – Henoko Okinawa Island

Although some U.S. military bases [15] [en] are located in other areas of Japan, 20% of Okinawa hosts 75% of the facilities in the country. On May 28th, an Extraordinary Citizens’ Assembly against the “Agreement of Henoko” (辺野古合意 Henoko Gohi) gathered to demand equal distribution of bases throughout all of Japan.

Harumi-s shares the records [16] of the petition:


“It is inevitable that Okinawa sacrifices itself for the sake of Japan's security, peace and threat deterrence.” The Okinawan people, faced with this type of discrimination by the Japanese government, will become more and more resentful. The deterrence theory and “carrot and stick” measures are not applicable to Okinawa.

After having broken the promises announced in its manifesto, coming out with a new statement every day, and having been blatantly two-faced, the people of Okinawa will not believe a single word of what the Hatoyama government and its cabinet ministers say.


In the Security treaty there is no article stating that the bases must be located in Okinawa. If the military bases of Okinawa are really crucial for the maintenance of peace in the World and in Asia, and to guarantee the security of the country, then the burden should be equally distributed throughout all of Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced his resignation [17] [en] on Wednesday, after just 8 months in office.