Sometimes I fall under the illusion that we are experiencing a second Battle of Okinawa.
The other day, I had coffee with an LDP Diet member who is close to the Chief Cabinet Secretary at a hotel in Naha.
This is what he told me.
“The Abe administration isn’t going to back down regarding the Henoko relocation.
The fact that Governor Onaga used to be in the LDP just makes him even more detestable.
Something must have happened to him in the past.
It would actually be more convenient for us if he were to take the issue to court.
There’s no way we’d lose, and the construction would continue the whole time.”
What about the will of the Okinawan people?
“In the last three nation-wide elections, LDP candidates ran on the platform of moving Futenma to Henoko. And they won. We have the support and understanding of the Japanese people.” *
The small will once again be squashed for the sake of the large.
70 years ago, Okinawa was burned to the ground. It was turned into a sacrificial stone for the defense of Japan.
And now, yet again…
In June of 1945, while Okinawa was being destroyed, in Tokyo…
As Navy Admiral Ota Minoru committed suicide in the Navy air-raid shelter in Tomigusuku on June 13…
The final match of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament was being held at the Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo.
And after the war, Okinawa was used as a pawn for the sake of Japan’s independence, forced under the oppressive rule of the United States military.
Then when anti-base movements gained ground on the mainland, the marines in Gifu and Shizuoka were moved to Okinawa.
In 1956, the year that the marines came to Okinawa, the Japanese Economic Planning Agency announced that Japan was “no longer in the ‘post-war’ era,” and pushed forward into an era of rapid economic growth.
From 1969 to 1972, the U.S. was considering removing the marines from Japan altogether, but the Japanese government implored them to keep the marines on Okinawa.
In 1996, after the incident in which three U.S. servicemen raped a young girl, the United States considered spreading their troops throughout Hokkaido and the main islands of Japan, but the Japanese government rejected this idea.
In 2012, the U.S. came up with the idea of moving 1,500 marines to Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture as part of their military realignment, but Japan rejected this as well.
And now, Okinawa is yet again being annihilated for the sake of Japan’s defense.
Officials in Washington have stated it clearly. “Stationing of U.S. troops is essential for Japan’s defense.”
Is the treatment Governor Onaga received in Washington, DC any different from how we have been treated for the past 70 years?
The U.S. has long been aware of the structural discrimination in Japan toward Okinawa, and determined that if they put their bases in Okinawa, it wouldn’t cause any major issues within Japan (Civil Affairs Handbook, 1944, compiled by the Naval Affairs Office).
What do we have to do to save Okinawa from this structural discrimination and be able to promise Okinawan children a bright future?
The essence of Okinawa’s problems is discrimination that has become structuralized.
Because it is structural, the people who engage in discrimination don’t even realize that they are part of the problem.
When they do realize it, it is positively affirmed within societal consciousness and solidifies.
What Governor Onaga is now asking is whether that is a characteristic suitable to a country that prides itself worldwide on being an advanced nation.
It doesn’t matter if we’re conservative or progressive, for or against the bases, laborer or business person.
People can’t live when their pride is denied.
Yara Tomohiro, June 5, 2015
* In the last three nation-wide elections, LDP candidates promoting the Henoko relocation won in Japan as a whole, but received very little support in Okinawa. However, the central government views these victories as a sign that they have the support of the Japanese people as a whole, even if most in Okinawa are opposed.