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Why frustration lingers in Okinawa 50 years after its reversion to Japan

39 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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A recent NHK television survey showed 82% of respondents in Okinawa expressed fear of being the victim of base-related crime or accidents.

It's easy to understand this sentiment, particularly when the media and newspapers here, constantly repeat the same negative news about the US Military presence here. Any incident, from head-scratching as "why is it news" to the serious, are regurgitated time and time again. So much so that people take it for granted that the military is responsible for everything wrong here.

But they fail to report on all the crimes committed daily by Japanese citizens. Like it or not, it's a fact!

Despite 72% opposition in Okinawa's 2019 referendum,Tokyo has forced the construction of a new runway at Henoko Bay off Okinawa’s eastern coast. Opponents have cited environmental destruction, structural problems and soaring costs. But the prospects for completion remain uncertain.

Continuing with the negative agenda! And making it sound (wrongly so) that 72% of the people here are against the landfill at Camp Schwab. It's a fact the 72% of the people who voted, voted against it, but it's far from the majority of the electorate, when in FACT the majority of the electorate here, is apathetic, for the bases, or have no opinion either way. That's a FACT.

Oh, and let's identify the hypocrisy here too! "Environment destruction"? What about the same destruction at Naha Airport, when they destroyed the reef and environment to build the second runway on a landfill there? What about ALL the environmental destruction from all the landfill sites all over the island? What about all the environmental damage from red-soil run-off caused by Japanese construction and development?

When people are only told a portion of the "story" and have it repeated to them time and time again, they believe the lies are fact. Even posters here as well, they read the negative stories and form opinions based upon lies and many times half-truths, and never a complete story.

6 ( +20 / -14 )

Some people have started calling for independence from Japan.

Again, pushing an agenda that doesnt exist! Playing on emotions. Also how questions are asked matter too.

The following is an actual interview question!

Question: "Do you think Okinawa should have become independent instead of reverting back to Japan?

50 years of hindsight and propaganda feed the answer of "Yes" But if you ask the people today, only some nut-case is going to say yes.

It's a rhetorical question, and no one should ever take it seriously!

5 ( +12 / -7 )

The battle lasted until late June, killing about 200,000 people, nearly half of them Okinawan residents, including students and victims of mass suicides ordered by the Japanese military.

Have not caught mention of this on the TV retrospectives, most seem focused on the US military presence.

Japanese often draw parallels between Hawaii and Okinawa.

Both have sovereignty movements and are reliant on tourism.

Both also have the local people significantly capital poor compared to Mainlanders, with assets like hotels mainly Mainland and foreign owned.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Okinawan people can be victimized in a conflict,"

The above is unfortunately still true today for people living in territories that predatory empires want to control. Currently a few places around the world are seeing what happens when predatory empires clash in their desires to take more territory. Those empires care little, if anything, about how civilian populations might be affected.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Okinawa’s average household income is the lowest 

Where is the writer getting their information from? This statement is misleading at best!

Source: 2020 Basic Survey on Wage Structure,

https://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/itiran/roudou/chingin/kouzou/z2020/dl/10.pdf

5 ( +10 / -5 )

YGH !!..

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I can tell you in a nutshell.

Because the people that BROUGHT Okinawa War, are still RUNNING it (Tokyo/LDP).

11 ( +13 / -2 )

If land taken by the U.S. military is returned to the prefecture for other use, it would produce three times more income for Okinawa than the island now makes from bases, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said.

How? More rampant suburbia or rice paddies would generate a lower financial return than the military being there would. Would these whining Okinawans prefer to just look on while CCP and North Korea do whatever, whenever?

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Japan bears 80% of the total cost of US bases in Japan but cannot participate in the decision making process of US army. Even the prime minister is not informed of whats inside the bases. When a US service man commit a crime, he'd run away to a base and Japanese authorities cannot charge him. Is Japan an independent nation?

-8 ( +8 / -16 )

Japan should grant Okinawa a certain degree of autonomy, as Canada has done with many of the indigenous territories within Canada's borders.

The history of Okinawa being part of Japan is very short yet fraught with lots of problems.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

When a US service man commit a crime, he'd run away to a base and Japanese authorities cannot charge him.

That’s 100% NOT true. If American service members get charged they are handed over to the Japanese law system. If they are found guilty they will go to Japanese jail.

Japan but cannot participate in the decision making process of US army. 

Once again not 100% true.

Japan bears 80% of the total cost of US bases in Japan 

80% of the Infrastructure cost, Japan doesn’t pay any of the military pay and allowance,Japan doesn’t pay for equipment, services or housing cost.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

Being here off and on for 40 years, I see so much wrong with this article.

Yubaru said it all! The news is just crazy, every night people people are fed just the littlest thing.

Maybe they should focus on the gambling problem here and the people behind that.

Many years ago there was a big thing about Red Clay runoff and the bases worked overtime to make sure there was no run-off from construction sites, but driving home you could see the whole bay full of red clay run-off from a heavy rain, the funny thing is, it was from the local farmers fields and nothing from the base.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

That’s 100% NOT true. If American service members get charged they are handed over to the Japanese law system. If they are found guilty they will go to Japanese jail.

But it's the idea that it is true that still sticks in the heads of the people here. The media does not explain the rights of the SOFA status people, negotiated with Japan, so everyone thinks that " a US service man commit a crime, he'd run away to a base and Japanese authorities cannot charge him." is running from Japanese justice, and that Japanese police should have free and open access to go on base to detain, or apprehend a suspect.

They believe the SOFA members are untouchable. But it's the SOFA that affords them special rights not afforded to Japanese citizens. The military turns them over when "charged" with a crime, not just questioning. However if they are apprehended off-base, the Japanese have the right of first refusal to prosecute, and unknown to many, when a SOFA on SOFA crime is committed off base, the Japanese police most times will turn the case over to the military to deal with.

The Japanese government has a duty to openly explain and clarify these issues with ALL the people of Japan, and they also have a duty to explain to ALL the people of Japan, why the bases are here.

The Japanese government has failed miserably in that duty!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

This article is frustratingly incorrect

3 ( +9 / -6 )

This article is so biased you would think it was written and published by the CCP, which is behind most of the discontent in Okinawa against the military presence and mainland alignment.

Regarding military crimes going unpunished - for all of these horrible crimes mentioned in the article, the perpetrators served time in Japanese prison.

Okinawa’s blue are much more self inflicted from outright corruption and waste. Why don’t you pen article on how much development funding the mainland dumped into Okinawa and has been wasted.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Methinks the "pro USA forces on Okinawa " commentators here are US citizens, maybe former or serving military.

That's fine, but , if so, your arguments are hardly neutral or independent.

My view is that Okinawa is treated shabbily by both US and Japan administrations.

If Okinawans vote in anti base politicians then yes, it would appear a majority oppose the bases and all that goes with them.

I reckon Okinawans should send delegations to the US to raise concerns with the US people and media.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

I've lived here in Okinawa for 12 years now, and I have yet to watch 1 positive news segment on NHK Okinawa. There are many US military community assist events and charity assistance given to the local community. The media is controlled to present 1 negative narrative about the US presence.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

I cannot see what anyone has to disagree with in the article here. It is refreshingly telling the story as it is.

Spot on!

Good article!

-10 ( +6 / -16 )

As if Americans would tolerate a foreign military having the same presence and power that the US military does in Japan, especially Okinawa.

And if anyone tries to counter with "Yeah? Well tough, that's what happens when you lose wars, the victor gets to impose terms!" Then the mask has slipped, and you know how these Americans really view Japan, and the engtire world.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Tamaki is the biggest hypocrite. If it wasn’t for US service personal he never would have been born. Stop complaining and be grateful.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Hiroshi KanoyaToday 08:36 am JST

Japan bears 80% of the total cost of US bases in Japan but cannot participate in the decision making process of US army. Even the prime minister is not informed of whats inside the bases. When a US service man commit a crime, he'd run away to a base and Japanese authorities cannot charge him. Is Japan an independent nation?

Your facts are way off. You don't understand how the military works and seem to know nothing of the SOFA. Please read up.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

The original people's living in the now called Okinawa islands were not Okinawans as Japan has named them after the annexation.

Regardless of what the Japanese government has chosen to call them - they are the Ryukyu people.

The Ryukyuans are not Japanese- their DNA is that of the Malaysian, singaporeans and Taiwanese native.

Although they are now known as okinawans and Okinawa is ruled by Japan the Okinawans/Ryukyuan have made it absolutely clear they are not Japanese !

Originally the Ryukyu kingdom flourished with trade and was protected by China .

The Ryukyu kingdom was from Taiwan to the Tokara islands - including Taiwan !

Its very true that the Japanese government and people continue to treat the Ryukyuan people with discrimination and with disdain.

The bad players are without a doubt the Japanese and USA occupation of Okinawa.

China did more for the Ryukyu people's than Japan or the USA ever did , and China didn't slaughter them or use them as a human shield or force children to join a war.

The way the Japanese government has treated the Ryukyu people is unforgivable

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

The original people's living in the now called Okinawa islands were not Okinawans as Japan has named them after the annexation.

Japanese people named the people of Okinawa in an English name? Why?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Ryukyu independence?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Benefits of the US bases: Protection against possible aggressions from "unfriendly countries."

Drawback: "Unfriendly countries" are unfriendly because of the bases, and they can get more hostile as the US ramps up its military drills around Japan and impose more sanctions on countries that don't yield to its will.

The US maintains its influence in countries where it has military bases by creating a degree of tension as it fits the US interest. Okinawa US bases are a convenient tool for the US to control Japan.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

When a US service man commit a crime, he'd run away to a base and Japanese authorities cannot charge him. Is Japan an independent nation?

Looks like someone needs to read the SOFA agreement

4 ( +5 / -1 )

JapantimeToday 01:12 pm JST

Unfortunately I have heard of crimes being committed by Americans in Okinawa. They seem to have the mindset of being superior to the locals because of their position.

Crimes happen in all societies and are committed by all types of people, and yes, even Okinawans commit crimes. I've been in the U.S. military and have been to Okinawa on numerous occasions but have never observed the mindset you referred to at all. The vast majority of service members are very respectful toward the local populace and help to prop up the economy. On Okinawa, it's used as propaganda to say only the American military commit crimes and to refer back to incidents decades past that were one single incident in and of themselves, albeit reprehensible. The Japanese government is the one holding Okinawa back, not the U.S. military.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Is this a blog or a news source?

Academic writing is done from a position of objectiveness. This article is screaming bias. At least use credible and reputable second sources to support your writing and one can spot the manipulation of any primary sources to suit the narrative from a mile away.

As soon as I scrolled back up to see who wrote this article, I immediately knew what I was in for.

This is an example of what so many commenters have already noticed and stated.

If you are to publish a legitimate article, at least remain objective, otherwise only the ignorant will take you seriously.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I cannot see what anyone has to disagree with in the article here. It is refreshingly telling the story as it is.

Spot on! Good article

Hey Bertie, read this....

If you are to publish a legitimate article, at least remain objective, otherwise only the ignorant will take you seriously.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Oh, yes, for sure Motoyama, if the chinese start something, you're going to be in the middle of it...and so will all those Americans.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It only took me a few moments to realize this article was written by a non Ryukyuan aka Okinawan.

Okinawans did not choose to be Japanese - in fact they choose to be recognized as not Japanese.

If you want to compare the negative impacts that Japanese government vs the USA government has had on Okinawa and Okinawans then i think perhaps you will realize the truth.

Japan invaded and stole a sovereign nation they call Okinawa and attacked the USA and numerous other nations in Asia.

80 years later are we supposed to trust Japan has truly changed ?

If Okinawans are truly Japanese then why doesn't the Japanese government and Japanese people treat them equally ?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Your facts are way off. You don't understand how the military works and seem to know nothing of the SOFA. Please read up.

ARTICLE III of SOFA """ 1 . Within the facilities and areas, the United States may take all the measures necessary for their establishment, operation, safeguarding and control."""  Japanese authorities cannot take any measures, once the suspect run away to the base. It is up the US who can decide to hand him to Japanese authorities or not. As a matter of the fact, Many US servicemen run away to the base after they committed crimes and left Japan. Many foreigners don't know the fact. that's why they don't want to admit their countrymen's misdeeds outside their base.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@dagon

Parallels between Okinawa and Hawaii aren't really similar as the Ryukyuans are natives and the Hawaiians are Pacific islanders indigenous people's

The genealogy of Hawaiians and Japanese are related where's the genealogy of Ryukyuan Natives and Pacific islanders isn't.

Its futile to argue the relatively short time period the indigenous Pacific islanders migration to Hawaiian islands compares to the extremely long time period of the Ryukyuan natives inhabitants lands.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Strangerland

Japanese people named the people of Okinawa in an English name why ?

First of all the name Oki-nawa is a Japanese name and not an English name.

Oki-nawa is a romanized translation of Japanese kanji.

You may have noticed how the Japanese have a penchant to change anything Chinese named into Japanese just like they did with the name Karate.

The Japanese changed the Ryukyu kingdom name to Okinawa because the name Ryukyu was also a Chinese given name.

Ryukyu is also romanized and the Chinese translation is - the land of smiling immortals.

As you probably know romanized Japanese is called Romanji whereas romanized Chinese is called Pinyin.

Feel free to research yourself.

Interesting fact is that the Ryukyuans actually have their own language and had their own names for their lands or people .

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Ryukyuans are natives and the Hawaiians are Pacific islanders indigenous people's

The timeline of Polynesian immigration to the Hawaiian Island chain is not definite.

I would argue in this case there is little point to making a difference between native or indigenous people and a timeline of migration.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yubaru: "Continuing with the negative agenda! And making it sound (wrongly so) that 72% of the people here are against the landfill at Camp Schwab. It's a fact the 72% of the people who voted, voted against it, but it's far from the majority of the electorate, when in FACT the majority of the electorate here, is apathetic, for the bases, or have no opinion either way. That's a FACT."

Exactly! It's something like 72% of 20%, but the old men who sit at airport observation decks BEGGING for an accident with American military aircraft so they can give their life of complaining some meaning claim it's the majority.

And you're right about the local crimes not being reported vs. the very, very few crimes committed by US military personnel being WAY blown out of proportion, too.

It is understandable that Okinawans are bitter about being treated like second-class citizens by the central government, and they deserve to be upset. But not at the US military for it. They sure shut up REAL quick when the invasion of Ukraine began. It's like China had already begun parking subs outside Okinawan islands. But, predictably, complacency is kicking in again, and with it entitlement, and as usual they are demanding handouts stay as they are while the bases are reduced and the new, thrice-agreed upon base, not be relocated.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

@dagon

There's definitely a difference between indigenous an native.

You can't just migrate somewhere and become native.

With all due respect Hawaiians are endemic indigenous Pacific islanders, and the first migrations timelines are definitely well established.

Furthermore if you every ask the Fijian elders or Molocan will tell will tell you there was people already living there before the Pacific islanders arrived.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You know, in the current scheme of things, it matters ZERO the roots, the lineage, the name, or anything else HISTORICAL about Okinawa.

It's 2022, not 1860's, not 1500's or anything other than today!

Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan (FACT)

Okinawan people are citizens of Japan (Fact)

Okinawa is the southern gateway to Japan (Fact)

As a prefecture of Japan, Okinawa has the responsibility to cooperate with the defense of Japan (FACT)

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Oh let's not forget that no matter the statistics about percentages, the US Military currently has HALF the amount of land than compared to 1972. That is a fact too!

AND that will be halved again when the landfill at Camp Schwab is completed, and the southern bases returned to Japanese control, including MCAS Futenma! (FACT)

1 ( +4 / -3 )

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