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Friday, December 12, 2014

Plaintiffs argue historic case to save dugongs & preserve Okinawan cultural heritage - first hearing in San Francisco federal court on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014


Ryukyu Postal’s stamp to commemorate the dugong's designation as a natural monument in 1966 
(courtesy of Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

American, Okinawan and Japanese conservation groups argued their historic case today, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in U.S. federal court, seeking to halt construction of a U.S. military port and airstrip at a biodiverse coral reef and dugong habitat in northern Okinawa. The planned U.S. training base expansion would destroy Okinawa's best coral reef and pave over some of the last remaining habitat for critically endangered Okinawa dugongs, ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people and marine mammals related to manatees. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the equivalent of the U.S. National Historic Protection Act.

Via The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice:
This is the first hearing in a historic lawsuit brought by American and Japanese conservation groups under a provision of the National Historic Preservation Act that requires the United States to avoid or mitigate any harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has listed dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there may have been as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is the latest in a long-running controversy over the expansion of a U.S. Marine air base at Okinawa’s Henoko Bay. Preliminary construction [survey drilling] on the base began earlier this year.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation, Save The Dugong Foundation, Anna Shimabukuro, Takuma Higashionna, and Yoshikazu Makishi, is arguing today that the court should review the U.S. Department of Defense’s flawed efforts to examine the harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong, and stop the Department of Defense from allowing construction of the new airstrip until it has made meaningful attempts to avoid or mitigate that harm.

“Our folktales tell us that gods from Niraikanai [afar] come to our islands riding on the backs of dugongs and the dugongs ensure the abundance of food from the sea,” said Takuma Higashionna, an Okinawan scuba-diving guide who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Today, leaving their feeding trails in the construction site, I believe, our dugongs are warning us that this sea will no longer provide us with such abundance if the base is constructed. The U.S. government must realize that the Okinawa dugong is a treasure for Okinawa and for the world.”

“The law requires that the Defense Department cannot allow this military base expansion project to go forward until it has made efforts to understand and minimize its effects on the dugong,” said Earthjustice attorney Sarah Burt. “When another country’s culture, heritage and revered endangered species are at stake, the U.S. must at the very least follow the law.”

“Okinawa dugongs can only live in shallow waters and are at high risk of going extinct. These gentle animals are adored by both locals and tourists. Paving over some of the last places they survive will not only likely be a death sentence for them, it will be a deep cultural loss for the Okinawan people,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Background: In July conservation groups filed a lawsuit, supplemental to a 2003 suit, seeking to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new U.S. Marine base airstrip at Henoko Bay until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there might be as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa.

Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.
Five years ago, more than 400 environmental conservation, animal protection, peace and justice groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, asked President Obama to cancel the planned landfill and base construction at the Okinawan dugong habitat.

At the time, the US government announced that it would reconsider plan in light of the massive local and worldwide opposition to the project. In 2008, the US federal court
found the US Dept of Defense in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. The court required the DoD to meet with plaintiffs and negotiate on the issue of mitigating harm to dugongs. This did not happen, hence this year's new lawsuit, which was filed July 31, 2014,  in the same court on behalf of the original Dugong Lawsuit plaintiffs.

The waters off Henoko, Okinawa are the last remaining northernmost home of the dugong. In 1955, the dugong was designated as a protected cultural monument by the then autonomous Ryukyu Prefecture, because of its status as a revered and sacred animal among native Okinawans. Since 1972, the species has also been listed by Japan's federal government as a "natural monument" under the country's Cultural Properties Protection Law. It is also protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Journalists, legal experts, & filmmakers condemn State Secrets Law's chilling effect on freedom of expression & freedom of press; Japan's rating drops from 22nd to 59th on World Press Freedom Index

Japanese Army cavalrymen parade in front of the Kabukiza Theater, Ginza, Tokyo,1938

Justin McCurry, "Japan whistleblowers face crackdown under proposed state secrets law: Officials who leak 'special state secrets' and journalists who seek to obtain them could face prison if bill is approved this week," Guardian:
Under a special state secrets bill expected to pass on Friday, public officials and private citizens who leak "special state secrets" face prison terms of up to 10 years, while journalists who seek to obtain the classified information could get up to five years.

Critics of the new law say it marks a return to the days of prewar and wartime Japanese militarism, when the state used the Peace Preservation Act to arrest and imprison political opponents.

"It is a threat to democracy," said Keiichi Kiriyama, an editorial writer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, adding that the legislation would "have a chilling effect on public servants, who could become wary about giving the information" to journalists...

Abe, who does not have to fight an election for another three years, is expected to push ahead with his nationalist agenda, including constitutional reforms that would end the military's purely defensive role.

The secrecy bill's hasty passage through the lower house has been marked by noisy public demonstrations and opposition from journalists, lawyers, politicians, academics and scientists, as well as film directors and manga artists concerned about freedom of expression...

"There are few specifics in the law, which means it can be used to hide whatever the government wishes to keep away from public scrutiny," said Mizuho Fukushima, an opposition MP.

"In its current form, the prime minister can decide by himself what constitutes a secret."
Matthew Carney, "Critics fear Japan's democracy is 'regressing' as government introduces laws to keep state secrets," Australian Broadcasting Company:
In 2009 investigative journalist Masakatsu Ota uncovered a top secret deal between Japan and United States that allowed nuclear weapons to be brought into Japan during the Cold War...

"A key person in government confirmed it for the first time and the reports triggered an inquiry," he said...

Under the new secrecy laws exposes like Ota's will be much harder to do...

Experts have described the laws as extreme and part of prime minister Shinzo Abe's wider agenda to revise Japan's constitution...

Law Professor Lawrence Repeta from Tokyo's Meiji University said the government had a lot of power.

"They say the right to freedom of speech should only be respected when it doesn't disturb public order," he said...

The majority are against the laws and at protests across the country over the weekend people called for them to be scrapped...

Another protester said Japan was heading back to its militarist past with these new laws.

"When Japan headed to militarism, people were arrested if they showed opposition, that's the scariest thing. Democracy has not matured yet, but it's been developing and I want to stop this move," the protester said.

Already the government is set to classify half a million documents as state secrets.

Critics have said the real danger of these laws will see the government ultimately deciding what is secret and the definitions can be vague.
"Protest statements issued as state secrets law takes effect," via Asahi:
Organizations representing journalists, legal experts and the entertainment industry issued statements calling for the abolishment of the state secrets protection law that they say will trample on the people’s right to know...

The Japan Congress of Journalists’ statement issued on Dec. 9 said the law would “cover the people’s eyes, ears and mouth and usurp their freedom of the press and speech.”

The statement listed a number of problems with the law: the range of documents classified as state secrets could expand without limit; the government can continually extend the period a document is classified as a state secret; and journalists and human rights activists could be punished under the law.

The Japan Civil Liberties Union, consisting of lawyers and legal scholars, issued a statement on Dec. 8 protesting the law because “it inappropriately restricts citizens’ right to know.”

...A group of individuals connected with the movie industry, including directors Yoji Yamada and Isao Takahata, also issued a statement Dec. 9 calling for the law’s annulment...

The statement also touched upon the history of the movie industry before and during World War II when the government forced the production of movies that supported Japan’s war effort.

The statement was made “from a strong feeling of creating a society that never again goes to war and to never again be complicit in the production of movies that stir up war sentiment.”
Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Freedom of the Press Committee Japan Investigative Journalism Awards and Special Freedom Of Press Prizes Press Release, December 10, 2014:
Reporters Without Borders has called it, “an unprecedented threat to freedom of information.” The organization’s World Press Freedom Index for 2014 has just dropped Japan to number 59 on its list, below countries like Serbia and Chile. This marks a precipitous fall; Japan was ranked as high as 22 in 2012. Clearly, even international observers are becoming increasingly concerned about the direction of media freedom here.

The law provides for prison terms of up to ten years, not only for government insiders who leak information regarded as “secret,” but also for those, including journalists, who encourage them to do so. In other words, according to experts, even asking persistently about a “secret” could be a crime punishable with up to five years in jail.

The secrecy law, unprecedented in Japan’s postwar history, was forced through the Diet over the objections of critics who pointed out its many deficiencies. While the law was still under consideration, the FCCJ released a statement expressing our concerns...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki: "Demilitarization of Okinawa is necessary for peace in East Asia"

(Image: Ryukyu Shimpo)


Toshinobu Nakazato, a former Speaker in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, has initiated a postcard campaign to support the All-Okinawa Movement to halt the plan to landfill and build an offshore and military port over the coral and dugong habitat at Henoko, Okinawa.  

89 mainland Japanese celebrities have replied, including anime director Hayao Miyazaki, who wrote, "Demilitarization of Okinawa will be necessary for peace in East Asia."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

All-Okinawa candidate Takeshi Onaga wins governor's race in historic election


The new Governor and First Lady of Okinawa. (Via SNA)

Today Okinawans elected former Naha City Mayor Takeshi Onaga for governor in a landslide  election; and Naha residents of Naha elected  former Vice-Mayor Mikiko Shiroma, to replace Onaga. Both ran on All-Okinawa platforms, reflecting the tiny prefecture's dynamic movement to reclaim Okinawan identity and democratic self-determination.

Michael Penn, SNA:
The numbers coming in show landslide victories for both Onaga and Shiroma.  Onaga beat Nakaima by about 3:2 margin. Exit polls find only 25.5% of Okinawan voters find Henoko base construction to be acceptable.
Eric Johnston, JT:
Onaga also promised to deliver a strong message to Tokyo and Washington that the Henoko plan was unacceptable and that those who thought Okinawa could be bribed by being offered central government funds for development projects were wrong.
Filmmaker Chie Mikami:
The moment the Henoko villagers launched a Committee to Protect Life, they raised their voices in opposition [to the new base/military port plan] -- for 17 years,  I stood by and witnessed.

I did not see this day coming. This proved an All-Okinawa Movement could support a win for an All-Okinawa Governor...
Ryukyu Shimpo (one of Okinawa's 2 major daily newspapers):
 Onaga served as a co-representative of the executive committee that held an Okinawan people’s rally in 2012, which called for the closure of the Futenma base and the cancellation of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Okinawa. He has insisted that Okinawan people should unite in an ‘All-Okinawa’ approach that goes beyond the framework of the conservative-versus-progressive party, in order to resolve the base issue. The ex-Naha Mayor has promised to follow-through on a petition to Prime Minister Abe requesting the easing of the base-hosting burden. This petition bears the signatures from the mayors of all 41 municipalities in Okinawa and the chairmen of the various assemblies.

Onaga is backed by the Social-Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the Okinawa Social Mass Party and the People’s Life Party. The Naha City Council’s conservative group members, who were expelled from the LDP after opposing the relocation plan, also supported the ex-Naha Mayor. They criticized Governor Nakaima’s approval of landfill required for the new base in Henoko.

In August, the government started a drilling survey for reclamation work in Henoko. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said Tokyo will go ahead with construction based on the incumbent governor’s approval. Despite Onaga’s victory, it appears the government still intends to carry out the relocation work. Onaga will consider revocation or withdrawal of Nakaima’s landfill approval. The result of the election will have a serious impact on the relocation plan.
Peter Ennis, Dispatch Japan, "Okinawa election puts Tokyo and Washington [and also the LDP in Okinawa] in a bind":
The victory on Sunday of Takeshi Onaga in the race for governor of Okinawa came as no surprise...

But the size of Onaga’s victory – roughly 100,000 votes ahead of Nakaima, with two-thirds of voters joining Onaga in opposition to construction of a new US Marine base in the prefecture – was stunning, putting both Tokyo and Washington in a serious bind...

... it won’t be easy for Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to maintain his stance that the Futenma-Henoko controversy “is a thing of the past.”

Onaga’s electoral success poses a big dilemma for the LDP, heading into Lower House elections that PM Abe is expected to call for December 14. Sentiment against the ruling party’s stance on the Futenma Replacement Facility controversy has already affected other elections. Henoko is a district of Nago City, whose mayor, Susumu Inamine, is a fierce opponent of the new Marine facility. He is backed by a majority of the city assembly. Meanwhile, also on Sunday, the city of Naha voted for a new mayor to replace Onaga, and elected an opponent of the new base.

The political winds blowing against the LDP could spell trouble in the upcoming elections for the four incumbent Lower House members from Okinawa elected on the LDP ticket...
Governor-elect Onaga, who will take office in early December, is slated to meet on Tuesday with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga.

Onaga has already announced he will establish a special commission to investigate the process that led to Nakaima’s approval of the landfill work required before actual construction of the Henoko base can proceed.

Onaga has pledged to explore all legal remedies to reverse Nakaima’s decision. As governor, he would also have the power to deny necessary permits for construction to proceed, likely forcing the issue into the court system.

Moreover, Onaga has pledged to ensure that the Futenma Marine Air Station close. US officials privately have repeatedly said that Futenma will not close unless and until a replacement facility at Henoko is operational.

In another unusual move, Onaga has said he will open a special Okinawa Prefecture office in Washington to facilitate dialogue with US authorities about alternatives to the Henoko project.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Analysis of the All-Okinawa Movement: SNA's Interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine


Michael Penn's interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, at Nago City Hall, two days before the election for a new Okinawa governor:

INAMINE: The election is about the ideas of the citizens of Okinawa, whether they can be heard in Tokyo and Washington. Or if the ideas are only about bases for those two governments will be quietly accepted by the next governor.

SNA: Why are both conservatives and progressives supporting Onaga?

INAMINE: First, a governor is a politician who must honor promises. Clearly, Governor Nakaima did not do what he promised to do.

Second, in Okinawa, both conservatives and progressives agree that the damage from military bases must come to an end now. The hearts of conservatives and progressives are united, and in this election, they have come together with one voice.

SNA: How did Governor Nakaima lose so much support after eight years in office?

INAMINE: First, as I said, he violated his campaign promise. Also, he views development as separate from military bases, that economic progress is related to accepting military bases. That is different from Okinawa's stance in the past.

SNA: Is there a connection between this election and fundamental issue of democracy?


INAMINE: More than 80% of Okinawans oppose building a Henoko base.  In a democracy, you can't just ignore the voices of the people. If you do ignore them, it's a big problem. It's something that cannot be allowed in a democratic society.

SNA: What about the connection between US bases and economic development in Okinawa?

INAMINE: Conservatives and progressives divided in the last elections. But this time, some business leaders backed Mr. Onaga.

Tourism is a leading sector in Okinawa's economy. Military bases account for less than 5% of Okinawa's economy. The idea that Okinawa needs bases to survive economically is just a myth spread widely throughout mainland Japan.  Tourism is the industry that can put Okinawa on its own feet.

SNA: Do you have any concern that Mr. Onaga might change his policies after the election?

INAMINE: I think Mr. Onaga is very different from Mr. Nakaima. Mr. Onaga has put his political life on the line in this election, and the main issue is the Henoko base issue. So if you ask if Mr. Onaga will tone down his opposition, you have to realize he has put everything on the line.

I have faith Mr. Onaga will not betray our expectations.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kya Kim & Peace Mask Project: The art of symbolism in peace building


Journalist, peace activist and Peace Mask Project team member Kya Kim reminds us of the powerful role of symbolism in creating change towards lasting peace. Kyoto-based Kya Kim and her team strive to spark this lasting peace across Japan, China and Korea:
Conflict is natural and always present. It is neither negative nor positive in itself. Violence and repression are only one possible response to a conflict and one our societies turn to far too often.

There are many reasons for this: the profitability of militarization for a handful of corporations and individuals; the control and manipulation of a population through fear. But mostly I think it's due to a lack of creativity and cooperation. We are stuck in old habits and old ways of thinking.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Target Village, The Vacumn Zone, One Shot, One Kill showing at peace film line-up at Keio University


Peace Cinema - Keio University, Mita Campus, Tokyo - this fall. 

Oct 29 - Chie Mikami's Target Village -- follows the history of forced V-22 Osprey testing & training in Okinawa. 

Nov. 25 - Shinkû chitai (The Vacumn Zone) - Satsuo Yamamoto's 1952 film based on Hiroshi Noma's celebrated postwar novel. Called "the strongest anti-military film ever made in Japan...an exposé of the brutality and corruption of the Japanese army shown in its most revolting form" (Anderson and Richie, The Japanese Film). The story shows the life of a soldier who is reintegrated into the Imperial army after serving a prison term for theft. Surrounded by corrupt officers and comrades, he finds the military, with its systematic dehumanization, an even lonelier "no man's land" than prison. 

The film—like Twenty-Four Eyes, Keisuke Kinoshita's 1954 film based on Sakae Tsubo's 1952 novel of the same name—was one of many Japanese antiwar films made during the postwar period.  (Most of Japan's antiwar films are unavailable with English subtitles. Twenty-Four Eyes—which follows the story of a school teacher and her students during the period of heightened militarization from the 1930's through the Pacific War, and its aftermath—is an exception; released by Criterion.)

Dec. 17 - One Shot, One Kill - A documentary by Yukihisa Fujimoto that explores how the military breaks down the civilian values of young people, turning them into soldiers who will follow orders and kill.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A win for the Japanese People who Conserve Article 9, for the Nobel Peace Prize, would “reorientate the prize to the core of Nobel’s original will.”



Congratulations to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for being awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

Although not selected as the winner, the people who support the Japanese Constitution's Peace Clause, Article 9, were a noted contender in this year's Nobel Peace Prize. 

Via WaPo:
“Japanese people who conserve Article 9” 

...Article 9 refers to a clause in the Japanese constitution, drawn up following World War II, that states that Japan will “forever renounce war” and the “threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” The Japanese government’s “reinterpretation” of this pacifist clause earlier this year sparked a public backlash, with campaigners arguing that the clause is one of the reasons Japan has not waged war in nearly 70 years.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of PRIO [Peace Research Institute Oslo, an independent research institute] and a respected Nobel Prize commentator, recently chose this group as his top pick. He is the first to admit he doesn’t have a solid track record in predicting the winner, but he believes this could be the year for this off-beat choice. It would, he said, be a nod to nonaggression and would “reorientate the prize to the core of Nobel’s original will.”

On the other hand, the last two winners have been organizations -- in 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and in 2012, the European Union -- and the committee may prefer an individual this year.
Background on Article 9 via Global Article 9 Campaign and Peace Boat, which received a nomination in 2009, on behalf of the Japanese people who support Article 9:
Adopted following World War II and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Article 9 is a pledge to Japan itself and to the world, particularly to neighboring countries that suffered under Japanese invasions and colonial rule, to never repeat its mistakes. Since then, Article 9 – and the Japanese people's commitment to its pacific principles – has played an important role in keeping peace in Japan and in the region, preventing Japan from participating in war and forcing the government to maintain peace policies.

Peace Boat launched the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War in 2005, together with the Japan Lawyers' International Solidarity Association (JALISA) and sponsored by a coalition of civil society organizations in Japan. The Campaign has since received support from dozens of groups and thousands of individuals worldwide, including Nobel Laureates and key international figures. Over 33,000 people gathered at the Global Article 9 Conference it organised in Japan May, 2008...

On the significance of Article 9, Peace Boat Director and Co-Founder of the Campaign, Yoshioka Tatsuya says, “We believe Article 9 is a universal asset. Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is clear that no solution can be achieved by military options. Today, we are facing climate change, poverty, pandemics. Given the limited world resources, the vast amount of money spent on military expenditures should be shifted towards building a sustainable future.”
JT's follow-up story reflects Japanese campaigners did not expect a win this year. Instead, they view the nomination process as an ongoing opportunity to highlight the history and merits of the Japanese Peace Constitution in Japan and abroad:
“To be honest, we did not necessarily think that our efforts would reach the goal in just one year,” said Yoshiaki Ishigaki, one of the leaders of a group calling itself the Organizing Committee for the Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Constitution. The group initiated contact with the Nobel Committee and honed its bid before the nomination was accepted....

He said that many Japanese are unaware of the role that Article 9, which bans Japan from using force to settle international disputes, has played in protecting them, and that future peace may be at risk under a government that wants to amend the Constitution to get around it.

The committee has collected more than 410,000 signatures over the course of its campaigning, but says it aims to collect 1 million for its renewed Nobel attempt next year.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Save Our SEA" Henoko photography exhibition now showing at National Diet Building, Tokyo; will open in Naha on Oct. 9



The "Save Our SEA" Henoko photography exhibition opens on Oct. 9 at the Ryukyu Shimpo Gallery in Naha.

The stunning show closed at a Ginza gallery on Oct. 2, and is now at the National Diet Building, Upper House Hall in Tokyo.

[Date] 10/6 (Mon) and from 7 (Tue) 10:00 until 7:00 PM [location] House of Councilors Hall Basement 1 room B103 (6 days) B101 Conference (7 days).

For admission to the Upper House, please contact by telephone, in advance, the following Office: Anyone can visit the exhibition. 6550-0907 or Fukushima Mizuho offices 6550-1111. sponsored by: representative of Henoko Sea Photo Exhibition Executive Committee K. Shindo 090 - 4813 - 5043. (Via photographer Ken Shindo)

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■「辺野古の海」沖縄展 
 大反響があった「辺野古の海」写真展は9日から那覇市の琉球新報ギャラリーで始まります。ようやく、チラシが完成しました。

 皆さん、沖縄の将来、日本の将来と平和に危惧をいだくようでしたら、
ぜひシエア、拡散してください。
 
 東京展を見損なった方には6日―7日の2日間ですが国会・参議院議員会館でご覧いただけます。

【日時 】
10月6日(月)と7日(火)午前10時から午後7時まで
【場所】 
参議院議員会館地下1階 B103会議室(6日)
            B101会議室(7日)

 なお、参議院会館への入場については事前に電話で以下の事務所に問い合わせてください。どなたでも入場できます。
田城かおる事務所 6550-0907
福島みずほ事務所 6550-1111

主催:辺野古の海写真展実行委員会代表 新藤健一 090-4813-5043