About 1,200 people have attended a rally in Hokkaido, northern Japan, to protest a live ammunition drill by the US Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa.The U.S. and Japanese governments tranferred Marine live-fire war training from Okinawa to Hokkaido in 1996 after the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa resulted in mass protests against U.S. military occupation of the island. Okinawans had long complained about shells being fired over a public highway which had to close down during live fire events. So U.S. Marines have trained at the Yausubetsu Training Area in Chitose, Hokkaido since. (Sadly, this is also the home of the critically endangered red-crowned crane (Tancho) which is in threat of extinction because of loss of habitat and toxic enviromental assaults.)
The protesters gathered on Sunday in Kushiro City, near a Self-Defense Force shooting range where the drill is being held.
Kaoru Takayanagi, the regional chief of Japan's largest labor federation, Rengo, told the participants that the presence of the US Marines in Japan has been discussed a lot recently due to the relocation of the Futenma base in Okinawa.
Takayanagi called on the drill to be canceled to protect the public.
The participants adopted a declaration that urges the government to make efforts to realign and reduce the US bases in Japan.
The 11th live ammunition drill by the Marines at the shooting range began last Wednesday and ends on June 9th. It includes night-time exercises.
On Saturday, a howitzer shell burned 6 hectares of land inside the shooting range.
One protester says a night-time drill is a preparation for war and it's unforgivable for US troops to conduct the drill in Japan. He says he wants the US bases in Japan to be closed.
(Yausubetsu Training Field at Camp Chitose, Hokkaido. Image: Globalsecurity.org)
Asako Kageyama's 2010 "Marines Go Home: Anti-Base Activism in Okinawa, Japan and Korea" documents Japanese resistance against what the author describes as the "Okinawanization of Japan," the joint U.S.-JSDF expansion of use of mainland Japan for military facilities, bases, and live war training sites. Nobumasa Tanaka's 2004 "Defending the Peace Constitution in the Midst of the SDF Training Area" shares personal views from Hokkaido. Both of these articles are posted at Japan Focus.
Ann Wright also described Japanese protests in Hokkaido in this 2008 article, "Peace Actions in Japan," posted at the Veterans for Peace website.