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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thousands gather over weekend in Tokyo to support a military base-free Okinawa

Participants at Saturday's Hibiya Park rally wearing handmade hats symbolizing the kuina, a bird native of Yanbaru, a subtropical rainforest in northern Okinawa, presently threatened by U.S. military construction

Over 6,000 people attended a rally and march in Tokyo's Hibiya Park on Saturday to reject plans for construction of U.S. military facilities in the ecologically sensitive areas of Henoko near Oura Bay, and Takae village in the Yanbaru forest. Consisting primarily of labor groups, students, peace organizations, and a collection of other activists and citizens, the crowd also called for various additional anti-military initiatives including the closing down of nuclear power plants, revision of Japan's policy toward North Korea, and the dismantling of the Japan-US Security Treaty.



Left: "STOP genpatsu (nuclear power)"

National Public Radio in the United States ran a story about the event here.

At the pre-march gathering, an older woman shyly approached me and offered me a small folded origami box containing a collection of origami Totoro figures from the popular environmentally-themed manga "My Neighbor Totoro," which she explained that she folded to express her hopes for the preservation of nature to triumph over the use of land for military purposes.

Although I cannot be sure, I suspect that this gift---as well as the several smiles and thumbs-up that I received from other parade-goers---were given to me because I was one of only a handful of other obvious-looking foreigners who seemed to be in attendance at the rally.

Conscious of this need to show support among foreigners in Japan for Okinawa's self-determination regarding the military base issue, the recently established US for Okinawa Peace Action Network held its own peace action the next day across town in Yoyogi Park. ("US is pronounced "us", as in "you, me and everyone.")


Photo by Meri Joyce

Attended by people from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, the network's first-ever event included a photo exhibition and a FAQ sheet including information on social and environmental damage resulting from U.S. military bases in Okinawa, as well as countries such as Vietnam and Iraq where Okinawa-based soldiers have been sent; a live painting station accompanied by didgeridoo music; and a reading aloud of the following message to the assembled crowd:
All of us at the peace action network, US for OKINAWA, have assembled here in the park today to express our concern about the enormous burden that U.S. military bases are placing on Okinawa.

Already, U.S. military facilities occupy nearly 20% of Okinawa Island, and even the U.S. and Japanese governments agree that Futenma Air Base poses a great safety risk to nearby residents and agree it should be closed.

However, we are appalled that closing Futenma is contingent upon constructing new military facilities in Henoko, another part of Okinawa Island.

A majority of local residents in Henoko are strongly opposed to this new construction, and we can understand why. It would simply shift the problems of contamination, noise pollution, and safety hazards from one part of Okinawa to another, and would also destroy much of the fragile ecoystem of Oura Bay. This will likely lead to the extinction of the dugong from Japan, as well as yet again deny Okinawans access to part of their traditional land and water.

We want you all to take a moment to imagine Yoyogi Park being appropriated from the general public in order to construct a new military base here. Imagine this park being surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers who will threaten you if you enter it without permission of the U.S. government. Imagine all the beautiful trees being cut down to create runways, shooting ranges, and weapon stockpiles. This is just an imaginary scenario for us, but this is basically what the people of Okinawa have experienced and are being threatened with yet again.

It's time for the U.S. to engage with the rest of the world through more diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties rather than primarily military. It's time for the U.S. to stop adding to its collection of 1,000 military bases around the world. These bases simply provoke more militarization around the world and destroy our natural world. And it's time for the Japanese government to say loud and clear: “Shut down Futenma” and “No more new military construction in Okinawa.”




A petition was also circulated calling for the following:
For more than 60 years, military bases in Okinawa have threatened the safety of local residents, contaminated and destroyed the natural environment, and denied Okinawans access to much of their land, oceans and airways. Futenma, the most dangerous of these bases, should be closed and reverted back to use for civilian purposes. 
Closure of Futenma should not be contingent on the construction of yet another new U.S. military base in the Henoko District of Okinawa—nor anywhere else in Okinawa. We call upon the U.S. and Japanese governments to listen to the people of Okinawa who have long been protesting the burden of these bases on their island. No more Futenma, no more new bases in Okinawa, no more appropriation of land and water from island peoples for military use!

One of the two major Okinawan newspapers, the Ryuku Shimpo ran an article about Sunday's action here.

Upcoming network actions include sending a letter to President Obama making clear the network's position on the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, and the organization of a study tour to Okinawa in the spring for Americans and other foreigners who wish to learn more about the issue of U.S. military bases and their impact upon local communities.

For further information and updates, visit the network's blog.

- Post and photos by Kimberly Hughes

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Howard Zinn: "Empire or Humanity? What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me about the American Empire"

Followers of news from the Asia-Pacific know about the latest threats to democratic process and biodiverse eco-regions in Hawai'i, Jeju Island, Okinawa, and Guam.

Howard Zinn takes us back to the beginning of the real story of American history and tells us how his realizations in "A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF AMERICAN EMPIRE BY HOWARD ZINN - Empire or Humanity? What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me about the American Empire." Narrated by Viggo Mortensen, art by Mike Konopacki, video editing by Eric Wold.



(HOWARD ZINN to Bill Moyers: "Well, I think what they have to say to us today is...think for yourself. ... what it tells me is that just ordinary people, you know, people who are not famous, if they get together, if they persist, if they defy the authorities, they can defeat the largest corporation in the world...")

Friday, January 29, 2010

CHANGE! "We don't need Futenma Base! We won't allow a new base at Henoko!" • Saturday, January 30 •  Hibya Park, Tokyo


All-Japan Event: We don't need Futenma Base • We won't allow a new base at Henoko • Change! US-Japan Relations

10,000 people will be gathering from all over Japan at the outdoor music hall, Hibiya Park!

Date: January 30, 2010 (Saturday)

Time: 14:00-15:30
After the event, a demonstration will be held:
leaving Hibiya Park and walking through Ginza towards Tokyo Station
Venue: Outdoor Music Hall, Hibiya Park, Tokyo

(Nearest stations: Subway Kasumigaseki, Hibiya or Uchisaiwaicho)

MAP (in Japanese): http://hibiya-kokaido.com/access%20map0802.pdf

COVERAGE of RALLY: Reports from Okinawa; situation at the Diet; appeals from different participating groups

The review of the relocation of Futenma Base is taking place until May.

In order to immediately close Futenma base and prevent the expansion of a US military base at Henoko, it is crucial that people from all over Japan make their will clear to the government.

Towards this end, labour unions and citizen groups from Okinawa and all over Japan will gather in Tokyo for this event and demonstration. Showing the critical mass of people will create pressure on the government and give encouragement to the people of Okinawa.

Let's join our voices together to make a change!

Brochures (in Japanese) can be seen here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

US for Okinawa - Peace Action Network launches this weekend: Events in Tokyo and Kyoto

Members of grassroots peace groups and other concerned individuals have gathered to form the “US for OKINAWA peace action network".


Closely affiliated with the Peace Boat NGO and also including members from the Peace Not War Japan collective, the network’s primary aim is to voice the opposition of foreigners living in Japan to the presence and plans for expansion of U.S. military bases in Okinawa (and beyond):

New Network Formed to Protect Okinawa, Japan from Foreign Military Bases

US for OKINAWA is a new peace action network based in Tokyo that was recently formed by U.S., Japanese, Canadian, New Zealand, Australian, Welsh, Mexican and other citizens living in Japan who are concerned about Okinawa. A deliberate double entendre, US may be read both as "us" (you, me, everyone), as well as U.S. (reflecting the proactive stance of Americans in Japan who support a base-free Okinawa).

US for OKINAWA was organized out of shared concern regarding the danger that the U.S. Futenma Air Base poses to the people of Okinawa, as well as the pressure exerted by the U.S. on the new Japanese administration to construct a replacement facility for the base in Henoko, an environmentally fragile area on the eastern part of the island. If carried out, this construction would likely spell the extinction of the endangered dugong (cousin to the Florida manatee) and simply shift the problems of contamination, air pollution, safety hazards and crime associated with Futenma to another part of Okinawa.

US for OKINAWA is committed to forming liaisons with Okinawan and Japanese peace groups, whom we join in strong opposition to these bases for the hardships they impose upon Okinawan residents and for the environmental damage they cause . Okinawa makes up only .6% of Japan's territory but “hosts” 75% of all US military bases in the country under treaties that were negotiated by Tokyo and Washington, without input from the Okinawan people.

The island already shoulders a disproportionate military burden, and US for OKINAWA applauds Prime Minister Hatoyama for having the integrity to call for a halt to new base construction in Henoko. The Obama administration’s demand that Prime Minister Hatoyama submit to its wishes or risk jeapordizing US-Japan relations is aggressive action that shows complete disregard for the right to peace and self-determination of the Okinawan people, and is extremely unbecoming of a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

US for OKINAWA strongly believes that continued friendly relations between Japan and the U.S. should not depend on the construction of yet another base in Okinawa, and calls upon President Obama to return Futenma to the Okinawan people, and to desist from pushing for further unwanted military expansion.

US for OKINAWA is rapidly growing and welcomes people of any nationality to join its network. To join the network or receive more information, write to us.for.okinawa@gmail.com


Information on the network's latest initiatives will also be posted on its blog here.

The network is planning a series of actions to raise support and awareness for its cause. This coming weekend, its very first event will be held in Tokyo (Sunday, January 31st). Another organization, Kyoto Action, will be including US for Okinawa members located in Kansai in it's regular Saturday activities in Kyoto (Saturday, January 30th). Information is as follows:

Tokyo:

Come out to participate in a creative, art-themed event to raise awareness and gather support for a base-free Okinawa. Together, we will create collaborative art projects (painting, digital art, collage, photos, recycled artwork and more) featuring our message. Everyone is welcome…Please wear blue or green clothing to show your support for a peaceful Okinawa. No Futenma, No Henoko!!

Date: Sunday, January 31st)
Time: 13:00 - 15:00 (Meet at 13:00; action will start at 14:00)
Place: Yoyogi Park (near the fountain).

Directions from JR Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line):
From Harajuku Station, go right out of the Omotesando Exit. Turn right and walk over the bridge to the right. Cross the street and turn left. The park will be on the right. It’s about a 5 minute walk. Access is also available from the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (Meiji-Jingumae station) or the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.

Contact:
Emilie McGlone (emilie@peaceboat.gr.jp) or Rose Welsch (rose@peaceboat.gr.jp)

Kyoto:

Kyoto Action for Okinawa
Date: Saturday, January 30, 2010
Time: 17:00-18:30
Place: Arcade at Kawaramachi and Sanjo Street

Kyoto Action is a group of people living in Kyoto campaigning to close down Futenma Air Force Base and stop the construction of a new U.S. military base at Heneko in Okinawa. The group meets every Saturday, same place, same time, to show their opposition to U.S. military base constructions in Okinawa. On January 30th, in solidarity, Kyoto Action will also be distributing information about the US for Okinawa "Peace Action Network."

Contact: Jen Teeter (teeter42@gmail.com)

Further information also available here in Japanese and in English.

- Posted by Kim Hughes and Jen Teeter

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peace Walkers for Okinawa greeted in Nagasaki by Rally to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Commuters arriving at and departing from Nagasaki Station yesterday morning were greeted with a peaceful gathering of over 200 people calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Participants of the Peace Walk from Okinawa flew in from Okinawa yesterday just in time for the rally and continued their walk to Tokyo soon after it ended.

Photo taken by Hito

The Peace Walk from Okinawa is travelling across Japan for four months from Okinawa to Tokyo to raise awareness about two historic events taking place in 2010 that will influence the future of our planet: the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that will hold its first session from 30 April to 11 May 2007, and the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10) scheduled for October 2010, in Nagoya.

The walkers, who are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo by May 3, Constitution Day, believe that our future lies in the fate of our biosphere whose biodiversity is threatened by continued military expansion in Okinawa and other parts of our fragile Mother Earth.

Peace Walkers leaving Nagasaki Station
(Photo courtesy of the Peace Walk for Okinawa Blog)

Buddhist monks, hip hop musicians from Puerto Rico and Liberia, veterans of the Iraq and Vietnam wars, students, mothers and peace loving citizens from all over Japan collected messages of peace on the previous 71-day-long Article 9 Peace Walk from Hiroshima to Tokyo in 2008. They hand-delivered these messages to the participants of the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War which took place in Tokyo from May 4th-6th.

Peace Walk reaches Hibiya Park, May 3, 2008 (Jen Teeter)

There are more photos of Constitution Day in Hibiya Park, May 3, 2008 available here.

This year's Peace Walk is planned to reach:
  • Hiroshima on February 27th
  • Kyoto on March 27th
  • Nagoya on April 4th
  • Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant on April 14th
  • Shizuoka on April 18th
  • Tokyo on May 1st-3rd
- Posted by Jen Teeter

Monday, January 25, 2010

Takae Village Sit-In Protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest, Okinawa

Takae is a small village in Yanbaru Forest, a mountainous region in the northern part of Okinawa adjacent to Henoko. Yanbaru is known for distinct and irreplaceable biodiversity.

Over 192 plant and animal (most are endangered and near extinction) species are unique to this area, such as the bird species Okinawa Rail and Okinawa Woodpecker; Itajii (Evergreen Oak); and the Jambar long armed scarab beetle (the largest beetle species in Japan). The US wants to build seven helipads in this natural forest. The sea life includes Taimai (Hawksbill turtles), dugongs, corals and tropical fish.

              Yanbaru Forest (Photo: Japan Focus: "Okinawa's Turbulent 400 Years" by Gavan McCormack)

Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog reports on the Sit-in Campaign Against US Helipads in Takae, Okinawa, quoting from Brian and Co's Blog:
Takae Helipad Campaign in Okinawa

There are many campaigns against military bases in Japan. Usually they work independently of each other. However they do join forces for large-scale protests when a major incident occurs. For example, in 1995 when three US servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl.

In Okinawa there is a small campaign based in Takae. Takae is a small village surrounded by jungle at the northern end of the island within the district of Higashi and has a population of about 150 people. The campaign is against the construction of new helipads that would be used by the US military. Many of the bases in Okinawa are aging and some will be decommissioned. But with the decommissioning, the US also wants to build new helipads in previously untouched jungle. The Japanese government, eager for the construction contracts, are willing to let construction go ahead.

In February 2006 the Takae helipad campaign began. The campaign was formed by a small number of residents none of whom had any previous campaigning experience. Between them they set up 24- hour guard at entrances to the helipad construction sites. They confronted the construction workers and blocked access to the new helipad sites. Once built, the helipads role would be used in the training of mainly US troops in Jungle warfare.

The campaigners concerns about the new helipads are related to the environmental destruction of the jungle, noise and air pollution. As well their concerns for the environment, they are also against the use of their homeland for the training of military personnel, that they will be taught about killing and jungle warfare literally on their doorsteps. There are also safety concerns after one helicopter crashed near Takae close to their elementary school in 1999. And in 2004 a US military helicopter crashed in the grounds of a university in the city of Ginowan.

The US military are planning to replace their helicopters (CH53D, CH46E…) in Okinawa with the new Osprey [controversial transport aircraft].

The Japanese government are currently trying to apply for a Provisional Disposition against 14 of the main helipad campaigners. Originally the number was 15 and included a child, but after a public outcry the child was removed from the order. A provisional disposition can be viewed in the UK as something between an ASBO and injunction.

The affect of the court case may scare people from continuing the campaign and also to disable the campaign by punishing the main members of the organisation. While the court case proceeds the Okinawa Defence Bureau has promised not to carry out further helipad construction. However, if the court case becomes lengthy, it is possible construction may begin again before a decision is reached in court.
Read the rest at: http://brianandco.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/files/TakaeHelipadCampaign.pdf.

More information about citizens' efforts to save Takae village may also be read here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Moral Arc of Universe Bends Towards Justice: Susumu Inamine, who vowed to protect Henoko,Wins Nago Mayoral Election

Kyodo News reports that Susumu Inamine, who opposes new military base construction that would destroy Henoko and Oura Bay, a biodiverse coral reef and last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, won the mayoral race Sunday in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

His opposition and control over municipal functions would make it difficult for PM Hatoyama to allow the construction of an environmentally destructive proposed mega-base at Henoko.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas -- What's it like to be a colonial subject of the US?




Filmmaker Vanessa Warheit asks what it's like to live as a colonial subject of the US in her new film The Insular Empire: American in the Mariana Islands. In this investigative documentary, she focuses on the lives of the residents of Guam who are facing US military expansion on their island--one third of which is already occupied by military bases.

The historical experience of Guam's indigenous Chamorro people mirrors that of Native Americans (and Ainu in Japan and Russia). And the contemporary neo-colonial exploitation of their lands mirrors what is happening to Native Americans as well (and Ainu and other indigenous people who live in Sakhalin, given Russia's exploitation of that island for oil).


Warheit has a great blog with the latest on oppostion the proposed military expansion on Guam (1/3 of the island is already covered with military bases). Her Jan. 8 post, "What's at Stake" outlines a fact sheet detailing the devasting impacts to the environment and quality of life of the residents, including the indigenous Chamorro:
Koohan Paik has assembled a fact sheet about the proposed military buildup on Guam. This concise document distills the intimidating 11,000 page EIS document (released in November by the military) into something the average person can wrap their head around.

The results are chilling. Just a few of the many disastrous effects outlined in the EIS:

* Depletion of Guam's fresh water supply

* Destruction of historic archaeological and sacred cultural sites

* Dredging of 2.3 million square feet of fragile coral reef (that's 40 football fields!)

* Destruction of the largest mangrove forest on US soil
... and the list goes on and on.

In addition to the obvious environmental disaster this buildup portends, I think it's really important to keep in mind the threats it also poses to the endangered Chamoru culture. I'm posting here two videos (one of them is posted here) highlighting traditional island culture - they are inspiring, and remind us all of what is at stake.

Taiwan reduces military spending

Taiwan's parliament (under the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party) reduced its 2010 military budget by almost 7 percent.

At the same time, China (the US' largest foreign creditor) and the US (China's 2nd largest trading partner after the EU) are engaged in a another one of their media rows over Taiwan's purchase of US Patriot missiles from Lockheed.

Taiwan's government and many CEOs of large corporations--in opposition to Taiwanese labor rights advocates who are worried about eroding wages and increasing unemployment in an already bad situation—want to sign a free trade agreement with China.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Villagers protest construction of nuclear naval base at Jeju Island--a biodiverse World Heritage Site & Korea's "Island of Peace"

"My heart is broken. We are helpless and they are forcefully driving the naval base," Jeju is the Island of the Peace. There should be absolutely no war base. We need the support by all Koreans and all international peace-loving people. We are just the innocent farmers without much knowledge. We need your help."

-- Gangjeong villager Hong Keun-Pyo
          (Coral habitat off Gangjeon Village, Jeju Island. Photo: http://space4peace.blogspot.com/)

Jeju Island is a beautiful volcanic island south of Korea, with Mt. Halla--the highest mountain in all of South Koreaat its center.  Twelve percent of the island is covered by a Gotjawal Forest, a pristine, naturally formed forest habitat for unique and endangered plants and animals. Groundwater from Gotjawal is the main water source for the island's half millon residents.

In 2007, UNESCO named Jeju a World Heritage Site:
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.
Jeju is also a UN designated biosphere preservation zone with 137 designated cultural assets all over the island.

The southern coast of Jeju is home to a coral reef. In 2001, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration designated it a national monument protection area. It appeared that the South Korean government recognized and valued the irreplaceable and unique natural beauty and traditional indigenous culture of Jeju.

However, in 2006, the South Korean government made another designation based on a profit rather than a preservation motive. It named Jeju a "free international city" to make way for gambling casinos and a naval base in southern Jeju intended to port U.S. and South Korean Aegis destroyers outfitted with missile defense systems that the villagers say will be used to surround China's coast--potentially making their once peaceful island a target if hostilities break out.

Peace activist Bruce Gagnon wrote in October at his blog that the South Korean government approached three villages about hosting the base. The first two turned the government down. So, in the case of the third village, Gangjeong, the government decided to offer bribes to some of the residents. Most of the residents remained opposed to the base, but the bribes created enough of a division to allow government to say they will build the base in this village:
The villagers of Gangjeong do not see the Navy base as offering them much. Their local economy is thriving from the tangerine groves that are everywhere in the town and from the abundant numbers of tourists who come there to experience the seaside. In fact the Navy base would take significant portions of their village land now used for farming and would destroy the environment. The rocky shoreline would be covered with cement and the proposed base pier would extend to the edge of where the fresh water Gangjeong River flows into the sea.

Kang, Dong Kyun, the mayor of the village and a key protest leader, told me that 70% of the drinking water for the community comes from the river and would surely be negatively impacted by the Navy base. Take away our water, he said, and you destroy the town.

( In protest of Navy base plan, Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun of Gangjeong village sat overnight in the cold outside the Jeju government building. Photo: http://space4peace.blogspot.com/)

Throughout the village you see many tall bamboo poles with yellow flags on them that say, "We desperately oppose the Naval base." But no one in the government wants to listen to them. They have tried all the usual steps of meeting with government officials, organizing protests, and they recently tried to recall their provincial governor in a special election but did not turn out a high enough percentage of voters to make the vote official.

They've now set up a camp along the rocky coastline where some are now holding a round-the-clock vigil. More tents will be erected in the coming weeks as construction is set to begin at the end of this year. When I spoke to the village people in their community center last night there were key activists from other parts of South Korea who are trying to help...

Mayor Kang told me, "This is the land of our ancestors that we must pass on to the future generations. This village must not be used as a 'strategic' base but must be preserved. The government is dividing people against each other which is the worst thing of all. The long lasting people will ultimately win."
On January 11, Bruce updated the protest, describing the tent village that Mayor Kang and others set up to protest the start of construction.

And just a week later--now--both Sung-Hee Choi at Nobasestorieskorea.blogspot.com and Gagnon are reporting violent police reprisals against the peaceful protesters, which include elderly people, tangerine farmers and Catholic priests.


(Photo:Nobasestorieskorea.blogspot.com)

A Jeju resident told Choi that the police violence is a repeat of the 2006 attack by the South Korean government on its own people in Pyeongtaek. 13,000 South Korean soldiers and riot police would not allow farmers on their own land where a US military base (Camp Humphreys) was to be tripled in size. The police and military arrested and beat hundreds of people nonviolently protesting land seizures on behalf of the US.

Hundreds of thousands of Koreans have already been victimized by the US and the South Korean government in this way--as the sacrifice of the Korean peninsula during the Cold War enters a new incarnation. US troops killed large groups of Korean civilians indiscriminately during the Korean War. In 1950, at least 100,000 Koreans were massacred by the South Korean government allied closely with the US.

And in 1948, the South Korean government killed 30,000 of its own citizens and destroyed villages throughout Jeju. Other victims escaped by fleeing to Japan where they established a Jeju town in Osaka.

The government must be reminded of its own earlier acknowledgement and understanding of the reality of the irreplaceable value of Jeju Island's natural and cultural beauty, including the residents of Gangjeong. A guided missile base is going to destroy the natural coral and dolphin habitat, and is not going to attract tourists.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King: War caused by Ethical Infantilism

“If we want to end the war in the world, we need to end the war in our own hearts.”

-- Thich Nhat Hanh
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a global anti-poverty, anti-colonial, and an anti-war activist as well as an American racial justice advocate. In 1967, King nominated Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, because of their shared opposition to the US war in Vietnam.

In King's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he told people that war resulted from ethical infantilism; and that even "limited war" can "leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment."

King said that only the pursuit of "positive peace" can stop the the toxic, violent attitudes that form the militaristic worldview that justifies an ever-increasing production of weapons; the creation of public military schools: the construction of military bases on land confiscated from peaceful owners overseas; and the belief that we should sacrifice young people in wars.

When he wrote these words, King thought that colonialism and racism would be overcome soon afterwards--but more than forty years later, another generation is still facing colonialism, the oppression of indigenous peoples, and the diversion of taxpayer money to record-setting military spending (instead of addressing social needs--because developed nations have chosen military and war economies rather than the pursuit of positive peace societies.)

So King's reminder that colonialism, war, poverty, and racial injustice are all part of the same societal sickness is as relevant now as when King first spoke these words :
This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man's chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man's ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war...

A third great evil confronting our world is that of war. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology..

So man's proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war - God forbid! - will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine...

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace...

Gravy Train Charity Event for the Victims of the Earthquake in Haiti @ Tokyo, Tues, January 19


An estimated 200,000 people in Haiti have lost their lives after a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake stuck only 10 miles away from the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday, January 13, 2010. Our immediate support is needed in order to provide relief and create a long-term system for recovery, rebuilding, and healing.

Yéle Haiti, "a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while helping to transform the country through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment," has formed an alliance with Americares, Friends of the World Food Program, ONEXONE, the Pan American Development Fund, Airline Ambassadors, and the Belinda Stronach Foundation to coordinate the "delivery of emergency services and materials needed by victims of the earthquake in Haiti."

The Tokyo-based jazz, lounge, folk, gospel, blues and bossa nova inspired band The Gravy Train will be holding a charity concert at Ebisu's What the Dickens this Tuesday to raise funds for the earthquake victims. All proceeds will be donated to the Yéle Haiti Relief Fund.

Frontman Kev Gray on his band's decision to contribute to the efforts in Haiti:
My band decided to put on a free gig to try to raise money, but more importantly more public awareness of how to donate money. Ultimately, we would like to raise some cash - 10 000 yen is like 100 000 yen in Haiti - and send it to the relief fund called Yele Haiti which deals directly with people there. We will have a raffle, though we are a bit short on prizes, so anyone with a big wine cellar would be welcome to share it. It's all very short notice but the best we could do.
According to tweets by Democracy_Now:

There is no interaction with community leaders, people on the street by large aid orgs and UN. Aid is not getting to those who need it most.
Perhaps donating to smaller organizations that are familiar with community organizers in Haiti, like the Yele Relief Fund, will be the most effective way to ensure that aid reaches the people instead of being lost in chaos.

If you can't make it to the charity event on Tuesday but would like to make a donation to the Yele Relief Fund, click here for more details. Other Haiti earthquake relief organizations can be found in this USA Today report.

LOVIN’ HAITI NIGHT
Tuesday 19th January 2009
What The Dickens, Ebisu
http://www.dickens.jp
Free Entry, Raffle, and Live Music from The Gravy Train
All Voluntary Donations go to the Yéle Haiti Relief Fund

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Japan stops refueling US warships headed for Afghanistan

On Jan. 15, Prime Minister Hatoyama said Japan has ended refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean headed for Afghanistan.

Last November, Hatoyma promised to give the US $5 billion over five years to help repair destruction in Afghanistan resulting from the US war.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ainu and Pacific Northwest Cultural Exchange at the Burke Museum, Washington State

Photo courtesy of the Ainu and Pacific Northwest Culture Exchange Facebook Page

An article in the Seattle based Northwest Asian Weekly featured an account of a recent meeting in Hokkaido between Native Americans of the Puget Sound region (and members of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido last week. This international cultural exchange sponsored by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture was launched in "an effort to support the revival of cultural heritage of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan."

Members who joined the journey to Sapporo, Nibutani, Akan, and Shiraoi included: Deana Dartt-Newton and Robin Wright (both curators from the Burke Museum), Lisa Marie Oliver (Quinault/Program Assistant), Anna Hoover (Aleut/Filmmaker), Dan Hart (Director, UW Native Voices Film Program) and one representative each from five of the groups who hosted the Ainu when they came to Washington State in December.

According to the Burke Museum press release:
In an effort to support the revitalization of the indigenous Ainu culture of Hokkaido, Japan, the Burke Museum received a $120,000 grant from the Museums and Communities Collaboration Abroad program last year to coordinate a cultural exchange between the Ainu and Northwest Coast tribal groups, such as the Makah, Squaxin Island, Suquamish, House of Welcome Longhouse, Duwamish, and Tulalip communities. The grant focuses on the shared history of sea and canoe traditions between the Ainu and Native Americans.

The 10-person Ainu delegation visited in December where they met and toured Northwest tribal communities and museums, shared issues, and gained insight and background in US/American Indian law, treaties, and land claims vital for their negotiations with the Japanese National Government.

Says grant PI Deana Dartt-Newton, "We had no idea, really, the extent to which these indigenous peoples have experienced the same histories--their ancestors relocated, enslaved, and made to feel ashamed of their heritage as indigenous peoples. However, the sense of pride and excitement during the exchange was incredible and the empowerment as indigenous peoples coming together overshadowed the grief."
This meeting first international trip sponsored by the Burke Museum The two groups met in an effort to support the cultural revitalization of the Ainu people.

To follow their activities, visit the Burke Museum homepage or their Facebook Group- Ainu and Pacific Northwest Culture Exchange.

Petition to Restore the Rights of the indigenous Ainu People

The Asahikawa Council, the Ainu Ramat Organization, and other individuals and organizations* have drafted a petition calling on the Japanese government to realize the indigenous rights of the Ainu people. The content of the petition can be found below. In order to add your name to the petition, email your name, address, and organization that you represent(if applicable) to ramatglobal@gmail.com.

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After 25 years of tireless struggle by the world's indigenous peoples, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on the 13th of September, 2007. This declaration concludes that the theft by dominant nations of the indigenous peoples' inherent rights, including rights to land, territory and resources, and the implementation of internal colonization and execution of assimilation policies are historical injustices.

It also ensures the right to self-determination, guaranteeing political freedom as a bare-minimum right for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world" and calls for the revitalization of deprived rights, such as the rights to land, resources, and compensation, the rights to fully enjoy and pass on indigenous cultures, and the right to education. These rights are by no means newly created, but have been firmly established as guaranteed to all people by international law. Indigenous peoples have been blatantly denied of these rights and robbed of the ability to enjoy them.

With this declaration as a backdrop, both houses of the Japanese parliament adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Ainu as an indigenous people of Japan on June 6th, 2008. In the following month, the government established the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy and on July 29th, 2009, the panel's final report, summarizing "new philosophies on Ainu policy-making and concrete suggestions for measures to be taken, was submitted to the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Ainu people had been aspiring for governmental and parliamentary recognition as an indigenous people for generations and thus its realization inspired the souls of the Ainu Utari (fellow Ainu people)..

However, it has become increasingly clear that despite the Japanese government's claims that the Ainu are recognized as indigenous people, they are still not recognized as indigenous people with rights, in the UNDRIP sense. This governmental attitude is strongly reflected in the expert report which posits that the Ainu (subject people) and Japanese (dominant people) were equal citizens under the law, thereby ignoring the historical responsibility of the modern Japanese Imperial State for forcibly robbing the Ainu of Ainu Mosir (the land where Ainu live) as if it were ownerless, making over 20% of Ainu Mosir (Hokkaido) the emperor's land while implementing policies of colonization and assimilation.

This internal colonization of Ainu Mosir within Japanese borders and subsequent imperial assimilation policy set the precedent for the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands, the colonization of Taiwan and Korea as well as the invasion of China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy's final report does not utter a word about the suffering and sacrifice of the Ainu people due to the governmental policy to annihilate and assimilate them into Japanese people. The report also neglects to discuss the responsibility of the emperor and Japanese government as perpetrators in usurping Ainu independence and dismantling their entire social, economic and political system. Moreover, there is no mention of the indignities that the Ainu suffered such as being coerced into using Japanese, and being forced to change their names and receive imperial assimilatory education, as well as having their traditional lifestyle and indigenous customs and practices prohibited. Furthermore, the report implies that the Ainu people are responsible for being robbed of their land, language and culture while also illegitimately insinuating that the lack of the concept of land-ownership or a written language made them ill-fit for modernization.

With this lack of awareness about history as a premise, it is difficult to expect the government to issue an apology or provide compensation, let alone facilitate the lawful return of indigenous rights or self-determination rights. While the report does mention UNDRIP, it also denies the rights of the indigenous Ainu people and only suggests insignificant measures, such as providing cultural education and social welfare, which only serve to cover-up the poverty and cultural loss of the Ainu people. Now the government is forcing Ainu people to be satisfied with these trivial measures and give up on their rights as indigenous people.

The Japanese government has never expressed redress for their 140 year long colonization and assimilation policy against Ainu people. As late as 1991 the government officially announced in their report concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Japan is a homogenous country and maintained the 1899 Hokkaido Former Aboriginal Protection Act until 1997. Even now within Japanese society, there remains a strongly-rooted sense of disdain towards Ainu people as a dying race and a belief that Japan is a homogenous nation. The Ainu Culture Promotion Law enacted in 1997 ignores the historical discrimination against Ainu people and only focuses on the promotion of culture, neglecting to assure Ainu rights.

The Ainu people have been fighting against assimilation within this paradigm, by persistently raising their voices for the eradication of discrimination and the restoration of their rights, and by respecting traditional culture and indigenous ways of knowing that have been passed on from their ancestors who sacrificed so much. Now we would like to maintain solidarity with their voices, not to seek protection or a blessing from the government, but rather, to demand the recognition of the modern Japanese Imperial State's historical responsibility and the restoration of the indigenous and self-determination rights as stipulated in UNDRIP. Upon agreement of the statement above, we would also like to urge the Japanese government to engage in charanke (dialogue) on equal footing with representatives from all Ainu organizations and conduct a review of Ainu policies. By receiving your signature on this petition, we sincerely hope that in solidarity with you, we can encourage the government to move in the right direction.

This petition does not only seek to rectify the injustices of the Japanese government but to transform the ideas of Japanese people and the ideas within Japanese society about human rights, democracy and sense of history. It is paramount that we create a future where we can have an equal and trusting relationship with all of our neighbors, including indigenous peoples. We sincerely ask for your cooperation.

The following two items are the content of the petition. We would like to make the first collection of signatures by the end of January.

1. We urge you to recognize the historical responsibility of the modern Japanese Imperial state in forcibly robbing the Ainu's inherent rights to land, resources and territory, and to implement the restoration of indigenous rights and self-determination rights as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted in 2007).

2. Upon agreement of the statement above, we urge you to engage in charanke (dialogue) on equal footing with representatives from all Ainu organizations and conduct a review of Ainu policies.

*Onnagumi Inochi, Kim Shijong (Poet), Sataka Makoto (Weekly Friday Magazine Editorial Board), Shin Sugok (Human Resources Development Consultant), Tanaka Yuko (Weekly Friday Magazine Editorial Board), Pak Kyongnam (Essayist), Hariu Ichiro (Maruki Gallery Director), Fujisaki Ryozo (National Trade Union Council President), and Maruyama Mikiko (Onnagumi Inochi)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Learn more about the indigenous Ainu of Japan (English online resources)

Music

Farside Music Interview of Oki (August 3, 2005)
http://www.farsidemusic.com/acatalog/Far_Side_Radio.html

Oki Dub Band Official Website
http://www.tonkori.com/

Art

"The Ainu Art Project Meets Kyoto"
http://tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/2009/12/ainu-art-project-meets-kyoto-art.html

"AINU REBELS-RERA CISE-Tokyo Ainu Restaurant-KILA OKI fusion- UMEKO ANDO" http://www.kyotojournal.org/10,000things/117.html

Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People [Online Exhibition]
http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/ainu/


Film

"Ainu Okay An Wa (The Indigenous Ainu are Here)!: "Tokyo Ainu", a film" http://www.kyotojournal.org/10,000things/231.html

Language


"Ainu: Gengo/Bunka no Fukkō to Rekishi no Yokuatsu' (Ainu: Promotion of Language/Culture and Suppression of History)"
By Osamu Okuda
United Nations Global Seminar 2008
http://www.unu.edu/gs/files/2008/hk/HK08_Okuda_abstractJP.pdf

"Nao Somo Kuokere (The Work is Unfinshed): Considering the Ainu Language" http://tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/2009/07/nao-somo-kuokerethe-work-is-unfinished.html

Project U-E Peker: Introducing the Ainu oral tradition to the English-speaking world, available: http://projectuepeker.blogspot.com/

"The Song the Owl God Himself Sang 'Silver Droplets Fall Fall All Around' An Ainu Tale."
By Chiri Yukie and Seldon Kyoko (2009)
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 4-5-09
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Chiri-Yukie/3026

Unofficial Summary of the Ainu Expert Meeting on the Status of Ainu Language http://liralen42.xanga.com/708380755/unofficial-summary-of-ainu-expert-meeting-on-the-status-of-the-ainu-language/

Organizations and DocumentsThe Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture
http://www.frpac.or.jp/eng/index.html

Indigenous Peoples' Summit in Ainu Mosir 2008 Declaration
http://www.dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/lia_tarachansky/1925

Shiraoi: Living the Ainu Tradition
http://www.town.shiraoi.hokkaido.jp/ainu-tradition/index.html

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) (A/RES/61/295) http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/history.html

Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Japan (2008) (A/HRC/8/44), conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/139/96/PDF/G0813996.pdf?OpenElement

Japanese Policy, Grassroots Activism, and Indigenous Rights

"Divided Lives: The story of Indigenous People and the Pacific War"
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki
The Asia-Pacific Magazine
http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/APM/TXT/morris-s-01-96.html

"Indigenous at last! Ainu Grassroots Organizing and the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir"
By ann-elise lewallen
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 48-6-08
http://www.japanfocus.org/-ann_elise-lewallen/2971

"New Japanese Governmental Ainu Policy Promotion Panel to include 5 Ainu members"
http://tenthousandthingsfromkyoto.blogspot.com/2009/12/new-japanese-governmental-ainu-policy.html

"On the Dawn of a New National Ainu Policy: the “‘Ainu’ as a Situation” Today"
By Mark Winchester (2009)
The Asia-Pacific Journal, 41-3-09
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Mark-Winchester/3234

"Report on the Initiatives in the Promotion of the UNDRIP in Asia and Good Practices in the Exercise of Indigenous Peoples Rights"
By The Asia Indigenous People Pact
http://www.aippnet.org///content/view/166/21/

"Yūshikishakondankai kara no Tōshin (Ainu Panel Experts Special Report)"
By The World Indigenous Peoples Network Ainu (2009)
www.win-ainu.com/Ainu%20Panel%20Experts%20Special%20Report%20Points.pdf

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shodo Harada Roshi: Rooting out the Egoistic Sources of Societal Dysfunction & Tapping into Liberated, Universal Mind

Martin Frid has posted an illuminating clip at Kurashi: "Zen: Shodo Harada Roshi in America" in which the Zen Buddhist master tells us that the outer problems of the world mirror the toxicity of the individual minds that make up our world's societies.

Martin said that the roshi "has a website in English, mostly translated by Priscilla Storandt, an American Zen Buddhist priest who also studied with Mumon roshi, the teacher of Harada. Mumon roshi was an interesting character and led Hanazono University for a while in Kyoto, as well as being head abbot at Myoshinji, and other temples too before that. In addition he also travelled in East Asia, meeting Buddhists and people from all faiths helping to heal wounds from the Japanese Imperial era and Pacific War atrocities."

In his lecture, Shodo Harada concludes that the only way out is for individuals to purify themselves of their narrow egos and tap into a liberated mindset that sees the interconnections between every person with each other, our planet, and the universe:
This is something that everyone understands very easily. Everyone is capable of sensing the situation in the world today. There's no one who cannot sense that very deep despair that everyone feels.

But it's not a question of only fixing what is external. It's a question of also going within and taking care of the egoistic source of these external problems.

Today there are a lot of things that are being taken care of on the outside. There's a lot of healthy food being eaten. There's a lot of care to preserve our health. There's beginning to be care to preserve our planet. People are coming to consciousness that is needed to address these external social problems.

And that's good. But even if those go to greater lengths that we're going to now, if we don't take care of the problems that's within ourselves, it's not going to work. No matter how much external work is done, if what's happening inside is not being repaired, it's not going to help. It's not going to help the inner problem. The inner problem is something each person has to do for themselves...

...When we feel we are too self-aware and self-conscious and living on our own small energy instead of a greater, larger picture, we don't know what to do about that...

...And for that reason, we have za-zen, we have this practice that is designed to dig in and dig out that ego, to find that place where it isn't happening, to get rid of that filter, to cut away, shave away, dig into the deepest possible roots and find that place where the water of clear mind is flowing freely...and return to that base where that huge, clear, liberated mind comes from...

...And when we do that, when we return to this place where we can feel our center free from having to be told what to do by that ego, free from having to be controlled by that ego, then we can take that mind back out into our life, into the outside world and we can start dealing with the external problems from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

And that's the only way we are really going to be able to get rid of this egoistic heaviness in the world...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! Happy New Year!


Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! 


Another year is gone - 

A travel hat on my head,
Straw sandals on my feet.

- Basho (translated by Makoto Ueda)