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Friday, July 30, 2010

NHK: Court orders compensation for victims of Futenma base noise pollution; states Japan lacks law limiting US military activity

From NHK yesterday: "Court orders compensation for US base noise".
A high court in Japan has ordered the government to pay about 4.2 million dollars in damages to residents for being exposed to noise from a nearby US air base.

The amount is 2.5 times that ordered by a lower court.

About 400 people living near the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City in the southern prefecture of Okinawa had demanded a ban on night-time flights and compensation.

Both the residents and the state had appealed against a lower court ruling that ordered the state to compensate all the plaintiffs but did not grant a ban on flights.

On Thursday, the presiding judge at the Fukuoka High Court's branch in Okinawa ruled that the residents have suffered mental pain from the noise that has disturbed their sleep, conversation and TV watching.

The judge added that the damage is too severe for the residents to endure, and that low-frequency noise made by helicopters and propeller planes is making the damage even worse.

He ordered an increase in compensation, citing the government's failure to take radical measures against noise, even though the residents' suffering has increased since a US Marine helicopter crashed inside a nearby university campus 6 years ago. He added that a limitation on flights after 10 PM, based on an anti-noise agreement, has not been observed.

But he upheld the lower court ruling that dismissed the plaintiffs' claim for a suspension of night-time flights, saying that Japan has no law that can limit the activities of US forces.

In similar noise pollution lawsuits filed across the country, Japan's courts have ordered state compensation but not bans on flights from US and Japan's Self-Defense Forces bases.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tokyo event contemplates Guam-Okinawa anti-base struggles and connections

This past Sunday, on a scorching hot afternoon when many Tokyoites had escaped to the nearest beaches, twenty or so people gathered in Café Otokura, a small, artsy basement space in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood to learn more about how U.S. militarism is impacting another corner of our earth.

Peaceful New Earth Celebration Part II, the follow-up to the event of the same name held last month in Yoyogi Park, was organized by Peace Not War Japan and the Neo Ryukyu Arc Network in order to bring attention to historical anti-base struggles in Guam and other Mariana Islands—also known as U.S. colonies—and to make connections between peace movements.

The event began with a screening of The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands, a documentary film directed by Vanessa Warheit. The film introduces viewers to the complex relationship between local residents and military history in the region, with a focus on the continuing harsh impact of U.S. militarism and colonization on the dwindling indigenous Chamoru population.

The film spotlights the personal stories of several individuals, including Hope Cristobal—a Chamoru woman who goes from beauty pageant winner to local politician to powerful advocate at the United Nations speaking out about her peoples’ continuing struggles in the face of relentless militarism.

Through the film, it becomes clear that the United States—while claiming to stand on behalf of liberty and democracy—is betraying these very same ideals by forcing unwanted military expansion on peoples who are given no voice regarding what happens on their islands.

The screening was followed by a presentation from Hibiki Yamaguchi, a researcher with the Peoples Plan Study Group who has conducted related historical research on Guam. “The United States military is viewed gratefully by much of the population as liberators from Japanese occupation, but in fact, locals who had been forced by Japanese occupiers into concentration camps ended up surviving the later carpet-bombing of huge sections of the island by the U.S. military,” he explained. “While I am certainly not justifying the actions of the Japanese decision makers at the time, it is still important to understand the complexity of this history on the island.”


Hibiki Yamaguchi explaining the historical situation on Guam

Yamaguchi’s talk was followed by a short discussion from Peace Not War Japan organizers, who introduced the powerful work of Chamoru human rights lawyer and activist Julian Aguon, and explained the ongoing citizen movement to protect the historically sacred Chamoru site of Pagat from being turned into a U.S. military firing range.

Several audience members spoke up next, expressing a series of thoughtful questions and comments regarding the film and presentations.

“I identified strongly with Hope Cristobal’s comment during the film that she just could not comprehend why everything on Guam was so closely connected to the military, as seen for example in the highly militarized Independence Day parades that take place on the island,” said one woman. Other audience members expressed surprised dismay at having learned through the film that peoples in the Marianas do not enjoy the full rights of U.S. citizens.

“There are not enough opportunities to think intersectionally about the legacy of Japanese imperialism and the institutionalized violence of USA imperialism, especially in places like Guam and Saipan,” commented Megumiellen Kanada, another attendee who was visiting Tokyo from Philadelphia, USA. “This event confirmed that ideas and actions resisting oppression cross all borders, and that there are good people everywhere I go. I am grateful for this new knowledge, and I am now trying to figure out ways to continue these conversations and make connections between peace movements.”


Event attendees at "Insular Empire" screening


Following the Q and A session, roots reggae singer Takeru—an artist appearing regularly at Peace Not War Japan festivals-- performed a heartfelt set of songs touching upon various aspects of the general theme regardingg the struggle to overcome opression.


Takeru


Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen (a one-man-band featuring Atsushi Sakata) was up next, surprising the audience by appearing barefoot in the back of the darkened room—and staying there for nearly the entire duration of his electrifying performance.

“If we reach down to the deepest root of things, we can understand that the act of war is in fact the cycle of people attempting to protect themselves from danger,” he commented between songs. “We must realize that we are all human, and begin relating with each other in positive and healthy ways.”


Atsushi Sakata ("Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen")


“I normally don’t speak much during my live shows, largely because I am acutely aware of the limit of spoken words,” he continued. “Music is comprised of vibrations, and good vibrations have the power to create positive outcomes—just as bad vibrations can easily create negative ones. I am aware of this reality as I feel my own connection with my instrument, with the earth, and finally with the universe.”

A short video featuring mesmerizing footage of Sakata’s open-air performances, as well as an interview (in Japanese), may be viewed here.

The event closed with words from Hitomi Akazaki, co-coordinator of the Neo Ryukyu Arc network. “There are many similarities between indigenous movements around the world, including the Chamoru and Okinawan peoples, as we learned during today’s event,” she explained. “Right now in Okinawa, there are activists who are studying the example of Guam as they prepare to make similar presentations to the United Nations regarding their situation. We must continue linking hands between these struggles as we keep our eye on the larger picture.”

A recent piece on Democracy Now!, titled "From Japan to Guam to Hawai’i, Activists Resist Expansion of US Military Presence in the Pacific,” also gives excellent background on the topic.


Event organizers


Text: Kimberly Hughes
Photos: Sheila Souza

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival explores themes of sexuality, gender, and humanity across globe


The 19th Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival finished its 2010 run last week on the Ocean Day national holiday, following a two-weekend run in two separate metropolitan venues.

Much-loved amongst Tokyo’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, the festival—whose home for over a decade has been the Spiral Hall venue in Tokyo’s upscale, artsy Aoyama district—has added an additional weekend since 2008 at a large, mainstream theater in Shinjuku (adjacent to Tokyo’s well-known gay neighborhood, “Ni-chome”).

Screening a total of 30 films representing nearly 15 countries, and including six discussion/audience Q&A sessions with both domestic and overseas directors, producers and actors, the festival highlighted numerous issues affecting sexual minorities worldwide.

While the festival title reveals that the event focuses on issues of sexuality moreso than those of gender identity, two Swedish documentaries—Regretters and I’m Just Anneke—both explore gender identity-related issues from progressive viewpoints not dealt with in previous films. Following the screenings, a discussion was held between Regretters director Marcus Lindeen and Dr. Mia Nakamura, a sexologist and cultural researcher with the Tokyo University of the Arts. The video below features an excerpt from the discussion (English interpretation included), and the full series of videos may be seen on the “Diary of an Ordinary Gay Guy” blog here. A 2007 Japan Times article on gender identity issues in Japan also features interviews with several individuals, including Dr. Nakamura.

Also on offer was Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, a documentary from New Zealand that busted the charts in its home country before going on to win awards around the world in both gay and mainstream festivals. The film follows the lives of twin entertainers Jools and Lynda Topp, who are cultural icons in their homeland—as well as both out lesbians. Detailing their many identities, from rugged farm kids to performers of numerous hilarious characters to passionate activists for social causes including nuclear disarmament, Maori land rights, and LGBT equality, this brilliantly put-together documentary left me laughing out loud—as well as a full package of tissues lighter.

Following the screening, director Leanne Pooley explained to the audience that the twins’ wholesome, down-home image—combined with their simultaneous openness about their sexuality—has helped to play an important role in New Zealand’s largely accepting attitude toward LGBT individuals. “Sometimes, Jools and Lynda will go out drinking with local farmers—supposedly the most traditional, conservative people in society—while in character as a pair of chain-smoking, straight-talking fellows known as Ken and Ken,” Pooley commented. “It’s fascinating that here are these two out lesbians breaking through these social barriers, which may be credited to their humorous, completely down-to-earth approach.”

The festival’s closing feature was Contracorriente ("Undertow"), set in a gorgeous Peruvian coastal fishing village. The film tells the story of local resident Miguel’s secret affair with Santiago, a painter from the city who is mistrusted by the villagers due to his different ways. When Santiago drowns in an accident and returns in the form of a spirit visible only to his lover, Miguel must deal with his own long-repressed feelings—while also struggling to hold on to his family and his place in society when shocked community members discover the truth about the affair.

The film deals with issues of love, loss and identity in a profoundly spiritual way, and had an obviously strong impact on festival viewers. “The movie focused on the social death that occurs when people are ostracized because of their sexuality,” commented Tom Pranalia, who is Japanese and also speaks fluent Spanish after having lived in Paraguay. “At the same time, the film also represents hope in that Miguel was finally able to deal with his feelings and gain acceptance in a way that made sense in his social context.”

The festival was endorsed by the Embassy of Sweden in Japan and the Instituto Cervantes Tokio, and also received sponsorship from several organizations. One was Amnesty International, which encouraged festival-goers to sign a petition calling for the Japanese government to extend equal rights to sexual minorities.

“The Amnesty Japan Gender Team works to collect information about violence and discrimination against women and sexual minorities,” explained Alumi Senoo, a volunteer with the team who helped run the organization’s booth in the Spiral Hall lobby. “Our petition is demanding specific remedies from the Japanese governement in conjunction with paragraph 29 of the 2008 United Nations International covenant on civil and political rights, which calls for a wide array of LGBT rights that are presently lacking in areas such as housing, employment, and health care.”


Above: Kana, an Amnesty International volunteer, holding the organization's LGBT rights petition


Right: Amnesty booth volunteers Naomi (left) and Alumi Senoo

“Speaking on a personal level, I would eventually love to begin an Amnesty campaign focused on domestic partnership or marriage policy,” Senoo continued. “It is impossible to end discrimination simply by creating new laws if there is no accompanying social awareness, however, which is one reason why we began with this initial campaign to create awareness about the existing problems.”

Time Out Tokyo ran a recent interview with director Hideki Miyazawa detailing the festival's history, and articles may also be read about the 2008 festival in Fridae: Empowering Gay Asia, and about the 2009 festival in Curve magazine. An interview with Yun Suh, director of the award-winning documentary City of Borders, which screened at the TILGFF last year and looks intimately at the lives of Palestinian and Jewish LGBT individuals creating community against all odds in Jerusalem, may be read here.

The festival promises even more excitement next year for its 20th anniversary...more details forthcoming on the official website!


Festival director Hideki Miyazawa and emcee Rachel d'Amour


--Kimberly Hughes

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Linda Hoaglund's new documentary, ANPO: Art X War, invited to Toronto Int. Film Festival

                     Hundreds of thousands of anti-ANPO protesters surrounding the Diet Building in 1960 
(Image: JapanFocus.org)

Linda Hoaglund's new documentary ANPO has been invited to the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. The world premiere will be in Toronto on September 12th.

Hoaglund about the latest: "We have a new 2 minute trailer up at our website and our FB page is up."

More about ANPO:
ANPO: Art X War depicts resistance to U.S. military bases in Japan through an electrifying collage of paintings, photographs and animated, narrative and documentary films by Japan’s foremost contemporary artists. The artwork vividly resurrects a forgotten period of Japan’s history, while highlighting the insidious, enduring effects of “ANPO," Japanese shorthand for the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. The treaty permits the continued presence of 90 U.S. military bases throughout Japan, an onerous presence that has poisoned U.S.-Japanese relations and disrupted Japanese life for decades.

The film’s stunning artwork grabs the viewer from the opening scenes and never lets go. “Japan’s relationship with America has always been complicated,” muses contemporary artist, Aida Makoto, “always vacillating between love and hate…” Close-ups and wide shots of his massive, gorgeous Japanese screen painting from 1996, depicting a squadron of Japanese Zero fighter planes encircling New York, punctuate his rueful commentary.

The film briefly surveys the contemporary impact of the 30 U.S. military bases on Okinawa and effortlessly travels back to 1960, when Japanese citizens from all walks of life came together in a democratic uprising largely forgotten today. These massive protests had been presaged throughout the 1950s in largely peaceful, sometimes violent protests again the U.S. military presence that made a mockery of Japan’s sovereignty and a constitution that forever prohibited Japan from waging war. By 1960 these protests had grown into a nationwide movement as millions of citizens took to the streets to expel American bases from Japanese soil.

The demonstrator’s hopes were soon crushed by Prime Minister Kishi, backed by the C.I.A and aided by an American government worried about losing a key strategic ally during the height of the Cold War. As Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA, ruefully comments, “During the Cold War, the U.S. would work with any son of a bitch, as long as he was anti-Communist.” But the movement endured to resurface in protests against the Vietnam War. It has also left an indelible mark on the lives of the artists who participated, many of which would rise to international prominence in ensuing decades. ANPO tells these artists’ stories through their art, most of which has been hidden from public view in museum vaults, for over half a century.

ANPO: Art X War breathes new life into other art forms from this contentious period of Japanese history. Footage shot by an ad hoc coalition of filmmakers, including Oshima, vividly telegraphs the passion and commitment protestors brought to the fight against renewing the security treaty in 1960. Photographs from the personal archive of Magnum photographer, Hamaya Hiroshi, capture the ferocity and violence with which the Japanese government clamped down. The viewer is transported back in time and viscerally experiences the hopes and fears of millions of students, housewives, shopkeepers, and laborers, terrified of getting sucked back into war, who thronged the streets during those tumultuous months to stand up for democracy and demand an end to the U.S. military presence.

Instead of conventional narration, the film’s iconic artwork acts as a mesmerizing guide, escorting us back and forth through history to explore the origins of the 1960 protests and the effects of the government response that reverberate in Japanese society to this day. As the film progresses, the artwork gives voice to the humiliating experiences of those living in the shadow of the crime, environmental degradation and noise pollution that inevitably shadow U.S. military bases and provocative reveals how those experiences sparked a collective rage, spawning a nationwide movement 50 years ago.

The artwork finally brings us into the present and demonstrates how the spirit of 1960 lives on today. Closing scenes from the film show how contemporary artists have drawn on the rich work of their predecessors to fashion their own creative resistance to the continued American presence. There are signs that Japan’s citizens are following suit. Japan’s Prime Minister was recently forced to resign after failing to keep a promise to the Okinawan people to relocate a dangerous U.S. military base off the island. And for the first time in five decades, the Japanese are openly beginning to question the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The closing scenes of the film suggest that Japan’s democratic spirit remains alive and well, waiting just below the surface of everyday life for the right combination of individuals and circumstances to resurrect long-buried resentments and passions.

In the words of celebrated Japanese film director, Kore-eda Hirokazu, ANPO: Art X War is “a priceless record of how 50 years ago, Japanese artists grappled with politics and the U.S. military presence in Japan, spinning their trauma into art. The film is an unexpected boon, arriving as it does when the issue of U.S. military bases in Japan has become controversial yet again”

ANPO: Art X War is directed and produced by Linda Hoaglund, an American born and educated in Japanese public schools and completely fluent in Japanese. The film evolved out of her bilingual and bicultural experiences and extensive background subtitling Japan’s most celebrated films, from Kurosawa Akira to Miyazaki Hayao and Kurosawa Kiyoshi.

Yamazaki Yutaka, one of Japan’s most accomplished cinematographers, shot the film in high-definition. Yamazaki has filmed hundreds of documentaries as well as the award-winning films of Kore-eda Hirokazu. He also filmed the 1960 ANPO protests as a film student.

Also playing a key advisory role is Dr. John Dower, Professor Emeritus at MIT and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Embracing Defeat, the definitive study of the U.S. occupation of Japan.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Okinawan Prayer: "Do not destroy the sea"


When the Okinawa War was ended in 1945,
mountains as well as villages were burned
and pigs, cows and horses were burned.
Everything on the land
was completely burned out.
Anything which we could eat was
a blessed gift from the sea.
Repay Mother Nature for her favor.
Do not destroy the sea.


(By Uminchu (fisherman in Okinawan language) Yoshikatsu Yamashiro From the Okinawan Elders of Save Life Society, for protection of all lives and livelihoods, Henoko, Okinawa, Japan)

Kyodo: "DPJ election defeat, Okinawa poll" stalls proposed new U.S. military base in Henoko

Kyodo reports snags ahead for the planned new, upgraded U.S. military base in Okinawa in"DPJ election defeat, Okinawa poll may stall Futenma plan: Senate panel," published yesterday:
A Senate panel has speculated that the relocation of a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa could be delayed beyond its planned 2014 deadline due partly to the crushing defeat of the governing Democratic Party of Japan in the national election earlier this month.

According to the report drawn up by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which became available Wednesday to Kyodo News, a gubernatorial election in the prefecture scheduled for November could also stall the base relocation.

The report said the DPJ's setback in the July 11 House of Councillors election ''could weaken its ability to govern, and the Okinawa gubernatorial election scheduled for November could further cloud the future of the realignment process.''

The transfer of some 8,000 U.S. Marine troops from Okinawa to Guam is part of a package deal between Japan and the United States which also includes the realignment of U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station.

The report noted that the Okinawa governor must sign a landfill agreement to proceed with the construction of a replacement facility on reclaimed land on the coast of the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab in the Henoko district in Nago.

The Pentagon views the signing of the landfill agreement, which it considers tangible progress toward the completion of the Futenma replacement facility, '' as the linchpin for entire plan,'' the report said.

However, the Senate panel report said that while the landfill permit was originally expected to be issued in August, the permit ''will likely be delayed until after the gubernatorial election in November, and could be delayed into 2011.''

On the 2014 deadline, the report said, ''Given the delay in initiating the realignment, that deadline will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet.''

The report also touched on the severe political situation that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces over the base issue.

''The newly appointed prime minister has faced political protest from the residents and elected officials in Okinawa for acknowledging that the current agreement must go forward,'' it said.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shisaku: "Is there an August surprise regarding the Futenma-to-Henoko Deal?"

Today's post from the Shisaku political blog written by Tokyo resident Michael Cucek is going viral by email:
On July 2, Sato Masaru, the extremely controversial former research analyst at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a brief and rather annoyed opinion article in The Tokyo Shimbun. Sato, who is of Okinawan extraction, was complaining about the agreement that Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Kitazawa Yoshimi signed in Washington on May 28 reaffirming the promise to move the U.S. Marines elements currently based at MCAS Futenma to a so-called Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to be built offshore of Camp Schwab in Henoko, Okinawa.

What annoyed Sato was not the agreement. It was the translation.

Or lack of one, to be precise.

Sato begins his article with a recollection of his time in the Japanese Embassy in Moscow. Whenever bilateral agreements were being worked on, they were worked on in both Japanese and Russian simultaneously by the experts working for both sides. Every line, every word in each the text of an agreement in one language was checked aggressively against its counterpart in the other language, that nothing of possible detriment to Japan's interests sneak in due to a misused or ambiguous Russian term or construction. Both the Japanese and the Russian sides negotiated over every ambiguity, to nail down what every word of the bilateral agreement meant. In the end, the product would be two texts, one in each language, of equal validity, with Japan able to walk away with the confidence that in the case of any controversy, the Japanese side could point to the Japanese text as the definitive text.

To this, Sato contrasts the May 28 joint statement on the Japan Security Consultative Committee, where the government of Hatoyama Yukio acceded to the United States insistence that a Futenma replacement facility be built at Camp Schwab. Sato notes that contrary to the practices followed during his time in Moscow, the Japanese version of the text is not official. It is merely a "provisional translation" (kariyaku) of the English official text.

For Sato the lack of an equally valid official Japanese translation is a travesty -- a dereliction of duty by Japan's diplomatic corps...
Read the rest of the post here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peaceful New Earth Celebration Part II: Connecting Peace Movements in Okinawa, Guam, Japan, and Beyond

Following the successful and inspiring Peaceful New Earth Celebration event held in Yoyogi Park last month, the Neo Ryukyu Arc Network is now turning its attention to building bridges with peace movements elsewhere--beginning with an event focused on understanding key issues at stake.

Don't miss this opportunity to see a screening of the documentary film “The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands," followed by an in-depth discussion session and two fantastic live music acts!

Sunday, July 25th
5-9PM (doors open at 4PM)
Café Otokura in Shimokitazawa
2-26-23 EL・NIU B1F
Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
03-6751-1311

Entry Fee: 2000 yen with advance reservations (mail to info@pnwj.org)
or 2500 yen at the door (drinks not included)

“The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands”
Directed by Vanessa Warheit

One possible solution to the recent Futenma air base problem has been a stated proposal to move the base out of Okinawa and onto the island of Guam. A little-known reality, however, is that some 10,000 U.S. troops and base facilities had already been planned for relocation to Guam long before the recent discussion ever surfaced. In any case, a question that must be asked is what sort of impact this plan would have on the local people and environment.

“The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands” offers an intimate glimpse into the Mariana Islands (which include Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota)—also known as the United States’ own domestic colonies.

While officially part of America, residents of these islands are unable to vote in
U.S. presidential elections, and have not been consulted in any way with regard to U.S. military expansion in the region. The result has been increasing environmental degradation, and a steady loss of rights on the part of local indigenous peoples. With people largely viewing the U.S. military as historical liberators from Japanese occupation forces during WWII, moreover, it becomes clear that the situation here is anything but simple.

From the director:

With so much at stake for the islands, The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands comes at a critical time. To put pressure on the US to bring true democracy to the Marianas, it is imperative that the average American, and the rest of the global community, understand what America is doing there.

My challenge has been to tell the complicated story of the Marianas – involving fifteen islands, five centuries of colonial rule, four empires, and two indigenous cultures – while also conveying the pathos of their current, ongoing relationship with America on a personal level. I decided that, in order to make a mainland audience really feel for the islands, the film had to focus on a few characters: to get inside their heads, to understand their internal conflicts and the external circumstances that have shaped them and their islands.

Read the rest here.

Following the screening, a talk will be given by Yamaguchi Hibiki, a researcher with in-depth insight regarding the situation of the U.S. military on Guam.

Speaker Profile: Yamaguchi Hibiki

Born in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi is a researcher with the Peoples’ Plan Research Center who focuses on the social impact of militarization. He has studied U.S. military bases in Japan, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, defense spending, nuclear weapons, and many other related issues. Most recently, his research has focused on the issue of the proposed military relocation from Okinawa to Guam.

Artist Profiles:

Takeru


Reggae singer who loves everything associated with travel, nature, peace and love. Performs as both a solo artist and as the lead vocalist for the roots reggae band Anbassa. Based in Tokyo, but performs around the country. Notable recent performances include the Spring Love Harukaze festival in Yoyogi Park in April 2010.

Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen

Performer Sakata Jun combines traditional shamisen (three-stringed instrument)with contemporary folk music and his own personal stylistic touches. Continually playing with the border between self and other, he is a seasoned street artist who may be found busking all around the metropolis. He also performs dub-style electronic shamisen in various venues around Tokyo, creating a fascinating organic effect that lends an altogether different feel from his normal unplugged vibe.

Event organizer: Neo Ryukyu Arc Network

Supporting organization: Peace Not War Japan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leanne Ogasawara: "The Road to Oxiana"

Leanne Ogasawara's "The Road to Oxiana" (featured in Kyoto Journal's "Silk Roads: Samarkand to Nara" issue, which she guest-edited) explores Silk Roads-era battles between empires that set the stage for conflicts over territory and resources that continue to reverberate in Central Asia today:
The almond groves of Samarqand,
Bokhara, where red lilies blow.
And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
The grave white-turbaned merchants go


— Oscar Wilde
1000 years before the infamous "Great Game," which was the name given to the intense rivalry that existed at the turn of the century between Czarist Russia and Victorian England for supremacy in Central Asia, there was another "Great Game." This older rivalry occurred between the Chinese, the Arabs, the Tibetans, and Turkish peoples.

And the region they were fighting for, you ask? Well, it was the same old stretch of land-- a stretch of land that has somehow remained right smack in the middle of everything for 1000 years.

To the East was China, and such was China's greatness under the Tang dynasty that none save the Arabs to the West were said to rival her. Rome had long been overrun, and for all intents and purposes Byzantium was in a state of great decline. The Arabs-- in what was a stunning rise to power-- after toppling the Persian Sassanian dynasty in 637, had next turned their attention to those lands to the East.

Despite the astonishing speed at which the countries of the Middle East came under the power of the Arabs and Islam, the nations of Central Asia, which had long been part of the Persian sphere of influence, proved to be a much tougher nut to crack. As the Arabs made increasing encroachments into areas long considered by the Chinese as being part of their sphere of influence (particularly that of Transoxiana) the Chinese and Arabs saw increased fighting occur along China's Western borders.

The Chinese, however, also had the Tibetan Empire (which had reached its zenith during Tang times) to the southwest and various nomadic peoples (such as the Turkish Uighurs and Mongols) with their shifting alliances and shifting moods to the north to contend with as well. Perhaps what is most surprising, as Susan Whitfield points our in her fascinating book, Life Along the Silk Road, is that these empires and super-powers clashed in places that were not only thousands of miles from their home bases, but were in some of the most remote spots on earth. The battles almost exclusively occurred on frozen mountain terrain or in desolate and burning deserts.
Read the rest of the essay here and visit Leanne's beautiful blog, Tang Dynasty Times, which explores fascinating (and usually much more peaceful and collaborative) exchanges over the Silk Roads in lyrical detail.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beyond History as Antagonism—"Silk Roads: Samarkand to Nara"

Some political scientists and writers—seeking to legitimate preemptive permanent war—have propagated an image of "clashing civilizations" as the dominant theme of history.  This perspective overlooks the significance peaceful trading, cooperation, intercultural merging in the ongoing co-creation of our shared history. Although territorial conflicts betweeen empires as well as more mundane forms of violence took place during this period, the Silk Roads exemplifes an elevated period of global civilization in which peaceful trading and collaborative exchanges predominated.

Kyoto Journal's latest issue, "Silk Roads: Samarkand to Nara," revisits this time period when the Silk Roads connected the myriad, interrelated cultures of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and all of Asia.

"10,000 Miles Away: Chang’an and Nara” introduces the issue by challenging British Poet Rudyard Kipling’s assumption that never the "East" and "West” shall meet:
Instead, the very opposite has been happening ever since humans moved out of Africa and into Eurasian crossroads. Groups did not just split off, but continued to meet again and again throughout history, re-merging their cultures every time around.
Contributor Eiji Hattori's essay, "Civilizations Never Clash. Ignorance Does Clash," the moral center of the issue, refutes the view of world history as antagonism, and eloquently sets forth an alternative paradigm of the history of collaborative civilization:
If we look at human history, we can see that “civilizations have consistently encountered one another, and have grown and developed through those encounters”. That is what “dialogue between civilizations” means. Dialogue, in fact, indicates cross-fertilization, not negotiation.
Hattori also challenges the idea that "civilization" was created by the "West."
The illusion that Western civilization is the one and only civilization has been shared not only by people of Europe and the United States, but also by non-Westerners until quite recently. Why? It is because textbooks written by colonial powers during the colonial period spread around the world. The singular view of “civilization” was fed to children through “education”.
Guest editor Leanne Ogasawara's Tang Dynasty Times, from which four contributions were sourced, is linked here; four articles are available online at the KJ site:
 "Of Bonds, 'the Word' and Trade: There are no straight lines through mountains" by Jeff Fuchs:

“There are no straight lines through the mountains.” This ‘truth’ rumbles out of Lobsang’s mouth, a mouth that seems as unyielding and direct as the words that pass through it. I have heard these words before from ancient traders who still remember a time when mule and camel caravans wound their way to and from the great market towns of Asia and the Middle East...
"Beauty and Power on China's Silk Road" by Sam Crane:

The tour guide opened the door and we stepped into darkness. It took a moment for us to adjust visually but slowly, slowly the interior of the small cave came into view.

In front of us stood a statue of Buddha, about three meters high, surrounded by swirling painted blues and reds and browns — flanked by two smaller statues of guardians. The light from the open doorway fell on the Buddha and suffused throughout the space...
Into Dasht-e Kavir: Notes From the Great Salt Desert.

Story and photos by Steven Tizzard
:


In Iran it is the year 1388, a new year, the spring, the month of Farvardin. It is the celebration of Norouz, a Zoroastrian festival that has survived, despite being usurped in this land by Islam, its heir; despite being turned outlaw for a time in the most vigorous days of the Revolution. This celebration of the vernal equinox flourishes again, the most important holiday in ancient Persia and modern Iran...
 "A Minute and 100 Meters Down the Road" by David Maney:

(Copyright: David Maney)

Urumqi, Xinjiang, Sept. 3, 2009. The soldier outside the station had one hand on the barrel and the other on the butt of his shotgun. There were two military trucks by the bus stop and two soldiers in the back-right seats of every bus leaving Urumqi station.

Welcome to west China.

I arrived via long-haul train, 40 hours and just under 4,000km in a hard-seat, from Beijing, where rumours were circulating about the extent of the military presence, needle attacks, Uighur and Han street gangs, and the validity of the reports coming out of Xinjiang....
The issue includes an interview with composer Minoru Miki who revived Japan's traditional musical exchanges through his project, the "Orchestra Asia."

Miki explains his impetus:
The Japanese society of the eighth century was extremely internationalized and integrated with the rest of Asia. Foreigners comprised much of the skilled labor force and, like England in the 16th and 17th centuries, there was an active exchange of artists, musicians and statesmen with the mainland. It is one of my dreams to re-create an active musical exchange with the rest of Asia.
Miki, a timeless visionary, has an English-language page at his website.

For a further glimpse of the contents of the issue, visit Kyoto Journal's website.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Historian Masanao Kano: "Tokyo must answer Okinawa's cries of agony"

Many thanks to the Asahi for publishing renowned historian Masanao Kano's "Tokyo must answer Okinawa's cries of agony." Kano, a "people's historian," focuses on the voices of ordinary Okinawans, not those of Washington-Tokyo politicians, in his July 14 analysis of the history of US military bases in Okinawa:
Tokyo and Washington have reached a new agreement on the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture. While the accord is extremely close to the existing plan, there are also signs that the Okinawa problem might move forward, albeit slightly.

Last year's change of government gave hope to the people of Okinawa that they may finally be about to part company with the politics of necessitarianism; in doing so, they inevitably made the U.S. bases problem one that does not concern Okinawa alone, but the entire nation. The movement to reject U.S. military bases started with a sit-in protest in Nago's Henoko district at the close of the last century, and has already reached the stage of no-return.

As a mainlander, while shaken by the events in Okinawa, I feel the situation has given rise to a wide variety of flashpoints that could spark ideological controversy. Why does Okinawa alone have to suffer? The frustration and anger that arose among residents led to cries of "discrimination" and a "rift" with the rest of Japan.

With Okinawa's agony etched in my mind, I can recognize that at least two major questions are being addressed to us.

One is that the core assertion of Okinawans is not "relocation" of U.S. bases but their "removal" and "closure" altogether. The assertion is based on three political viewpoints:

* Their judgment that they do not need the U.S. Marine presence;

* Their refusal to entertain any attempt to strengthen the functions of the bases in the guise of relocation; and

* Their determination that they will no longer accept the status quo of having to make an agonizing choice or settle for second best.

Another reason they argue for the removal and closure of the bases is that they don't want to pass their burdens on to others through relocation of the facilities.

In short, their awareness is changing. They are now hoping to exist without bases, as many mainland people do, instead of continuing to share the sufferings of other base-hosting communities.

In trying to sever the negative chain reaction of shared suffering, they are also trying to fight on behalf of Tokunoshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture as well as Guam and Tinian in the western Pacific Ocean, thereby transcending national borders.

They are concerned that the rights to self-determination of those islanders could be disregarded.

The other point is that the vast majority of Okinawans share the historical view that their island prefecture's primary role for the past 65 years has been to serve as a site for U.S. military bases.

Okinawa reverted to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. But the significance of that date is rapidly fading in their minds.

When the hand-over of sovereignty was decided in the late 1960s, Seizen Nakasone (1907-1995), a teacher who led the Himeyuri student corps, a group of female high school students who served as a nursing unit for the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, heaved a sigh of grief. He said, "For the past 24 years, we have been calling for reversion to Japan. What we achieved is the situation in which we must keep repeating, from square one, the movement to call for a reduction of bases."

Looking back, we realize that is precisely what Okinawa has kept doing, just as Nakasone predicted.

This status aroused anger and grief among Okinawans because they thought that Okinawa had yet to enter the postwar period in a proper sense. At the time of the Battle of Okinawa, Tokyo positioned Okinawa as "a sacrifice stone." U.S. forces occupying the island saw it as "a keystone."

It means that the Japanese government is trying to use Okinawa as a sacrifice stone to host the new base, which is a keystone for security policy. It also ensures that the new base is not built on the mainland.

Okinawa has been forced to bear the excessive burden of hosting bases under the pretext of deterrence in the event of emergencies. This "abnormal" situation has lasted so long that local people are numb to it. In that sense, the rejection of bases is none other than a declaration of their determination to take a new approach to the longstanding issue.

Okinawans have had many years to fine-tune their thoughts on the inequality they face in hosting so many U.S. bases. That is all the more reason they form those questions directly at the mainland.

It behooves us to squarely face another question; that is, whether the mainland has really thought about military emergencies. Rather, have we not taken the Japan-U.S. security alliance for granted and, in the process, become lackadaisical? These questions punch home.

So, how should we answer these questions posed by Okinawa? I believe what the Japanese government must do at this juncture is not to focus on the problem as a domestic issue but hold face-to-face talks with Washington and the U.S. military.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. As a political problem, the movement in Okinawa put before us the question whether the Japan-U.S. security system should be kept as it is. It may be a distant goal to abolish the security alliance.

But at least the government should present a package of three proposals:

* That the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement be revised;

* That sympathy budget allocations for U.S. forces stationed in Japan be scrapped; and

* That the Futenma airfield be closed.

Only when it does, can this year be the start of the process to re-examine the security alliance. I think voicing such thoughts is the least we can do to respond to the cries of agony of Okinawa.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

U.S. congressmen & senator want to cut massive U.S. military spending

This year, the U.S. passed the $13 trillion mark in national debt. To be precise, the amount was $13,190,583,000 at 10:20 PM (EST) on July 14, according to the US Debt Clock.org. Foreign countries, mostly China, hold over $4 trillion of that amount.

Today Michael Lujan Bevacqua of No Rest for the Awake posted an insightful blog, "The conversation people aren't having," questioning the affordability of U.S. massive overseas military expansion plans. An issue on the minds of many people who realize an ever-expanding, costly global military combined with ever-expanding sovereign debt is unsustainable.


Michael cited a recent widely-referenced op-ed, "Why We Must Reduce Military Spending," by Reps. Barney Frank (Democrat, Massachusetts) and Ron Paul (Libertarian, Texas) on the same subject.

Rep. Frank specifically targets the 15,000 Marines still stationed on Okinawa, calling them “a hangover from a war that ended 65 years ago." Rep. Frank asked how 15,000 Marines in Okinawa could possibly deter the over 1 million strong army of North Korea in the extremely unlikely case of a North Korean land invasion in Japan. For another matter, "deterrence" arguments don't make any sense given the fact that most of the Marines stationed there are deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.

Now Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson is joining the call for sustainable military spending.

The Army Times reports the Republican from Texas wants to cut back on all overseas military spending, especially new construction that benefits foreign contractors. Rick Maze's article, "Key Republican Senator attacks money for Guam military buildup" details Hutchinson's examination of costly overseas construction in Guam, Korea, and Europe:
“We are looking at $1 billion in foreign construction that we do not need,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, ranking Republican on the Senate appropriations subcommittee responsible for military construction funding.

Hutchison cited decisions to spend money in Europe, Korea and Guam, and vowed to try to get that money stripped from the construction budget...

At the end of the Cold War, Hutchison said, the U.S. military adopted a basing strategy that favored putting U.S. troops and their families on domestic bases rather than overseas.

Construction projects have been approved by Congress to achieve that goal, she said.

“We have invested more than $14 billion to build housing, training and deployment capabilities at major military installations, and we have proved we can best train and deploy from the United States,” she said.

In the 2011 budget, Hutchison said the Defense Department is asking for “expensive and in some cases duplicative” construction projects that often are more costly than building in the U.S. and create construction jobs overseas rather than at home.”

Read the rest here.
View a video and read the full text of Senator Hutchison's speech at the Texas Insider. Her speech is not simply rhetorical posturing, but instead a comprehensive and clear analysis of whether this military expansion is necessary and effective.

Overseas military bases transfers US taxpayer money to foreign contractors. In the case of Guam, one of the major proposed costs was the construction of temporary housing and additional infrastructure for an influx of thousands foreign workers on the tiny island (half the size of Okinawa, which is the size of Rhode Island).

In most situations, overseas U.S. military bases are unpopular and resented by local populations, who suffer from military noise, environmental pollution and crime, as well as the destruction of beloved historic, cultural, and environmental resources in the construction of the bases. The result: decades of diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and "host" countries and growing widespread anti-Americanism in nations that have historically been U.S. allies.

(May 28 TTT blog: "Can the indebted US & Japan afford more military spending?")

A flurry of recent articles on this topic from a diverse range of perspectives...

Frida Berrigan's "A Way Forward: Reexamining the Pentagon's Spending Habits" at HuffPost

Lawrence P. Farrell's "‘Perfect Storm’ for Defense Is Here, For Real This Time" at National Defense Magazine.

Joe Parko's "WE THE PEOPLE: It’s time to trim our military budget" at the Crossville Chronicle (Tennessee)

Monday, July 12, 2010

LDP incumbent Shimajiri re-elected; wants U.S. Marine Base Futenma out of Okinawa

The Mainichi reports that Okinawans re-elected LDP incumbent Aiko Shimajiri who differs with her party's stance on the U.S. Marine Base Futenma, a war training base, located in the middle of Ginowan City. Responding to her constituents, she wants it removed from Okinawa entirely .

All viable candidates shared MP Shimajiri's call for the removal of the US base:
Throughout the campaign period, however, the Futenma issue failed to serve as a focal issue to swing votes, with all leading candidates opposing the government's agreement with Washington to relocate the airbase to an alternative site within the prefecture. The candidates all called for transferring Futenma functions outside Okinawa or Japan, or the immediate and unconditional dismantling of the facility.

NHK: Opposition leaders say voters have lost confidence in DPJ because of flip-flop on consumption tax & promise to remove US base from Okinawa

NHK July 12 report on Upper House election results:
"Opposition leaders comment on results

The president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Sadakazu Tanigaki, says voters lost confidence in the ruling Democratic Party due to its inconsistency over the consumption tax and the relocation of the US Marines' Futenma air station in Okinawa.

He indicated that the LDP will request an early dissolution of the Lower House for a general election.

Opposition New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi ruled out the possibility of a tie-up with the governing coalition. He said his party wants to represent voters who disagree with the 2 major parties -- the DPJ and the LDP -- and make policy proposals for them.

Opposition Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe said his party's objectives of creating a smaller government and achieving economic growth through regional revitalization are totally different from policies of the DPJ which seeks a larger government and tax increases under bureaucrats' leadership.

Watanabe noted that 3 years ago, the Liberal Democratic Party began to collapse after it lost a majority in the previous Upper House election.

He said now the split within the Democrat Party will become apparent, creating a good chance for realignment of Japanese politics.

Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii said his party will confront the government over a proposed consumption tax increase and the relocation of the Futenma base.

Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima suggested it is unlikely her party will return to the coalition unless the government retracts a Japan-US agreement to construct a new base in Okinawa in place of the Futenma airfield.

The President of the Sunrise Party of Japan, Takeo Hiranuma, says the door is open to collaborate with members of the DPJ and the LDP who share some of his party's political objectives.

The leader of the ruling People's New Party, Shizuka Kamei, said his party will continue to implement what the governing coalition has promised to the people.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yoshio Shimoji: "'Thanks' doesn't allay Okinawans"

Retired University of Okinawa professor Yoshio Shimoji's latest article, "'Thanks' doesn't allay Okinawans" published at The Japan Times:
In Okinawa to attend a memorial service for the war dead on June 23, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized to Okinawans for having to shoulder the burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan. He then offered thanks, saying Okinawa's sacrifice was "contributing to Asia-Pacific security."

The overwhelming majority of us Okinawans oppose the current relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which was agreed to between Tokyo and Washington over our heads. We want the base unconditionally removed from Okinawa. It is so weird for a Japanese politician to thank people who vehemently oppose the 2006 bilateral agreement on Futenma. Can we assume that Kan's apology means that the U.S. bases were mistakenly planted on Okinawa in the first place?

Kan was deputy prime minister under the Hatoyama administration. On the campaign trail of last summer's Lower House election, the slogan blaring from his sound truck was "Get the Futenma base out of the country or at least Okinawa." Kan's reneging on this campaign promise makes him no different from the Liberal Democratic Party's pork-barrel politicians. Naturally, Washington saluted Kan as a down-to-earth, realistic politician.

The last straw came June 24 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill thanking Japan, especially Okinawa, for "continuing to host U.S. forces," and noting that both nations had reconfirmed a commitment to relocate Futenma to Henoko in northern Okinawa, as agreed in 2006. What's this?! Thanking us out loud as if we were doing the United States a favor by willingly hosting the bases, after the bases had been forced on us so violently?

It is reported that a similar bill is being prepared in the U.S. Senate. Do senators also think that such self-righteous gratitude will allay Okinawa's long-held resentment against the U.S. bases? Don't they realize their repeated "thank you" resolutions are like rubbing salt into a wound, time and again?

If U.S. lawmakers want to wax philanthropic, they should stop this nonsense and begin discussing, instead, how the excessive U.S. military footprint on Okinawa can be reduced. Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 99 years as promised, but there is no timeline for the U.S. either to return its bases on Okinawa or to significantly reduce its military presence.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Okinawa's Prefectural Assembly calls for revision of Japan-U.S. agreement to build a new base in Okinawa

From Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre, Okinawa's Prefectural Assembly Calls for Revision of Japan-U.S. Agreement to Build a New Base in Okinawa:
On July 9, Okinawa Prefectural Assembly unanimously (except two who left) adopted a resolution to call for a revision of the joint statement by the U.S. and Japanese governments on May 28, 2010, in which the two governments confirmed their intention to build a "Futenma replacement" base in Henoko, Okinawa.

Summary of the above-mentioned Ryukyu Shimpo's editorial:

The resolution calls the Japan-U.S. Joint Statement "an act of violence that tramples democracy," and "one that ridicules Okinawans."

The anger in the resolution is only natural. The Prefectural Assembly in February passed an unanimous resolution calling for swift closure of Futenma Air Station and opposing construction of a "replacement" base in Henoko, but it was totally ignored by former Prime Minister Hatoyama.

The anger of the Prefectural Assembly is directed against new Prime Minister Kan, who unscrupulously inherited Hatoyama's irresponsible "Japan-U.S. agreement."

The resolution also protests Kan's statement of "apology and gratitude for Okinawa's burden" at the Battle of Okinawa memorial ceremony on June 23, saying it was "an act that paid no consideration to the feeling of Okinawans."

Prime Minister Kan attempts to impose further base burden on Okinawans. If he had any heart for making that apology, he should cancel that imposition. That would be the only right thing to do.

Kan, in his policy speech in June, stressed on the "realization of relocation and closure of Futenma Base, and transfer of components of U.S. Marines to Guam." The bilateral agreement specifies the relocation of "8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members," but the most important information is missing, which is how many Marines will be left in Okinawa.

According to Okinawa prefecture's statistics at the end of September, 2009, the number of Marines stationed in Okinawa was 14,958, and that of the family members was 9,035. In theory, the number of Marines remaining in Okinawa after the Guam transfer would be approximately 7,000, with no family members remaining. However, according to research by Ginowan Mayor Iha, "the majority of Okinawa Marines have been dispatched to Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are actually less than 5,000 Marines in Okinawa."

For the past seven years, the number of military personnel in Okinawa, including family members, has decreased by more than 10,000, from 50,000 (2003) to 40,000(2008).

So what is the rationale for transferring 8,000 Marines? Hatoyama, in his visit to Okinawa on May 4, said, "The more I learned, the more the deterrence effect of U.S. Marines I came to understand." The reality is, if one starts to "learn" anything, one will quickly discover that the bilateral agreement is full of contradictions.
Kyodo also reported on the Okinawan prefectural resolution in "Okinawa resolution calls for review of Japan-U.S. Futenma statement":
The Okinawa prefectural assembly on Friday called on the Japanese and U.S. governments to review the joint bilateral statement promising to move a controversial U.S. Marine base within the prefecture largely in line with a previous agreement between them.

The opinion sheet and resolution adopted by the assembly charge that the statement was issued "over the heads of" the people in the prefecture, against their consensus that they oppose relocating the Futenma Air Station within Okinawa.

The opinion sheet, addressed to Cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and the resolution, addressed to several others like U.S. President Barack Obama, note that the April mass rally in which organizers say 90,000 people protested the planned relocation "clearly shows" that the islanders want the prefecture to be free of U.S. military bases.

Of the resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month thanking the Japanese, especially those in Okinawa, for continuing to host U.S. forces, the documents say, "That was an act borne out of their insufficient understanding of the feelings of the people in the prefecture and has enraged them."

At a news conference on the same day, Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima suggested that the base should not be forcibly relocated over the opposition among local people, noting that Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine opposes Futenma's relocation from Ginowan to a coastal area of his city under the bilateral agreement.

"The Nago mayor is against it. The only way to overcome it is to employ bulldozers, guns and swords, but I don't think they can do it," Nakaima said, referring to the United States' construction of military facilities in Okinawa while it was under U.S. control.

In the joint statement issued on May 28, Japan and the United States confirmed "the intention to locate the replacement facility at the Camp Schwab Henoko-saki area and adjacent waters" and that they decided to complete a study by experts on its "location, configuration and construction method...in any event no later than the end of August."

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who had once vowed to seek Futenma's relocation "at least outside of the prefecture," resigned days after the announcement.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hands Across Sand calls for end to offshore drilling around the world


Photos from Hands Across the Sand, Yokohama, Japan


On February 13, 2010, over 10,000 concerned people in Florida, USA joined hands on nearly 100 beaches along the entire state coastline to demand an end to the dangerous, contaminating practice of coastal oil drilling.

Two months later, in one of the worst disasters in recent history, the entire southern U.S. Gulf Coast was threatened by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill--a catastrophe whose full extent is still unfolding.

Aiming to prevent future similar disasters, the Florida organizers put out a call for a similar event to take place worldwide this past June 26th. From the official Hands Across the Sand website:
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is a wake up call. Even as the Gulf disaster grows, British Petroleum and other oil companies continue to push for new offshore drilling anywhere oil might be found regardless of the risks they pose. The offshore oil industry is a dirty, dangerous business and no one industry should be able to place entire coastal economies and marine environments at risk.

America could be, should be the world leader in expanding cleaner energy sources yet our political process is paralyzed by oil money. It is time for our leaders to take bold, courageous steps and open the door to clean energy and renewables and free our country from its addiction to oil.
Footprints on the Path to Clean Energy, the official blog of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, reports:
On Saturday, June 26th tens of thousands of people gathered at more than 900 locations in 39 countries to be part of an event called Hands Across the Sand. The message was simple, clear and powerful: NO to offshore drilling and YES to a clean energy future that will end our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels. This worldwide event transcended social and political lines to become one of the biggest grassroots phenomenona since the first Earth Day in 1970.

The 26th of June marked the 68th day since the world’s most technologically-advanced deepwater drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and injuring others. After burning for two days, the rig sank on April 22nd, ironically the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Since then, tens of millions of gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico and there is no definitive relief in sight. Thousands of square miles of ocean are devastated, shorelines and marshes are covered in tar and sludge, precious wildlife are dead and coastal communities, still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, are economically crippled.
The full report may be read here.

An interactive map from the Hands Across the Sand website shows the worldwide locations where events were held. Three took place in Japan, including one in Yokohama, where participant Cylinda Marquart had the following inspiring message to share:



"Most of us were strangers before we met up on the beach, and yet there was a powerful energy that seemed to run through our chain of linked hands," Marquart also commented. "It felt hopeful, somehow. For fifteen minutes I held the tiny hand of a two-year old that I had met only moments before, and he just beamed this amazing smile out at the ocean. I couldn't stop wondering what he was thinking."

The Hands Across the Sand event in San Francisco happened to coincide with a previously organized event titled Slash Oil, where more than 500 participants (including members of the antiwar group Code Pink) gathered for a creative human formation spelling out the event's name. Photos are available at the event website here. Event organizer Brad Newsham is a San Francisco-based taxi driver who organized several "Beach Impeach" events during the presidency of George W. Bush, and who blogs on the fascinating interactions that ensue when he offers one free ride to a taxi customer every day. His website is here.

Videos and photos from other events taking place worldwide are available on the Hands Across the Sand gallery page, as well as the up-to-the-minute Facebook page.

Naomi Klein's "Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World", published recently in the Guardian, is the latest example of her masterful probe into the destructive forces of the neoliberal capitalist mindset that allowed the Deepwater Horizon disaster to occur.

Recent additional excellent, in-depth reports of the incident also include "The Devil Went Down to Louisiana: Disaster in the Gulf" from Curve magazine, and "The Spill, The Scandal and the President" from Rolling Stone Magazine.

--Kimberly Hughes

The Hankyoreh: "Four Rivers protests become mainstream religious campaign"

"Four Rivers protests become mainstream religious campaign: Observers say that rather than political activists, this movement has been spearheaded by mainstream groups

Campaigns in opposition to the Lee Myung-bak Administration’s Four Major Rivers Restoration Project have been spreading like wildfire throughout the religious sector, including Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Won Buddhists. Analysts say that the factors underlying this opposition fervor include the nature of religion, which is about preserving life and transcending material values, and a religious environmental movement that has been growing since the 1990s.

Growing Voices of Opposition

A religious public organization comprising the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK, formerly the KNCC) along with some one hundred Won Buddhist officials and the Jogye Order environment committee has lit the fuse with publicized opposition to the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. Since the outset, the religious sector has witnessed an array of events, including large-scale masses, combined worship and purification ceremonies. At a mass held in the main hall of Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral on Monday, some 2,000 priests and believers gathered together to unanimously call for an end to the project.

On Tuesday, priests and ministers plan to gather for an all-night prayer vigil at the Dumulmeori Organic Farming Complex in Yangpyeong County, Gyeonggi Province, where the thousands of riot police are expected to be deployed. On May 24, there are plans to hold a joint prayer meeting at Silleuk Temple in Yeoju County, Gyeonggi Province, where members of four major religious groups will urge an end to the project...

Underlying the widespread participation of priests is the increasing establishment of an environmental movement that has grown since the 1990s. Environmental movements such as Christian green living campaigns and Buddhist life-saving campaigns have already become everyday practices at churches and temples. Even at conservative megachurches, it is not difficult to find environmentally friendly campaigns such as used-good markets and encouragement of organic agriculture. Yang Jae-seong said, “The individual green activities of churches are a fundamental aspect of the Four Major Rivers opposition movement.” Yang added, “Believers have a more awakened environmental understanding than the ordinary public."
Read the full article here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

144 Okinawan landowners lose lawsuit contesting the Japanese government's continued expropriation of their land for U.S. military use

On June 22, Kyodo News reported that the Naha District Court turned down a suit challenging the Japanese government's expropriation of private property for U.S. military in Okinawa use in Okinawa. This includes land on which the U.S. located the Marine Corps' Futenma air station.

144 landowners in Okinawa Prefecture filed the suit, arguing the U.S. military presence in Japan itself violates Japan's Peace Constitution. But the three-judge panel presided by Judge Naoto Hirata found in favor of the Japanese government which defended the U.S. military use of Okinawan land without consent of these landowners.

The Japanese government insist that Japan is obliged to provide land lots to the U.S. under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

However JALISA and other legal experts counter this view:
Japan is not obligated to provide the US Marines with bases.

In the first place, US military bases in Okinawa were illegally expanded and built. Even before acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on August 14, 1945 land was expropriated while Okinawans were detained in prison camps, and by means of “bayonets and bulldozers” with the start of the Cold War. Such acts are not justifiable even by the law of war, and therefore violate international law. And the Japan-US Security Treaty, which is invoked to paper over these illegalities, establishes that bases are provided to US forces under the conditions that provision is based on the will of the Japanese government, and that it contributes to the security of Japan and the Far East, but the US Marines, owing to the nature of the force, does not help to achieve such purposes, and as such their stationing in Japan lacks justification under the treaty.

Further, 75% of US military bases and facilities are concentrated in this one prefecture of Okinawa, and all Okinawans want US bases to be downsized and removed. The principles of democracy, which are recognized universally the world over, do not tolerate troop stationing which goes against the will of the people.

In Japan the Constitution’s Preamble and Articles 9 and 98 provide the right to seek removal of US military bases.

The Japanese Constitution provides that “never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government” and recognizes that “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want."
Under the a December 2007 special law governing the use of land by U.S. forces in Japan, the Japanese government permitted the continued use of some 16,500 square meters of land by U.S. forces against the will of many Okinawan landowners. The land lots comprising this total include those of Futenma base and Naha port.Consequently, the 144 plaintiffs, who own about 13,000 square meters, or 78 percent, of the land, filed the suit in June 2008.

They argued that the 2007 government decision must be repealed, saying that the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan violates the Constitution, which bans the country from engaging in aggressive military violence.

They also claimed that both the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the Special Law on land use violate the Japanese Constitution.

Among the plaintiffs is Yoichi Iha, mayor of Ginowan city, where U.S. Marines use contested land for the Futenma base. The other 143 include eleven "antiwar landlords" who do not want their land to be used to support aggressive military violence and 133 supporters who each own a small lot of land.

The antiwar landlords own .27% of the Futenma base which covers an area of 4.8 million square meters of land, according to the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau, which handles affairs related to U.S. forces and Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
One of the antiwar landlords also owns a 113-square-meter land plot at Naha port facilities managed by the U.S. Army.

Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association (JALISA) Statement on MCAS Futenma

Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association Statement on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma

According to newspaper reports, the government maintains that Japan must provide a replacement facility for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, which is used by the US Marines, that it has given up on finding a candidate site outside of Okinawa, and that the base will very likely be relocated within Okinawa.

From our stance of seeking to implement the spirit of the United Nations Charter and the ideals of Japan’s Constitution, we of the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association believe that the government’s judgment invites criticism on two points, and we strongly urge the government to reconsider.

1) Japan is not obligated to provide the US Marines with bases.

In the first place, US military bases in Okinawa were illegally expanded and built. Even before acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on August 14, 1945 land was expropriated while Okinawans were detained in prison camps, and by means of “bayonets and bulldozers” with the start of the Cold War. Such acts are not justifiable even by the law of war, and therefore violate international law. And the Japan-US Security Treaty, which is invoked to paper over these illegalities, establishes that bases are provided to US forces under the conditions that provision is based on the will of the Japanese government, and that it contributes to the security of Japan and the Far East, but the US Marines, owing to the nature of the force, does not help to achieve such purposes, and as such their stationing in Japan lacks justification under the treaty.

Further, 75% of US military bases and facilities are concentrated in this one prefecture of Okinawa, and all Okinawans want US bases to be downsized and removed. The principles of democracy, which are recognized universally the world over, do not tolerate troop stationing which goes against the will of the people.

2) In Japan the Constitution’s Preamble and Articles 9 and 98 provide the right to seek removal of US military bases.

The Japanese Constitution provides that “never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government” and recognizes that “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.”

It says that the Japanese renounce war, do not maintain “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential,” and it pledges to faithfully observe “established laws of nations,” which include the law of war and international humanitarian law. From the perspective of this extensive peace design, when at least part of the US forces stationed in Japan are highly problematic to bringing about peace and eliminating “fear and want,” it is possible to exercise one’s legitimate rights, including appeals to the international community, to resolve the matter which is the cause. In view of the situation with US military bases, which is a never-ending stream of aircraft crashes, traffic accidents, crimes, and pollution, it stands to reason that the people of Okinawa Prefecture seek the return of Futenma Air Station, and, with respect for their will, the Japanese government indeed has the right to take the initiative and ask the US government to immediately remove Futenma Air Station.

March 24, 2010
Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association, Executive Committee
Osamu Niikura, President. Jun Sasamoto, Secretary-General

The Asahi Shimbun: "Commander's grandson fights for peace"

One by One was formed by descendants of survivors, perpetrators, bystanders, and resisters of the horrific violence and genocide of the Nazi era. In Japan and Asia, descendants of the Pacific War have similarly worked towards personal and collective historical healing at the personal level although most of this has been unnoticed by the English-language media...

A hopeful exception to this oversight from The Asahi Shimbun by Michiko Yoshida explores a grandson's quest to redeem his grandfather's wartime legacy of violence in Okinawa:
"Commander's grandson fights for peace"

BY MICHIKO YOSHIDA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/06/23

(Photo: Michiko Yoshida, The Asahi Shimbun: Sadamitsu Ushijima displays his grandfather's family photo during a peace education class at an Okinawa elementary school.)

Sadamitsu Ushijima was told his paternal grandfather was a gentle man. How, then, could his grandfather have ordered his troops to fight to the last man during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945?

Hoping to find an answer to that question, Ushijima, 56, an elementary school teacher in Tokyo, has repeatedly visited the southern island prefecture since 1994.

His grandfather was Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, the Japanese Imperial Army commander of forces on Okinawa, the site of the bloodiest ground battle of the Pacific War.

Ushijima committed suicide at Mabuni, on the southern tip of Okinawa's main island where the last fierce battle was fought, on June 23, 65 years ago. He was 57.

Okinawa now marks June 23, when organized Japanese resistance to the U.S. forces ended, as a day to remember the battle's more than 200,000 victims.

As a teacher, Ushijima long focused his efforts on integrated education that encourages children with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers.

But he stayed away from Okinawa as a subject.

He hated his name, which includes the same Chinese character as his grandfather's. He was afraid he would be asked about the late commander.

His first visit to Okinawa in 1994, at the urging of colleagues, changed all that.

Ushijima visited a peace memorial museum in Mabuni to find his grandfather's fight-to-the-last order on exhibit at the entrance.

The explanation said that because of that order, "more than 100,000 noncombatant civilians were left behind in the hail of shells and bullets."

Ushijima stood petrified. But he soon realized the only way forward was to squarely face the past.

He talked to people who knew the grandfather he had never met. He entered the Mabuni cave where his grandfather killed himself. He read his death poems again and again.

"Mitsuru gave priority to defending the mainland, where the emperor resided. After all, he looked only to the emperor," he thought at the time.

Discovering an answer of his own, Ushijima saw his mission as a teacher. He started a peace education class to pass along history to children.

He has given classes in Okinawa, as well as at his schools in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.

On June 18, he again visited an elementary school in Okinawa, the seventh year he has given his class in the prefecture.

He talked about his grandfather, the war and Okinawa, and then concluded: "Armed forces do not defend civilians. That's what we learned from the Battle of Okinawa."

Ushijima has long hated his name. But he now understands how his own fate is tied to the name.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Standing Army released on DVD; filmmakers seek to show documentary in Japan

In "Italian film questions U.S. troop presence" published in The Asahi Shimbun today, Shinya Minamishima reports from Rome on a new documentary film, Standing Army, directed by Enrico Parenti and Thomas Fazi.
Two young Italian filmmakers have posed an intriguing question in a documentary that focuses on a U.S. Army base in their country and touches on the situation in Okinawa Prefecture.

They sought to find out why U.S. troops continue to be deployed worldwide more than six decades after the end of World War II. The documentary "Standing Army" was completed recently by filmmaker Enrico Parenti, 31, and Thomas Fazi, a 28-year-old researcher and translator. The two were first drawn to the topic of the U.S. armed forces through a January 2007 decision by the Italian government to authorize the expansion of a U.S. Army installation in the city of Vicenza, in northern Italy. The base is the home to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and a staging area for troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 2,750 U.S. soldiers are assigned to the base. Under the expansion plan, an additional 2,000 troops stationed in Germany were to be transferred to Vicenza by 2012. That would make it the largest U.S. military base in Europe.

The filmmakers set out by interviewing local residents opposed to the expansion. Although an opponent to the plan was elected mayor of Vicenza in April 2008, a plebiscite he initiated against the base issue was crushed by a decision by the Council of State, Italy's highest administrative court. According to an unofficial survey of 25,000 residents by the city government, 95 percent opposed the base expansion. Coupled with the fact that 25 countries around the world, aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, now host units with 100 or more U.S. military personnel, with a total 120,000 servicemen and women scattered worldwide, the base expansion prompted the two to seek answers.

Their theme had a special meaning, particularly as Italians remain ambivalent about the continued U.S. presence after Italian fascist forces were defeated by U.S. and British troops in World War II. Many Italians sided with the Allies as part of the partisan movement. Parenti's mother is a U.S. citizen and his maternal grandfather and uncle fought in the Korean War, while Fazi's mother is British, making the issue especially poignant. Through their work with anti-base activists, Parenti and Fazi learned about a similar situation that has been facing an island halfway around the world.

The two traveled to Okinawa Prefecture to see for themselves the situation surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan. There, they watched military aircraft taking off and landing, noting that classes at a nearby school were constantly interrupted because of the roar of the engines. Including news footage of the 2004 helicopter crash at the campus of Okinawa International University near the Futenma airfield, the two sought to better understand the situation facing Okinawan residents.

The film, which has been shown at several events in Europe, was released on DVD in June.

Parenti and Fazi say they are hoping to find people willing to help show the movie and distribute the DVD in Japan.

Those interested can contact the two in English or Italian at (info@standingarmy.it).
Beyond Italy and Okinawa, the filmmakers connect the dots between ongoing U.S. military expansion around the world.

The Obama administration has pushed to open several new bases in Columbia and Panama. In Okinawa and Guam, we see the same agenda for expansion since the 1990's and 2000's--under Clinton and Bush--unchanged by Obama's administration. The filmmakers pose these questions:
Over the course of the last century, the US has silently encircled the world with a web of military bases unlike any other in history. Today, they amount to more than 700, in at least 100 countries. No continent is spared. They are one the most powerful forces at play in the world today, yet one of the less talked-about. They have shaped the lives of millions, yet remain a mystery to most.

Why do countries like Germany, Italy and Japan – more than 60 years after the end of World War II and almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War – still host hundreds of US military bases and tens of thousands of US soldiers?

• What role do the bases play in maintaining US hegemony in the world?

• How will they shape our future?

•  Is a global military presence the last resource of an economically-, politically- and culturally-declining empire?

•  How do the bases impact the lives of local populations and how do these interact with their uniformed neighbours?

We will answer these and other crucial questions both through the words of prominent intellectuals, experts on the subject, political and military leaders, ex-government and CIA officials, philosophers and political activists – some of whom we have already interviewed: Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Chalmers Johnson and others – and through the shocking but often inspiring stories of those directly affected by US bases:

The citizens of Vicenza, struggling to stop the construction of yet another military base in their hometown; the Diego Garcia islanders, violently expelled from their island in the Indian Ocean to make space for a US military base, and who have been fighting for years to return to their birthplace; the many Japanese women brutalized by US soldiers in Okinawa; the various grassroots movements in Europe and Asia struggling for a base-free world; as well as those living inside the bases: the men and women who are often sent to faraway lands with little or no preparation for what they’ll find there.