Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Etsuko Urashima: "Let’s Turn Mt Kushi into a Forest of Life ...On the 40th Fortieth Anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan"

View from Mt Kushi across firing ranges towards Henoko 

Via The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, "Okinawa’s Nature Groaning – Let’s Turn Mt Kushi into a Forest of Life. On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the San Francisco Treaty and the Fortieth Anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan" by Urashima Etsuko with an introduction by Gavan McCormack:

May 15 marks 40 years since Okinawa “reverted” from US military administration to Japan, but the celebrations in 2012 will be muted. While few Okinawans regret the fact of reversion, there is widespread resentment over the fact that the national government continues to insist the prefecture serve US military ends first and foremost.

Newspaper opinion surveys taken on the eve of the commemoration found that 69 percent of Okinawans believed they were the subject of inequitable and discriminatory treatment because of the heavy concentration of US military bases, and nearly 90 percent took the position that the Futenma Marine Base should either be unconditionally closed and the land simply revert to Ginowan township or else be moved away, whether elsewhere in Japan or beyond it. That figure exceeds even the opposition of the time of the Hatoyama government (84 percent) less than two years ago.

A similar 90 percent oppose the deployment within Okinawa of the accident-plagued MV22-Osprey VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft that the Pentagon, backed by the government of Japan, promises to deploy in Okinawa from July.

Such is the strength of this sentiment that Okinawa’s governor, the conservative ex-bureaucrat Nakaima Hirokazu, visiting Tokyo at the time of the announcement, declared that such a deployment would be “extremely impossible “ (sic), and suggested that if the aircraft were really so safe they could be deployed in Tokyo’s Hibiya or Shinjuku Gyoen parks.2 The outrage deepened a week later when it was announced that the aircraft would be assembled and first tested at Naha Military Port, little more than a stone’s throw from Okinawa’s capital, Naha. Naha mayor Onaga described it as the worst proposal ever, and declared that he could not contain his fierce anger at the way the people of Okinawa and Naha were being mocked.3 Medoruma Shun, the prefecture’s pre-eminent novelist, also widely respected as its conscience, called upon the governor to convene a mass meeting of Okinawans to formally declare their opposition.

The points of confrontation between Tokyo and Okinawa slowly multiply and deepen in seriousness – Ginowan City, home of the Futenma Marine Base; Nago City, designated site for a Futenma replacement facility; Kadena City, 22,000 of whose citizens are suing (the biggest civil suit in Japanese history) to try to recover their peace from the constant noise caused by landings and takeoffs from the city’s USAF base; and Yonaguni Island, where residents mobilize to prevent the deployment of Japanese Self Defense Forces (for the first time). Throughout the island anger spreads at the prospect of a new threat – the vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, MV22-Osprey (discussed by Urashima) now scheduled to be introduced to the island in July.

In the north of Okinawa Island, little attention is paid to the appropriation of forests by the US marine forces based at Camp Schwab. On the commemoration of another, closely related, anniversary, the 60th of Okinawa’s formal severance from Japan under the San Francisco treaty of 1952, the writer Urashima Etsuko, like Medoruma a voice of Okinawan conscience, walked up Mt Kushi to reflect on the price that was being paid by nature itself under the weight of priority to the US military. We are pleased to publish an English translation of her April 2012 essay. (Gavan McCormack)

April 28th was the 60th anniversary of the day the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force in 1952. Under the Treaty, mainland Japan recovered its sovereignty lost in the defeat of the war but Okinawa remained under US military control for a further twenty years. On this day, known in Okinawa as a “day of humiliation,” at the suggestion of a friend I climbed Mt Kushi which overlooks the US Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab training grounds.

The twin peaks of Mt Henoko (332 metres) and Mt Kushi (335 metres) rising up in roughly the middle of the island still today are a fine sight and it is easy to believe that the children of Henoko and Kushi villages used to dispute with each other over which was the more beautiful. But today, from as far away as Henoko village, you can see how the red soil of the mountain has been exposed by shelling practice from the live firing range that surrounds it.

I had thought it would not be possible to climb [in a military area] but, while one cannot climb from the east sea side one can climb from the west because that side is not used as a firing range. Hearing that the mountain was quite an easy walk, and that you could look out over the firing range from the peak, I put on boots and a rain coat – since unfortunately it looked like rain – and set off on the climb...

On reaching the summit I was astonished at the breadth of the shooting range that spread out before me. Being accustomed to look at the mountains from the sea, I had not imagined them to be so vast. The forests of Higashi and Kunigami villages that make up the Northern Training Centre (or “Jungle Warfare Centre”) are so splendid as to be said to be worthy of classification as World Heritage, but this was in no way inferior. Here and there practice sites had been set up and these sites were one source of the firing noises. My friend also said that these sites had been freshly cleared, not existing on the previous occasion when he had come up here. The stick-like poles were, he said, “dummy human targets for shelling.”

...Before the US bombing of Okinawa on 10 October 1944 (which not only reduced Naha City to rubble but caused severe damage throughout Okinawa Island) US forces took aerial photographs of the whole of Okinawa Island, so they knew the exact location of everything. It seems that, by analysing these aerial photographs, they drew up detailed plans for use of the island – just as if there were no people here. You can also see this from the nature of the bombing. To take one example, while many villages were burned by bombing attacks, other, neighbouring settlements escaped unscathed and these were later used as refugee encampments.

When looking over the forest from the peak, my thoughts turn to the US soldiers that once looked down over this forest from the sky. They must have been thinking about how they could make use of this place for war. I thought once again that this precious forest that has given life to so many creatures and sustained the local people must not be allowed to be used for war. It pains me to look upon the withered brown firing range. I want to take back this forest and resurrect it as a forest of life. Moved by such thoughts, I stood on the summit of Mt Kushi.

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