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Monday, January 30, 2012

Okinawan Delegation bring their message to Washington, D.C.

Keiko Itokazu, depicted in this painting that likens the Okinawan democratic movement to the American Revolution, is a member of the Japanese National Diet. She told an audience at Busboys and Poets, a Washington D.C. bookstore, that the Okinawan people have been heartbroken since having been unable to protect a 12-year-old girl from gang rape by U.S. troops in 1995. (Photo: Warisacrime.org )

Last week a delegation of Okinawan political, civic, and educational leaders visited Washington, D.C. "to promote awareness of enduring military base problems on Okinawa, Japan, and to propose the closure and consolidation of the 34 military installations on Okinawa as part of Congressional deficit-reduction plans to reduce defense spending by $1 trillion over the next ten years."

Their demands:
1. The closure and return of U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station. Often referred to as the most dangerous base in the world, Futenma’s continued operations in densely populated residential areas of Ginowan City violate both US and Japanese safety standards. Planned deployment of the accident-prone MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Futenma in 2012 faces strong opposition across Okinawa.

2. The cancellation of plans to construct a new Marine Corps air base at Cape Henoko, which involves massive land reclamation of a beautiful coral reef marine ecosystem and the habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong (sea manatee).

3. The reduction of unbearable noise caused by air operations at Kadena Air Base, and the withdrawal of any proposal to integrate Futenma’s helicopter squadrons into Kadena’s operations. Kadena is already the subject of a lawsuit filed by 22,000 plaintiffs seeking to terminate nighttime flight operations at the base.

4. An end to the construction of six new helipads in the Yanbaru forest in northern Okinawa. This construction will result in the permanent destruction of forestland said to be comparable to a World Natural Heritage site, as well as the erosion of the quality of life for local residents of Takae.

5. The revision of the U.S.-Japan Status Of Forces Agreement, which will be demanded in particular by family members of Mr. Koki Yogi, who was killed by a civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force in January, 2011. The U.S.-Japan SOFA routinely obstructs fair trials and favors U.S. military and civilian personnel who commit crimes in Japan. Such crimes, which occur on a weekly basis, include fatal driving incidents, residential break-ins, taxi robberies, sexual violence, and other serious crimes against local citizens.
The delegation held a public forum at Washington's iconic bookstore, Busboys and Poets. David Swanson's analysis at War is a Crime includes background about the speakers and documents facts attesting to the noxious noise, environmental destruction, social degradation, and violent crime that the U.S. military has brought to Okinawa for six decades:
Toshio Ikemiyagi thanked people who came to hear them and pointed out that we all looked healthy and alert. That, he said, is because you have all had sleep. You've been able to sleep at night without deafening jet noise, he said. Ikemiyagi is the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging the Kadena Air Base's noise pollution. He played us a video on Monday of what it is like. For the people who live there, he said, the war that ended 67 years ago has never ended.

Keiko Itokazu, a Member of the Japanese National Diet, depicted in this painting, said the Okinawan people had been heartbroken since having been unable to protect a 12-year-old girl from gang rape by U.S. troops in 1995. The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan gives U.S. troops immunity from Japanese prosecution. Between 1979 and 2008, U.S. forces in Okinawa caused 1,439 accidents (487 of them airplane related), and 5,584 criminal cases (559 of them involving violent crimes). The list includes fatal driving incidents, residential break-ins, taxi robberies, sexual violence, and other serious crimes against local citizens.
Swanson ends his article with a meta-message from Okinawa:
The people of Okinawa have had enough.

Haven't we all?
It's miraculous that Okinawans have been able to counter the unwelcome, violent military presence in Okinawa with a healthy, mature, consistent, ethical, and visionary collective response that reaffirms the Okinawan commitment to democratic process and humanity's highest moral values: reason, justice, veracity, peace, and life.

(More on U.S. responses to the delegation's visit from Kyle Kajihiro at DMZ Hawai'i, including a link to traditional conservative (and Network for Okinawa member) Doug Bandow's article at Forbes, "Give Okinawa back to the Okinawans.")

Friday, January 27, 2012

Junko Edahiro: "Representative, Half Farmer, Half X Institute"

Junko Edahiro: "Representative, Half Farmer, Half X Institute":
I think that being a Half Farmer, Half X is doable in Tokyo, New York, or Berlin. There are some people who say that "we should limit being a Half Farmer, Half X to people living in rural areas," but this will only result in the same structure of the city versus the suburbs, by which we are so burdened.

Rather, people should do what they can, be it balcony gardening or rooftop gardening, in places they love. Setting loose rules, such as committing 30 or 40 minutes a day to handling soil and plants will enable more people to start farming more easily. I think many people feel that starting farming is too much of a challenge, so how low you can set the bar is the key. Some people will choose to go deeper, or some may choose to just spread the word. We can all play different roles.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom


The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:
Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan's recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins.

A stunning visual poem about the ephemeral nature of life and the healing power of Japan's most beloved flower.

Directed by Academy Award Nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker (Waste Land), featuring photography by Aaron Phillips and music by Moby.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Check out Okinawan op-ed at Washington Post Online

From our friends at Close The Base:
In conjunction with the Okinawan delegation visit to Washington, DC, and as means of showing solidarity with their work, an Okinawan newspaper submitted an op-ed to the Washington Post online. The piece highlights the ongoing dangers, complications and substantial needs to close the [Futenma] base, and will be featured daily from Jan 23 until Jan 26, so be sure to check it out here: http://www.okinawaiken.org/washingtonpost.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

City slowly returns to life ten months after disaster

Exquisite, nuanced short film by Paul Richard Johannessen
 featuring interviews with Ishinomaki residents about the issues
 still facing their community nearly one year following the 3/11 tsunami devastation

Two months after volunteering for the first time in Ishinomaki—one of the Japanese cities in the Tohoku region hardest hit by the tsunami last March—my partner and I headed back again in the beginning of January to volunteer over the long weekend.

Previously, we had stayed at the Koganehama Kaikan and volunteered with the troupe headed by Fujita san (who is profiled in the above video), which is now apparently known as the Association to Revitalize Ishinomaki (ARI). This time, we decided to base ourselves with It’s Not Just Mud, another fantastic group of volunteers with whom we had hooked up on one of the days during our previous visit.

While we had hoped to be involved with some physical work and perhaps be able to take a trip further out along the coast to work with some of the fishing communities, these were not among the projects that we were assigned to for the weekend. No matter. As volunteers, we were naturally ready and willing to go wherever we would be of most help, and of course every experience is interesting and fulfilling in its own way.

On our first day, we were assigned to help with a takidashi, or a communal meal served outside; a soup kitchen, of sorts. The morning was spent chopping carrots, slicing tofu, dicing daikon radish, and then throwing it all into an enormous pot together with pork, satoimo (a root vegetable similar to a potato) and miso to let it simmer into a rich, mouth-watering stew. The takidashi is held every Saturday afternoon along with a bingo game, and the locals with whom I spoke—many of whom are living in temporary housing units as they await more permanent living situations—said that the event was one of the greatest highlights of their week.




Indeed, many Ishinomaki-based volunteers remarked that much of the sadness that permeated the city in the weeks and months after the tsunami seems to have lifted greatly, with residents who decided to remain in the city now going about the task of rebuilding their lives and livelihoods. Still, however, those with whom I sat down to chat over a cup of coffee while we waited for the soup to finish cooking had terrifying stories to tell about when the tsunami hit. One woman was in tears, recalling how she had lost her house and all of her possessions. I noted that on both occasions when I volunteered, most people did not speak of having lost loved ones, and I hesitated to inquire about the safety of their family members for fear of touching upon a potentially sensitive and painful subject. Instead, I simply listened openly and compassionately to whatever they felt open to sharing.

After lunch was finished, we headed back to INJM headquarters—a house that was donated by a family who postponed its scheduled demolition for a year after learning that the organization was seeking a place to house its volunteers. We gathered a change of clothing and headed to the sennninburo (literally, “bath for 1000 people”)—a communal bathhouse that was only available in the late afternoon and early evening, with women and men taking turns. Set up for local residents who had not been able to bathe properly for days and even weeks following the disaster, it was a tiny wooden structure accommodating not 1000 people, but rather only five or six at a time—with locals of course getting first priority. Once we made it inside, the fiery-hot bath felt fabulous given the frosty temperatures outside.



Senninburo

The next morning, super-friendly and helpful INJM crew leaders Naomi and Ayami took us to one of the worst-damaged areas of Ishinomaki near the coast, explaining that it was important to see firsthand the extent of the tsunami’s destruction in order to truly understand what had befallen the city. After driving past an enormous barrel that had toppled over from a factory, we stopped at the elementary school that appears in the video at the top of this post. Located just in front of the ocean and directly next to a cemetery, car upon car had been swept onto the premises after the waves struck—igniting a fire that caused even further damage to the school than that already sustained from the tsunami. Walking inside and seeing the remains of children’s desks, toys, artwork and even shoes amidst the charred ruins was truly one of the saddest scenes I have witnessed in my life to date.



We next went on to our assigned task for the day, which was helping to clean photographs from a local community center by rinsing them in water, wiping away bacteria, hanging them out to dry, and then placing them in new albums. The photographs were from local sports day festivities that dated back to the 1980s, and it felt good to know that our efforts were helping to contribute to the preservation of important community memories.




We had lunch at the home of Nobuko Hashimoto, who lived a short walk away from the community center. Volunteers helped her rebuild her home, and to show her appreciation, she cooks elaborate meals for volunteers at INMJ and other organizations free-of-charge nearly every day.


The INJM crew , served a sumptuous lunch spread by Hashimoto san (back right)


After another couple of hours finishing up the day’s work on the photo restoration project, Naomi took my partner and me to the temporary housing units to drop off gifts to some of the women we had met during our last visit. We then went out for our bath (this time to a proper onsen facility, as the sennninburo closes on Sundays), ate a scrumptious meal of maguro (tuna) back at the INJM house, and then said our goodbyes to our new friends before hopping on the night bus back to Tokyo.

It’s Not Just Mud is a perfect way to volunteer for those, like myself, who prefer a loosely-structured and yet well-organized experience in a relatively small group.

The It’s Not Just Mud website has details for anyone wishing to join them to volunteer in Ishinomaki for any length of time. Personally speaking, I will definitely be returning in the sooner-rather-than-later future.


Shrine at Hiryoriyama Park in Ishinomaki,
 located atop a hill where many local residents sought refuge from the tsunami on 3.11.11


--Kimberly Hughes

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Passion Runs High at Global Yokohama Conference as Delegates Demand a Nuclear Free World; Justice for Fukushima Citizens

With 11,500 participants from 30 countries attending this past weekend’s two-day Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World, which featured a total of more than 100 talk sessions, interactive workshops, musical performances and film screenings, plus information-laden booths from numerous NGOs and citizen organizations, every individual attendee undoubtedly had their own completely unique experience of the event. A commonality certainly shared by all, however, was a vision of a world vastly different to the one that allowed the Fukushima nuclear disaster to occur—as well as a staunch determination to ensure that nuclear destruction never befalls our planet again.

Organized by several major Japan-based and international NGOs (with the Peace Boat serving as secretariat), the weekend kicked off with an opening session where one panelist after the next expressed dismay at Japan’s present nuclear policies, as well as the suffering unleashed from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident. “Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency being housed within the economic ministry is no different than criminals living under the same roof as the police,” charged former Fukushima prefectural governor Eisaku Sato, long an outspoken critic of nuclear power.

Tetsunari Iida, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, spoke similarly of a “citizen revolution that has occurred as a result of the ludicrous, baseless statements that have continued to be released by the Japanese government following the Fukushima catastrophe”—a point echoed by German parliamentarian Rebecca Harms, who said pointedly, “With the majority public opinion in Japan now standing solidly against nuclear power, why the hell would Japan ever consider promoting it again?”

My own personal experience of the conference included interpreting for two amazing sessions, as well as filming several interviews for the upcoming documentary film project Uncanny Terrain, which follows organic farmers from Fukushima who have decided against all odds to continue their livelihoods—remaining on the land that has sometimes been in their families for generations, and continuing to produce food while testing it for safety standards. Not easy circumstances by any means, and I greatly admired the strength and conviction of the farmers I met who had travelled to Yokohama for the conference.

Speaking of food safety, I was also quite glad to run into fellow blogger Martin Frid, whom I have corresponded with for several years but actually never yet met in person. He was recently interviewed for an article titled "Fukushima Fallout", which looks in-depth at food-related concerns in Japan following the March disaster.

The first conference session that I helped interpret was an evening panel discussion titled “Real Talk About Creating a ‘New Japan’”, which featured a lineup of many well-known cultural figures—some of whom had also participated in the recent Atomic Café event held in Tokyo in November. While the panelists acknowledged existing differences of opinion—whether to stop nuclear power immediately or phase it out more gradually, for example—they all expressed the same future ideal for their country in terms of clean and sustainable energy, media accountability, and truly democratic policies.

“(Anthropologist Shinichi) Nakazawa can serve as the researcher for this new and improved Japan, while (singer Tokiko) Kato and (guitarist/violinist) Sugizo can write its music, (advertiser Miyako) Maekita and (visualist Macoto) Tezka can create its imagery, and (broadcaster Peter) Barakan can be its announcer!” they offered enthusiastically, referencing each of their own individual talents while reminding audience members that each one of us similarly has a role to play in contributing to this new future. The panelists also spoke supportively of the fledgling Greens Japan political party, which aims to put forth its first congressional candidates in 2013.

Scenes from the conference (Photos: Emilie McGlone)

The second session for which I assisted with interpretation was a Sunday afternoon event in the Global Discussion room titled “Lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima”, where speakers from both regions shared their experiences in order to learn from one another and create a network of solidarity.

Anton Vdovichenko, who runs a Russian NGO for Chernobyl youth, explained that after the local economy was devastated by the accident, many adults lost their jobs and turned to drinking—which in turn often meant that their kids ended up in the streets doing likewise. He explained that his NGO organized activities to guide young people toward healthier futures—and that he would be on hand to offer guidance in case the young people of Fukushima began to experience similar hardships.

This was followed by a moving speech from Fukushima mother Mika Takamura, who shared her confusion at receiving absolutely no reliable information or directives from the government during the critical hours, days and weeks following the nuclear accident—as well as her pain at being unable to send her five year-old outside to play in their hometown of Minami-Soma, which borders the exclusion zone. “I am also unable to obtain a whole body (radiation) counter for my son because he does not meet the age requirement of six years,” she said, her eyes and voice displaying obvious anguish.  

Mexico-, Brazil- and U.S.-based photographer Jan Smith rounded out the session, sharing his experience of traveling to Chernobyl following the 1986 nuclear disaster—and adding that he now saw similarities with Fukushima in terms of the human stories that had fallen through the cracks of both media sensationalism and government cover-up following the disasters. His excellent analysis of what he witnessed and experienced in Fukushima may be read here.

Additional conference highlights—among many, many others—included sessions connecting the experiences of hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki with those of Fukushima, various booths and tables to collect signatures for the presently ongoing citizen referendum on nuclear power, a room exclusively for Fukushima citizens to share their experiences since the disaster and network with others, a demonstration parading through the streets of Yokohama with the message of a nuclear-free world, and countless personal statements where everyone from musicians to academics to politicians shared their strong desire for a world where nuclear-related suffering exists no longer.


Actor Taro Yamamoto, who lost work for his vocal anti-nuclear campaigning, 
addresses conference attendees in main hall




Aileen Mioko Smith, Executive Director of the Kyoto-based NGO Green Action,
 speaks to participants in the weekend's march for a nuclear-free future 
(Photo: Emilie McGlone)


The weekend’s closing session included a lineup of speeches that were just as fiery as those from its debut—perhaps even more so, since everyone had since had time to become even further inspired by the intense energy generated during the weekend’s incredible lineup of events.

“This conference hall is overflowing with passion,” said emcee Tomoyo Nonaka, the former CEO of Sanyo Electric who now presides over the environmental organization Gaia Initiative. “While 3/11 made it clear that Japan was not living under a democracy, we are now standing at the threshold of truly being able to create a democratic nation for the first time in our history.”

This was followed by a chant from Abacca Anjain-Maddison, a former Marshall Islands senator who has campaigned long and tirelessly on behalf of the suffering caused from repeated nuclear testing by the U.S. government. In a sense echoing Nonaka, she said, “The words that I just sang refer to the energy exerted when a mother is giving birth.

The energy that I feel here tonight in this room is the very same.”

The powerful conference declaration may be read here, and videos may be watched on the event’s official television channel. Concrete ideas and proposals generated throughout the conference have also been compiled within an online resource titled the Forest of Action, to which ongoing contributions are encouraged.


Conference attendees Noboru Imamura (left) and Hito, both seasoned activists for disabled rights and other social causes. "Issues facing radiation survivors and disabled individuals have the same structure and root causes: Disrespect of human rights, empty rhetoric, and complete lack of responsibility," explained Imamura. "We must continue connecting different social movements in order to attain true justice for everyone."


--Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Photos of Nuclear-Free rally in Yokohama at Starrybrooke


(Photo: Starrybrooke)

Many thanks to JohnTaro at Temple Valley Times for the head's up on the great photos of this weekend's Nuclear-Free demonstration in Yokohama, at Starrybrooke, by an American in Chiba (just east of Tokyo) who blogs on Japanese literature, Nuclear-Free Japan, and travel.

Martin Frid posted on the conference from his long perspective as a Nuclear-Free advocate, noting the new Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon's special message for the conference closing event on Sunday evening, and the good coverage by Japanese media.

The Yokohama Declaration called for full support of Fukushima survivors.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Over 5000 advocates for a Nuclear Power Free world come together for Yokohama Conference


Report courtesy of the Japan Times (January 15, 2012):

A two-day antinuclear conference kicked off Saturday in Yokohama with the aim of sharing lessons from the Fukushima crisis and fostering global momentum against atomic power.

"Nuclear power plants are all over the world. In order to deal with this issue, we must create a global network," said Tatsuya Yoshioka, director of the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat, during the opening ceremony for the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power-Free World.

The conference drew thousands of participants to the Pacifico Yokohama convention center, including about 100 experts and activists from 30 countries and nearly 200 domestic groups.

Holding an event of this scale in Japan just 10 months after the Fukushima No. 1 plant meltdowns represents a significant meaning for the antinuclear movement, said Yoshioka, chairman of the event.

Germany's Rebecca Harms, a member of the European Parliament, said the Fukushima crisis had a strong impact on Europe, pointing to Germany's decision to close eight old reactors almost immediately after the crisis was triggered by the March 11 disasters.

She said Japan is now managing its electricity supply with much less dependence on nuclear power since only five of its 54 reactors are in operation.

She also said public opinion in Japan had changed and most oppose using atomic power in the future, bringing Japan's opinion in line with Germany's.

Japan does not need to go back to nuclear power, she said.

"Please, people of Japan, learn from the German experience."
NISA to OK Oi's reports
Kyodo

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is set to approve reports submitted by Kansai Electric on stress tests carried out on two idled reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture, government sources said Saturday.

This will be the first time NISA will issue an assessment on reactor stress tests reports. The government introduced the stress tests in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and made them a precondition for restarting idled reactors.

But even if NISA endorses the reports, it remains uncertain if the plant's idled reactors will be restarted immediately as other hurdles remain, including checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the sources said.

Kansai Electric Power Co. submitted stress tests reports for the Oi plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors last year. The reports said nuclear fuel in the reactors' cores would remain undamaged even in the event of an earthquake 1.8 times stronger than the maximum anticipated temblor in the area.

The reports also estimated that the cores could withstand an 11.4-meter tsunami — four times higher than the largest waves projected.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Nuclear Power Free World is Possible- Conference Jan 14-15 Yokohama

A nuclear power free Japan and a nuclear power free world are possible. This weekend over 8000 people will gather in Yokohama Japan to share information on how to make this attainable goal a reality. Growing out of a coalition of Japan-based NGOs including the Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC), FoE Japan, Green Action, Greenpeace Japan, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), and Peace Boat, the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World will:

  • bring together the voices of people who suffer from radiation exposure all around the world, whether by nuclear power or nuclear weapons - “Global Hibakusha”.
  • facilitate the sharing of information with one another. Participants will learn from each other's experiences to illustrate the human and environmental consequences of the nuclear chain.
  • aim to demonstrate that it is realistically possible to create a society that is not dependent on nuclear power.
  • create a road map for the safe removal of existing nuclear power plants.
  • present alternative policies based on renewable energy and propose action plans that can be implemented by Japan and other countries.
Mémé Madoka Watanabe, a Peace Boat staffer coordinating publicity within the Japanesecommunity shared some insight on Peace Boat's involvement in organizing the conference:
The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, have both had a dramatic impact around the world. In response to this massive disaster and its tragic consequences to people's lives and environment, the people of Japan are trying to take steps towards recovery. Meanwhile, the nuclear power plant is still unstable and workers are forced to continue working in life-threatening conditions. As the radioactive contamination spreads, many people including children are forced to suffer from prolonged radiation exposure, unable to evacuate due to lack of support from the government.

It is vital that we do not continue to make the same mistakes. It is now time for humanity to put an end to the nuclear age that started with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Japan, well over half the population now supports the goal of breaking away from nuclear power. However, many people question whether it is practically possible to bring nuclear power to an end.

For these reasons and more, a coalition of Japan-based Peace Boat is acting as the secretariat for the conference on behalf of the coalition of Japan based NGO's.
Watanabe stressed how the event is a positive step for the world to move towards eliminating nuclear power as an option:
This event will be an important and positive step for Japan and other countries towards taking action for a nuclear power free world. The presence of both organizations and independent citizens will show that efforts since the disaster to learn from Fukushima have not gone unnoticed. We aim to learn from Fukushima, exchange lessons about nuclear power from around the world and make clear the need to break away from nuclear power. It is also a chance for us to show the people of Fukushima, many of whom feel despondent about the future, that positive action is being taken.The conference will bring together ideas from around the globe to propose action plans that can be carried out by Japan and other countries all over the world.
She also noted how the conference is an outgrowth of other related Peace Boat activities:
Activities such as the Global Voyage for a Nuclear Free World - Peace Boat Hibakusha Project, bringing survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings around the world to give testimony and advocate for nuclear abolition, while meeting with people affected by the nuclear chain around the world, have contributed to public education about the need to move towards a nuclear free world. Peace Boat also carries out other activities promoting nuclear weapon free zones, disarmament for development, and more.

Since March 17, 2011 in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Peace Boat has been active in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, one of the hardest hit cities on the coast of northeast Japan. Peace Boat is acting in a coordination role between Ishinomaki’s local government and the many NGOs, institutions and individuals offering help in the area and dispatching volunteers each week. With 10,000 volunteers to date. Some of the relief and recovery activities include preparing and serving hot meals, delivering relief goods, cleaning mud out of homes and businesses and salvaging fishing equipment.More recently volunteers have been supporting the communities in the Temporary Houses by distributing a newsletter and becoming part of the community as well as helping to identify and serve their needs. Their presence not only supports the physical recovery of the towns but also gives the local community the encouragement to rebuild.
- Posted by Jen Teeter

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gavan McCormack: "Okinawa, New Year 201: Tokyo's Year End Surprise Attack"

Gavan McCormack introduces two new articles at The Asia-Pacific Journal on Okinawa: "Okinawa, New Year 2012: Tokyo’s Year End Surprise Attack" by Etsuko Urashima and "The Fatally Flawedl EIS Report on the Futenma Air Station Replacement Facility – With Special Reference to the Okinawa Dugong" by Kunitoshi Sakurai:
Here we present two Okinawan accounts of the events on which the year 2011 ended: one by Okinawa’s leading environmentalist, specialist in environmental assessment law and till 2010 president of Okinawa University, the other by the long-time chronicler of the Okinawan resistance movement and Nago city resident. Both are core members of that movement. They write of the astonishing events that marked the end of 2011.

By then, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government, elected at the end of August 2009, was into its third Prime Minister and had abandoned or reversed almost all the key policies on which it had been elected: the commitment to substitute political for bureaucratic direction, the renegotiation of the relationship with the US on an equal basis, the promotion of an East Asian community, the maintaining of the current level of consumption tax, an end to the Liberal-Democratic Party’s long-entrenched “construction state” policies which would be symbolized in particular by the abandonment of the Yamba dam project, and, not least, the closure of Futenma Marine Air Station in Okinawa without substitution in the prefecture.

It is the latter, superficially a “local” issue, that increasingly seems to have the potential to bring the DPJ down and create crisis in the US-Japan relationship it is nominally reinforcing. At some point, probably during 2012, it is going to have to face the fact that the promises it keeps making to the Obama administration in Washington of construction of a substitute Marine base in Henoko in northern Okinawa will never be implemented. Okinawan civil society has issued a definitive “No!” Okinawan democracy has repeatedly shown that it will not be crushed and defeated, even in the face of a unified front by Tokyo and Washington. For Tokyo to attempt to impose its will violently on Okinawa would be to accentuate the crisis and destabilize Japanese politics, the alliance, and perhaps the entire region. As 2012 dawns, it seems unlikely, but not impossible, that Noda, driven by determined bureaucratic forces, might attempt to do just that. For the time being, Noda’s government refuses to admit defeat. But in due course the consequences of its prolonging or attempting to evade that decision grow more serious.

The fact is that the DPJ government today faces a level of resistance unprecedented in the history of the modern Japanese state, with the (conservative) Governor, the prefectural Assembly (Okinawa’s parliament), virtually all city, town and village assemblies and mayors, and all media groups and civic and labour organizations firmly opposed to the attempted relocation of the Marine base to Henoko.

The following accounts deal with the submission by the Government of Japan of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) designed to accelerate construction at the projected Henoko site. The story, told here from two different but closely connected viewpoints, reveals the depths to which the DPJ has sunk, its disregard for due process and law, its insistence on the priority that must be attached to service to the US over attention to the interests of its own citizens, its contempt for democracy, and its systematic and continuing discrimination against Okinawans. This might not be unique among contemporary industrial democratic states, but this deepening crisis is little appreciated. Okinawa is Japan’s Tahrir Square. The “Okinawa problem” is Japan’s problem. And it is presently the crux of the US-Japan problem.

Just weeks before the “delivery” described here, the head of Okinawa’s Defense Bureau, the local section of the national Ministry of Defense, had to resign over his statement explicitly comparing the delivery of the EIS to rape. When about to commit rape, he said, you do not announce it to your victim in advance. The Government of Japan might have submitted to pressure to replace him in his post, but in the way it went about delivery of the crucial EIS in December, it showed the mentality of the rapist: violent, contemptuous of its victim, and moved by shame to commit its deed at the darkest hour of the night, when witnesses could least be expected.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Writers & Poets Walk to Save Jeju Island



Via Regina Pyon of SPARK:
The 11th day of writers' and poets' walk toward Gangjeong...

On January 5, they are walking from Gyeryong Duma samgori to Gyebaek Sagori of Chungnam province.

For more photos, visit director Cho's photo essay: http://cafe.daum.net/peacekj/GdUL/146.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Okinawa Update: "Standing Down" the Sit-In •  Receipt of EIS documents

The Ryukyu Shimpo reported the decision last night to change direction (to "stand down" the "sit in" at Kencho) to preserve the unity of the Okinawan Movement. According to scholar Gavan McCormack, "It clearly was not taken easily but was taken for principled reasons."

This just published at Mainichi:"Okinawa accepts additional documents for gov't report on U.S. base."

Gordon Hirabayashi, challenger of the constitutionality of WWII Japanese American incarceration, passes at age 93

(Hirabayashi (left) is joined by fellow coram nobis plaintiffs Min Yasui and Fred Korematsu in 1983. He was the last surviving plaintiff who challenged the legality of the wartime exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Photo: Steven Okazaki

Yesterday Gordon Hirabayashi, the last surviving plaintiff who challenged the constitutionality of U.S. wartime exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans, passed yesterday.

Rafu Shimpo, a bilingual newspaper for the Los Angeles Japanese American community, published a thorough and moving obituary (that does not use the euphemism "internment"):
Civil Rights Icon Gordon Hirabayashi Dies at 93 -
Wartime Supreme Court case was reopened in 1983


Gordon K. Hirabayashi, who challenged the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, passed away on Monday. A resident of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he was 93.

The announcement was made on Facebook by his son Jay, who wrote, “He was an American hero besides being a great father who taught me about the values of honesty, integrity, and justice. My mother, Esther Hirabayashi, who was 87, also passed away this morning about ten hours later. She was a beautiful, intelligent, generous soul. Although my parents were divorced, they somehow chose to leave us on the same day. I am missing them a lot right now.”

Hirabayashi is remembered along with Minoru Yasui (1916-1986) and Fred Korematsu (1919-2005) for violating curfew and exclusion orders imposed on West Coast Japanese Americans and appealing their convictions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled against them, accepting the government’s argument of military necessity.

Through a legal maneuver called writ of error coram nobis, the three cases were reopened in 1983 by a group of mostly Japanese American attorneys on the basis of newly uncovered documents showing that the government knew Japanese Americans did not pose a security threat but hid that information from the court. The convictions were overturned, thus strengthening the movement to obtain redress for former internees.

A biography of Hirabayashi, to be published by University of Washington Press, is being written by his nephew, Lane Hirabayashi of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, and brother, James Hirabayashi, former dean of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University.

“Gordon believed very strongly that his war-time Supreme Court case, and his 1980s coram nobis case, were both the JA community’s and the larger American public’s cases,” Lane Hirabayashi told the Rafu Shimpo. “He never felt, that is, that these were somehow exclusively his own. My understanding is that he remained profoundly grateful to all the individuals, networks, and the organizations that supported him, and never forgot that these included people of all colors, from all walks of life.

“Thus he believed that the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling in his coram nobis appeal, vacating his conviction after more than four decades, was a victory for everyone.”

The coram nobis cases were the subject of an Oscar-nominated 1985 documentary by Steven Okazaki, “Unfinished Business,” and two books, Justice at War (1983) and Justice Delayed (1989) by Peter Irons, who led the effort to reopen the cases...

(Source for quotes: The Courage of Their Convictions: 16 Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court by Peter Irons, 1988)
DENSHO: The Japanese American Legacy Project has a series of interviews with Gordon Hirabayashi online and a thoughtful exploration of terminology used to describe the mass detention: "Frontier Colonies or Concentration Camps? Euphemisms for the Incarceration".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Okinawa Governor Nakaima accepts submission of US military base EIS, but repeats he will not approve destruction of Oura Bay

Governor Nakaima arrives at Okinawa Prefectural Government office. (Photo: Makoto Arakaki)

After the dramatic holiday sit-in obstructing the delivery of the EIS to the Okinawa Prefectural Government office, Gov. Nakaima has accepted the delivery (but has not approved the EIS, of course).

The Okinawa Government is now clerically inspecting the documents.

Nakaima, who as governor holds the authority to grant permission for the land reclamation, again said he will not give the green light for the destruction of Oura Bay and Henoko to make way for the US military base opposed by the majority of Okinawans.


Late December Okinawa rally and sit-in to prevent delivery of the Japanese government's EIS of the proposed destruction of Oura Bay and Henoko to make way for another U.S. military base. (Photos: Makoto Arakaki)

Okinawans succeeded in blocking the Okinawa Defense Bureau's (Okinawa branch of the Japanese Defense Ministry) attempt to submit the complete set of Environment Impact Statement (EIS) before Okinawa Prefecture Government opened its office on Jan.4, according to sociologist Masami Mel Kawamura. They hoped that Governor Nakaima would reject the submission of the EIS because of procedural irregularities:
During our sit-in at the Prefectural Government office, we found that the Ministry of Environment has a strict protocol regulating EIS submissions. It requires the project proponents (in this case, the ODB) to bring the EIS, in principle, to the concerned agency/governmental office (in this case, Okinawa Prefecture) during normal office hours. The ODB's submission considerably deviated from this rule because of a delivery at 4 a.m.. There is no reason for Okinawa prefecture to accept the EIS.

Our current goal is to prevent the ODB from completing the procedures required for a proper submission of the EIS by the end of this fiscal year (March). To reach the goal, we must make the Okinawa Prefectural Government acknowledge that the 90-day period for their review of the EIS (governing landfill and reclamation) will not start, according to administrative law until the ODB properly submits the complete EIS.

On Jan. 4, Okinawa prefectural assembly members are coming to the sit-in site to observe the Okinawa Prefecture Government. We are now calling for people to join us at 8 AM to support these assembly members.
Throughout 2010, Tokyo and DC said they would not proceed with the U.S. mega-military base proposal without "local approval." But their official statements no longer mention any concern with democratically expressed approval of US military expansion aims in Okinawa, most likely given repeated official Okinawan statements of opposition, at all levels of government. In November 2011, the Okinawa prefectural assembly, unanimously approved a recommendation that called on the Japanese government to give up on making an EIS report.

(1966 U.S. military plan for a mega-base at Henoko. Image: The Asia-Pacific Journal)

The EIS has been a lightning rod for controversy, especially in recent months. Satoshi Tanaka, the recent head of the Japanese Defense Military's branch in Okinawa, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, compared the strategy behind the Japanese government's delay of the EIS submission to preparing for a rape by surprise assault. His admission resulted in widespread outcry throughout Okinawa.

(In May 2010, Martin Frid posted this clear explanation of the EIS process: "Environmental Assessment 101: Why It Matters For Okinawa".)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another Happy Ending from Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support (JEARS)


(Photo by JEARS volunteers, Junko & son in Tokushima City, Tokushima)

The JEARS chickens, who now call the Hototogisu bakery their home, would like to wish all our supporters a Happy New Year! Thank you for helping us save them. ♥

Now loving cared for by Sara and her husband, Shuzo at Hototogisu Bakery & Farm in Okayama.

The JEARS chickens were found and fed by the JEARS team, led by Susan Roberts of the Japan Cat Network (JCN), for many months near the radioactive area in Fukushima. Many volunteers took turns to feed and water the chickens until JEARS volunteer Junko found their new home – an organic farm and bakery in Okayama prefecture, many 100s of kilometers from where they were found.

It was all hands on deck as the eggs were carefully tested for any signs of contamination and the whole team lept for joy when they found out that chickens and eggs were competely free of any contamination -no trace what so ever – and they could safely be transferred to their new home.
Visit Sara's blog here: Wallabi's Farm: The English Hototogisu Bakery and Farm Blog. She has a great recipe for Sataa Andagi OKINAWA donuts!


(Rice drying in the sun at beautiful Hototogisu Farm in Okayama)

New Year's Message from Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue & Support

Many thanks to all at Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support for all they're doing for the voiceless survivors of 3/11 and the Fukushima meltdowns. Please visit their website if you'd like to help...

Mama cat Rin and her daughter Shii were rescued from Fukushima not a moment too late. Isabella Gallaon-Aoki of Animal Friends Niigata, one of our coalition shelters, tells us that no one at AFN thought the kitten would make it through. The volunteers had to feed little Shii by hand for several months. But look at her now: cuteness pure!

お母さん猫のりんちゃんと娘のしいちゃん。福島から救出されました。JEARS共同シェルターの一つ、アニマルフレンズ新潟のイザベラ・ガラオン青木はその当時の状況を振り返って、こう言います。「あの時はこの子猫が生き延びるとは誰も思いませんでした。ボランティア達が数ヶ月に渡ってミルクを飲ませたり食事をさせたりして。。。見てください、こんな可愛い子に大きくなったんですよ!」 



Charlotte, safe in Niigata, eating her holiday meal in tinsel finery

Monday, January 2, 2012

Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World: Jan 14-15, Yokohama, Japan


From our friends at Peace Boat, Greenpeace, Green Action, and other organizers of The Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World:
After the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, Japan, the world is now faced with a serious decision. Can we live with the fear of a similar accident occurring yet again?

On January 14-15 2012, the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World will be held in Yokohama, Japan. Participants from Japan and all over the world will gather to consider the issues surrounding nuclear power and discuss steps that can be taken towards a nuclear power free world.

Come and be a part of this conference.

http://npfree.jp/english.html

福島での原発事故を受け、世界の人々は選択を迫られています。また起こるやもしれない事態を恐れながら生きていかなければならないのでしょうか。1月14日、15日に横浜­のパシフィコセンターで脱原発世界会議を開催いたします。日本、そして世界中から人やゲストが来場し、原子力にまつわる問題、そしてこれから私たちが取れる行動を提案して­いきます。ぜひご参加下さい。

詳細はこちらhttp://npfree.jp/index.html

More somber New Year's for Nuclear Refugees still in Limbo...9 months after 3/11

A more somber New Year's for nuclear refugees dependent on the Japanese government for assistance. They remain in limbo, nine months after 3/11.

Via AFP: "New Year despair for Japan's nuclear refugees":
"That is the most stressful thing. I would almost rather that the government said we have to abandon hope of ever going back home. I'm trying to be prepared for the worst."